Ebbsfleet United head for their second Kent derby of the season expecting a tougher battle than the 4-0 win over Margate at the end of August. While Welling United’s start to the season could kindly be described as “below par”, a shake-up of the playing staff and of the coaching team has the Park View Road club poised to – pardon the pun – spread their wings.
Daryl McMahon has enjoyed something of a baptism of fire where Kent derbies are concerned, having played seven of them inside his first season of management – a glut of pressure matches that few of his predecessors would have handled so soon into their careers. Yet the Fleet boss has always maintained that while he enjoys the derby occasion, he cannot afford to treat them as anything more than the attainment of three points. Flaring tempers, impetuous decisions, tense atmospheres, all the stuff that comes with any derby – they’re all the ingredients that keep managers awake at night.
McMahon will treat the Welling game no differently, determined as he will be to secure three points, extend his side’s unbeaten run and rein in Maidenhead United just at the point where they have looked vulnerable for the first time this season – especially with the Magpies up straight after the Wings.
But Welling will be looking to this game to finally kick-start a campaign that has started as a nightmare for the former Bromley league-winning manager Mark Goldberg. He presided over a mass clearout of relegated Welling’s squad in the summer – much of it enforced – and signed a multitude of replacements, including well-known figures at this level and above including Jamie Slabber, Harry Crawford, Danny Waldren, Dan Walker, Sam Hatton and Pierre-Joseph Dubois. There was also a slew of signings from the Ryman League – but it didn’t work out for the Wings who lost five of their first seven games and have secured just three wins all season.
Lately, however, Welling have shown an improvement and were by all accounts the better side against Maidenhead a month ago, securing a 1-0 lead over the league leaders until two late goals turned the score around. A narrow defeat to Whitehawk followed in both the FA Cup and league but since, Welling have beaten Wealdstone at The Vale and managed a draw at Gosport last week.
Goldberg has bolstered his back line with the signing of ex-Fleet defenders Matt Fish and Craig Braham-Barrett, while elsewhere has brought in Ali Fuseini (Margate, who has already played against us this season), ex-Dover and Havant winger Christian Nanetti plus Dean Morgan who played alongside Stuart Lewis and Dave Winfield at Wycombe and has also played for Colchester United and Reading.
Fleet will have to keep former England youth international and Chelsea Academy starlet Adam Coombes quiet, too. The striker moved from Bromley to rejoin his former boss and has scored 18 goals this season – seven in the league, plus a bundle in the FA Cup including six in one match v Swindon Supermarine.
Welling have won just one league game at Park View Road this season but the prospect of a Kent derby should add spice to a match that will naturally attract even more interest given Jamie Day’s return as first-team coach. The former Fleet and Braintree manager orchestrated Fleet’s 3-2 win over the club he had just left in 2014 when Fleet dumped Welling out of the FA Trophy in a highly entertaining game. That was a replay of a drawn tie where current Fleet boss Daryl McMahon acted as caretaker manager days after Day had been appointed to the Fleet job. Now we come full circle as it’s Day v McMahon on Saturday in what will be the former’s first game back at Park View since he rejoined Welling.
The last league game between the two clubs on Welling soil came as Fleet chased promotion back in March 2011, an Ashley Carew goal giving the visitors an equal share of the spoils in a 1-1 draw.