If last season’s visit to Chesterfield was one of the most exciting (and ultimately disappointing) climaxes to a match in recent Fleet history, then this weekend’s could prove to be one of the most nail-biting.
Saturday’s protagonists go head to head for the right – ultimately – to remain in the National League and three points for either side would go some way towards that goal.
Should the home side prevail, then there would be a seven-point gap in Chesterfield’s favour, with fourth bottom thought to be enough for survival this season.
If Kevin Watson’s side can follow up their win over Chorley last week, however, then Fleet would be just a point behind the Spireites with goal difference narrowing.
The travelling fans will be eagerly awaiting their first glimpse of ‘new’ signing Michael Timlin who, although having spent a month at the club already, is only now cleared for action by the league.
He will have to dislodge one of the central midfielders, however, and that will ultimately hand Watson something of a selection headache.
The boss will also have to decide whether he starts either of Fleet’s former Chesterfield attackers against their former club, with Gozie Ugwu and Jermaine McGlashan fighting it out for the front and wide positions with Josh Umerah and Tomi Adeloye.
“It’s a scrap and it’s going to be a scrap for the remaining 12 games,” Watson said. “We’ve got to be up for it – that Chorley win’s got to give us heart and I think we’re unbeaten in the last four league games now. We are as one trying our best to get out of it.
“Last week, Chorley was the biggest game, now Chesterfield is. Once that game’s done then the one after that will be. We’ve set targets for where we need to be but most importantly now Chesterfield is massive.”
Chesterfield have confirmed that caretaker manager Jon Pemberton will continue in the role he’s occupied since John Sheridan’s sacking. There was a similar situation last season, when Pemberton stepped into the hotseat for our visit before Sheridan’s appointment as manager.
That game, of course, ended 3-3 after Fleet had led 3-0 at half-time and missed an injury-time penalty, saved by stand-in goalkeeper Will Evans who only moments earlier had scored the equaliser.
Pemberton and Evans remain part of the Spireites setup, as do many of their players with six or seven of last January’s lineup likely to feature again this weekend.
By contrast, the only survivors from the Fleet staff or playing squad are Jack King and Lawrie Wilson.
Fleet will have to keep a tight rein on troublesome 6ft 7in striker Tom Denton while the prolific Scott Boden, Notts County loanee Nathan Tyson and former Wrexham frontman Mike Fondop also provide plenty of forward momentum for Chesterfield.
That said, the pre-season favourites have scored only three more goals than the Fleet for all the wealth of talent at their disposal, and indeed scored a treble in their last game, a last-ditch 3-2 win over Wrexham.
Chesterfield’s home form has improved recently, with two wins and two draws following on from an appalling run that saw them lose five games at the Proact Stadium in a row – including defeat to Chorley and a 5-1 thrashing by Hartlepool.
Both sides – who shared a 2-2 draw at the Kuflink Stadium earlier this season – are in reasonable form, with Chesterfield having taken 10 points from a possible 15 since Pemberton took over, while Fleet have won eight from the last 12 available points.
Pemberton has been critical of his team’s psychological fragility but feels they are improving; Watson will surely have targeted that, however, with a crowd of just under 4,000 expected who the visitors will hope to frustrate and ultimately turn against their team.
Chesterfield have enjoyed a week off after last weekend’s fixture at Yeovil was postponed with the visitors already in town having travelled overnight.