The players have continued in recent weeks to train and take part in friendly and practice matches. We firmly believe that it is part of our obligation to our playing squad’s physical and medical well-being that they are given the opportunity to take part in such activities.
Football is, of course, a livelihood for our players and staff and so added to the natural disappointment we are all feeling at the termination of the 2020/21 season, we must as a club ensure their welfare is paramount in this period without league competition. As a squad and club we put in a huge amount of work in the summer and developed that through the winter to the point after Christmas where things were bearing fruit so the timing of the season’s suspension certainly dashed our hopes for the campaign. As supporters, you were no doubt looking forward to a busy schedule of football towards the season’s conclusion, albeit remotely, and contemplating a return to the stadium before too long to watch the team in action. Our volunteers, meanwhile, worked heroically to get games on against the odds.
We don’t want any of that work to go to waste despite 2020/21’s conclusion – our view is to take the positives and use the time given to us as an opportunity for an extended pre-season so we can move seamlessly into the next campaign, unlike the summer just gone where we were starting from scratch. For our players, it has been a difficult time where many have been unable to develop, progress and further their advancement as they would in any normal season. But they have applied themselves ever so well and in many cases volunteered to ensure they were sharp and in shape ready for any potential restart of the league in order to give the club the maximum advantage. There is great character and work ethic in the squad in the face of adversity which we will build on in the coming months.
The players have continued as mentioned above to play training games as permitted under the furlough scheme to their usual high standards and tempo. You will have read of our previous 1-1 draw at Wycombe Wanderers and a narrow 2-1 defeat at National League leaders Sutton United in a previous update. Since then, the squad has taken part in four more very keenly contested friendlies with a double-header against Bromley, a fantastic workout against a very strong Brentford side that included international and Championship players and most recently a trip to take on League Two Southend United.
To round those up for you, our first game at Bromley resulted in a 1-0 win for the National League side but Fleet took their revenge last week in the return match, coming from behind to score two extremely well-worked goals courtesy of Lee Martin and Rakish Bingham to win 2-1. Academy goalkeeper Harrison Firth played the full 90 minutes in that one and pulled off a string of fine saves and can be hugely proud of his overall performance against a Bromley side that included the likes of Chris Bush, Kory Roberts, James Alabi, Charlie Wakefield and Ben Williamson.
At the weekend, west London hosted the Fleet to go head to head with Brentford’s B team and they named eight players who had been in their squad for the previous night’s Championship game at Blackburn Rovers. Alfie Egan scored an excellent long-range goal in the opening minutes of the second half to reduce the arrears to 2-1 and Fleet matched their illustrious opponents until late in the game when a flurry of substitutions saw Finnish international Marcus Forss wrap up a late hat-trick in a 5-1 win for the Bees. The game attracted considerable interest from Brentford fans who followed the progress of a return to action for their previously injured skipper, Swedish international Pontus Jansson.
And another good performance in Essex on Monday, with a goal scored on the day before his 27th birthday by Alex Eirich for the Fleet, saw us come away from Southend United with a 1-1 draw.
Goals recorded by training footage from Lee Martin and Rakish Bingham (v Bromley) and Alfie Egan (v Brentford) are viewable below.