With the season barely into its second month, Fleet face their third away Kent derby as new boys Margate provide the opposition at Hartsdown Park.
It is a first visit in the league to the stadium since Fleet lost 4-2 on New Year’s Eve 2002 against a Gate side then managed by Chris Kinnear and, although the clubs have met in the Kent Senior Cup, they haven’t clashed in a league fixture since January 2004.
The rivalry at that time between the clubs was, very briefly, fairly intense but this season is likely to be overshadowed by the proximity of Dartford and Maidstone United. That said, as another Kent derby, it is certainly eagerly awaited by supporters of both sides.
Fleet go to the coast looking to maintain a 100% record on the road against a Margate side still, surprisingly, to taste their first win of the campaign. But Daryl McMahon knows such a state of affairs merely serves as a banana skin for his side unless they approach the match as they have their previous seven.
The Fleet boss is naturally wary of a Margate team that was tipped for the top spots this season, having come through the play-offs to win promotion from the Ryman League in May. But he has a full squad to choose from, with Dean Rance’s suspension not under way until Tuesday.
“Obviously we go into every game trying to win; that’s probably not going to happen but we won’t prepare any differently whoever the opposition is. Margate are going to kick on eventually, I think where they are now doesn’t really matter – you can’t decide anything in September, so there’ll be plenty more teams yet coming into the picture.”
Margate’s winless start has been well-documented but manager Terry Brown is hoping the energy of the local derby will generate the same in his side. He is determined that this sort of game, against a close rival and one currently flying so high, is one that will kick-start their season.
“This is the sort of game where I don’t have to prime the boys against probably the best team in the league,” Brown told Margate FC’s video interview. “And I don’t think there’s a massive gulf in class between us. We’re miles better than we’ve been in the games so far.
“But I want more commitment with reference to a Kent derby. I think Dartford registered how important it was [when we played them] but some of our boys maybe didn’t. Some of them aren’t from Kent, and I’m not from Kent, but I know how important this game is.”
The Margate boss is hoping his shot-shy attacking men will register more attempts on target in a bid for Gate to turn the corner this season while he expects Fleet to bring goals from an attacking midfield and a striker with whom he is more than familiar. It was Danny Kedwell who fired Brown’s AFC Wimbledon side into the Football League and the Margate boss credits him as one of the best front players in the division.
Margate have had a few injury woes of late with last season’s top scorer Ryan Moss struggling with a calf strain and midfielder Lewis Taylor doubtful with an achilles problem. There is still plenty of attacking intent in the Gate squad, however, with Freddie Ladapo, Jamie Taylor (Lincoln City, Sutton United) and Christian Jolley (AFC Wimbledon, Newport County) all significant threats.
Ex-Fleet trio Luke Moore, Brett Johnson and Kane Wills could feature, if only from the bench, while the spine of the side is vastly experienced with the likes of goalkeeper Nikki Bull, Sam Rents, Glenn Wilson and David Hunt all having tasted life at a higher level.