Fleet will be looking to build on the point they earned from Peter Taylor’s Dagenham & Redbridge by seeing off the challenge of Terry Harris’s Dagenham & Redbridge this New Year’s Day.
That those two distinctions come less than seven days apart proves the old adage about a week being a long time in football. Taylor followed up the late draw he achieved at home against the Fleet on Boxing Day with a 3-0 defeat at Bromley and the continued poor run of form was enough to cost him his job. Assistant Terry Harris and first-team coach Jody Brown now take over the reins for the return at the Kuflink Stadium.
Kevin Watson wasn’t overly impressed by Fleet’s performance in Essex, although having held the lead going into the final minutes, he will know it was a prime opportunity to drag the Daggers nearer to the fight. A second chance presents itself at the Kuflink Stadium for the first game of 2020 and home fans will be desperate to welcome the new year in more positively than the old one departed.
Fleet certainly created enough chances to end 2019 on a high but the stark reality of defeat to Dover makes the New Year’s Day clash ever more important.
And Watson will have to make do without Myles Weston, whose hamstring issue forced his exit from the field last Saturday. Jordan Holmes, meanwhile, plays his last game before his temporary departure on Australia U23 duty.
John Goddard and Lawrie Wilson are the two more obvious replacements for Weston, with injury to the Fleet’s talismanic winger the last thing the manager needs in the middle of a relegation fight.
Watson has, however, been glad of Fleet’s improved discipline which has meant he doesn’t have fears of imminent suspension hanging over his players.
Earlier in the season, as is common with most teams in bottom-four positions, Fleet topped the ‘bad boys’ disciplinary table of yellow and red cards but that’s been reduced under Watson’s management.
“Maybe it’s just one of those things that that’s changed,” Watson said. “We most certainly are not the up-and-at-em, in-your-face team anymore. I want the boys to be aggressive in what they do but aggressive in a good way. You need to run harder than the other team, tackle harder, head it further and be more dominant without the ball. But that doesn’t mean going out and kicking people, there’s a way to go about it.
“The incident v Hartlepool, we got ourselves into a bit of trouble but it wasn’t, in my opinion from looking at the footage, overly aggressive. It was just players that care. They surrounded the ref, that’s not ideal and I’ve said to the boys, it’s not the way to go about it.
“If Kingy goes up to the ref and has a quiet word, and perhaps another experienced player like Westy, you don’t need to be surrounding a referee. Very rarely, in fact if ever, do you see decisions change. I understand the frustration but you’re not going to get anywhere with that. Unfortunately at our level there isn’t any VAR and you have to just get on with the game. I think we have been good at that and that’s another thing that’s getting better.
“Every manager and coaching staff have their own ideas, I’ve always had my own ideas on how the game should be played and that’s no slight on anybody. Everyone in this league wants to play a certain way, their way, and it might be different to someone else. I’m no different, I started with a three, I’ve tried four at the back, they all have their merits. We may need to use a different system in future games.”
Watson’s injury headache over Weston is mirrored by his Dagenham counterparts who had top scorer Angelo Balanta, Sam Deering, Harold Odametey, Joan Luque, Ben House and James Dobson all missing, though striker Reece Grant returned. Midfielder Mitch Brundle will also sit the game out after his sending-off on Boxing Day.
Dagenham’s defeat at Bromley on Saturday leaves them just two points clear of the drop zone, having won just once in 11 National League games, and Fleet must – once again – guard against any bounce their opposition may enjoy following the sacking of a manager.
The match is not segregated and Dagenham fans may use the club bar by the turnstiles. Car-parking is available at Ebbsfleet International Station Car Park C for £3. This is the best option for parking near the stadium. Please respect local businesses by not blocking private property. Drivers are also warned that parking on the Thames Way clearway near the roundabout runs the risk of being ticketed.