For the winners of the Vanarama National League South, this will prove to be their final month of the season – but for anyone in the four places behind them (a spot Fleet are guaranteed of if first place is not achieved) then we roll on into May for the play-offs.
There are four crucial clashes for Daryl McMahon’s men before that’s decided, however, and Fleet know they need to string together the wins in the season’s final act – just as they did when the curtain was raised back in August. Hayes & Yeading United are first to stand in the way this Saturday and after February’s 0-0 draw which saw four men sent off, McMahon’s warning before the Dartford match about “keeping cool heads” is just as relevant to the Hayes game.
Fleet’s games in 2016 have all been against sides with something still to play for and only our last game of the season – against Eastbourne Borough – will see an opposition not requiring points for relegation or promotion issues.
And once again, Fleet come up against a side this Saturday desperate for points, with Garry Haylock’s men having fallen back into trouble, losing four of their last five games. A 5-2 home defeat to landlords Maidenhead United was the poorest of those results but recent defeats to relegation rivals St Albans City, Havant & Waterlooville and Wealdstone haven’t helped matters and third-from-bottom St Albans are now just three points off the mark with a game in hand on Hayes.
Our hosts this weekend have drafted in more new faces in defence, with Sean Cronin signed from Wealdstone and Kyle Clinton (Southampton, loan), Aaron Tumwa (Bromley, loan) and Luke Ifil (Grays Athletic) added. Sam Baffour (Tower Hamlets) is another one through the door, playing on the wing.
Of course, nobody needs reminding of the fracas at Stonebridge Road which saw Tom Bonner and Anthony Cook dismissed, alongside Adam Everitt and Manny Monthe for the opposition, and McMahon will be mindful to ignore any provocation stemming from that incident.
The Fleet boss is looking for more fluency, believing his side were “patchy” against Dartford. “We had enough chances to win but we didn’t really deserve it on the performance we gave,” he said. “It’s getting to the stage of the season now where you’ve got to be able to play under pressure and you’ve got to handle that. That lack of fluency is unusual for us. Normally we move the ball well. Now it’s all about picking the right team at the right times and winning games.”