Fleet may have drawn a blank in two of their last three matches but boss Daryl McMahon is overjoyed that his side are still playing with a freedom of expression and says there is no frustration in the camp ahead of the visit of Wealdstone on Saturday.
“That has to be one of the most pleasing things so far,” McMahon told FleetOnline, “especially after the three games against Chelmsford. The players could easily have got frustrated and gone off the boil. It would have been easy for us to lose our concentration in the circumstances of putting so much pressure on in search for goals. We could have lost that game last Saturday or run out of steam because you’re coming up against a side not actively looking to win who, at the same time, had some quick players that could have caught us on the counter-attack.”
And the boss singled out his central defensive pairing, even though they had little to do all afternoon. “In a funny kind of way it was one of Tom Bonner and Kenny Clark’s best games for us ,” he said. “When you’re a defender and you’re being bombarded the whole game it’s easy to focus on the task in hand. But when you’ve got nothing to do, those key moments where you’ve got to step in and stop a counter, both of them dealt with that really well and made some vital challenges. Their concentration levels were really high.
“We’ve got to adapt to the way teams play against us which, to be fair, we have for the most part. We’ve been brave on the ball , we move it so quickly, we’ve been exciting to watch and have dominated most games, we’re enjoying it as group. Every game is a challenge we enjoy facing. We don’t get upset or frustrated if a team play a certain way. Every team chooses how they want to play, most against us choose to go with a 4-5-1 and we’ve just got to keep plugging away and try and beat their system with our own.”
The Fleet boss acknowledges that Wealdstone – while hovering just above the drop zone – will be another tough game, pointing out their 12-match unbeaten run since losing five games in August. And, having remained unbeaten since August, the Stones can also boast a decent defensive record, having not conceded more than one goal in any match since then.
But McMahon acknowledges that as the home team, the onus is on Fleet to exploit what they expect to be a packed midfield and defence against them. “Chelmsford didn’t stop us playing and they didn’t stop us winning. It was our lack of finishing and some great goalkeeping that did that,” he said. “If we carry on playing the way we have, then teams have to adapt to us as well and we have to work round that.”
Fleet have only one injury doubt going into the game, with Robbie Willmott unlikely to feature. “Dean Rance is fine, McMahon said. “He trained well this week and is fit for Saturday. Robbie won’t be back just yet. We’ve not been able to assess the full damage to his ankle but we hope it won’t be too long, hopefully in the next couple of weeks.”
Wealdstone look set to deploy former Fleet midfielder Michael Corcoran in midfield to replace the suspended Elliott Godfrey, for what will be the former Dover man’s first outing at Stonebridge Road since his departure from the club last January. In recent days, the Stones have also signed Romanian U21 international striker Adrian-Alexandru Markus, and have added Cambridge United midfielder Matthew Lowe on loan since we last met them in August.
While they will have one eye on next weekend’s big FA Cup clash at home to League One side Colchester United, players will be out to impress for a starting place in that game and given the roll the Stones are presently on, they will be keen to take at least a point at Stonebridge Road.
McMahon is wary of the threat posed by Jefferson Louis (“always a handful and he showed that at their place”) and cited the return of Corcoran and the midfield efficiency of Scott Davies as Wealdstone’s main dangers. The Stones’ Bradley Hudson-Odoi, who scored the first goal conceded by the Fleet this season, also impressed in the first-half at The Vale, while Matt Ball has previously stood out in games against us.
Fleet are overdue a win at home and one would hope Wealdstone have bigger fish to fry next Saturday but it is unlikely to be as simple as that and McMahon’s men are in for another afternoon of rolling up their sleeves and getting to work against an uncompromising defence.