Kick-off countdown: Fleet’s first day

The big kick off is almost here and there is no doubt we start our 68th season with quiet optimism and come next spring we will see if it was justified.

Every team would prefer a home game to start the season and we have been fortunate with 40 home starts against 28 away. Success has not been so easy with 25 wins, 10 draws and 32 defeats – the lack of draws is rather surprising as it wasn’t until our 19th season that we managed a draw with a 1-1 result at Canterbury in 1964/65.

It would be nice to see someone score a first day hat-trick for us: it’s only happened twice, with Bob Thomas in the 5-2 win over Yeovil in 1957/58 and Dave Hubbick against Poole in the 6-3 win in 1982/83 (a nine-goal aggregate that was equalled last season when we pipped Nuneaton 5-4).

Our most regular first-day opponents with four apiece are Worcester City and Yeovil Town. Against the Glovers we have never lost, winning three and drawing once while. Against Worcester, meanwhile, it has been a series of disasters, losing all four games played at St Georges Lane, with two goalkeepers being carried off and the coach arriving after the game should have finished on another occasion.

Our earliest start to a season was our 8th August visit to Altricham in 2009 and the latest a 31st August start for our very first game, versus Hereford in 1946.

Below (click on each match to reveal text) is a selection of those first-day games… good, bad and indifferent.

[toggle title=”August 20th 1949 FLEET 3 GILLINGHAM 0″]The reigning Southern League champions were desperate to regain the Football League status lost in 1937 but they found Fleet in fine form as Bert Hawkins (12) and Jim Deevey (23) gave us a dream start. Matters got even better when Truxy Wakeman made it 3-0 on 37 minutes much to the delight of the majority of the 4,915 crowd. The Gills tried hard to get back into the game but could find no way through a solid Fleet defence.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”August 20th 1960 FLEET 4 CHELTENHAM 2″] New manager Ron Humpston had signed a string of youngsters as a new era started at Stonebridge Road. Determind to have the team superfit he had set up an assault course in the club car park and really put the team through their paces. The Southern League Premier season hardly got off to the ideal start as Cleland and Coldray put the visitors two up on a steaming hot afternoon, but the second half saw Fleet much the stronger with seemingly endless reserves of stamina as Mickey Brooks (2), Reg Edmonds and Mickey Cross goals gave Fleet a memorable win in front of 2,690.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”August 21st 1965 GLOUCESTER 4 FLEET 1″] With several well known newcomers in the ranks Fleet started the season with great expectations but a late flurry of goals sunk them in the opening Southern League First Division game. Trailing to a Bobby Grant goal at the interval Fleet were well in the game until losing new signing Dennis Hatsell with a serious knee injury in what was the last season without substitutes. Livingstone (82)and Grant (84) added further goals before Jim Towers on his debut pulled one back on
85… only for Hargreaves to score another for the hosts on 89 minutes. Attendance: 1,426[/toggle]

[toggle title=”August 1967 FLEET 0 BANBURY 7″] This was probably the lowest point in the club’s history as an average Banbury took Fleet apart in this Southern League First Division game. Serious money troubles had plagued the club throughout 1967 and Fleet legend Jackie Bridge was appointed manager following the departure of John Dick. Unfortunately he was given a playing budget which meant only expenses could be paid and a combination of local league players and other clubs’ rejects was a recipe for disaster. Fleet were four down at the interval – Jacques with a hat-trick and McCreadie (2) took full advantage with Holder and Newton completing the nightmare in front of 912 bemused Fleet fans.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”August 16th 1975 FLEET 1 BEDFORD 0 “] Back in the Southern League Premier, Fleet got off to a winning start that had a degree of fortune about it. The Eagles were much the better side in the opening half but Fleet’s redoubtable defence held firm. After the interval they began to dominate but found the visitors in no mood to concede and a goalless draw looked on the cards until a controversial penalty was awarded to Fleet when Glen Burdett was alleged to have fouled Dave Bostock. He got up dusted himself down and shot home the only goal of a dour game.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”August 16th 1986 CANTERBURY 3 FLEET 1″] Another lowpoint for Fleet as they faced their first game in the Southern League South after relegation and found themselves up against the likes of Chatham, Erith and Sheppey. Strangely Fleet rarely managed a good result at Kingsmead and Eddie Presland had appeared to have put a less than impressive side together. A scrappy opening half was set alight by two fine volleyed goals from Graham Hitchcock (51, 71) before Mark Haynes pulled one back for Fleet on 82 minutes. A poor
performance was summed up when the normally assured Ray Tumbridge put through his own goal on 86 minutes to ensure a losing start for Fleet.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”August 16th 1997 CHESHAM 4 FLEET 2″] The decision of the directors to switch from the Southern to the Isthmian League was a controversial one that did not get off to the expected good start as the hosts were good value for victory. They took the lead after 11 minutes through Chris McGuire and although Richard Newberry levelled on 38, the Morrocan bag of tricks Younis Nabil restored their lead on 51 minutes. Andy Kearns (82) sandwiched a goal between strikes from Lawford (58)and Hazell (89)to leave manager Steve Lovell
plenty to think about. Attendance: 549[/toggle]

[toggle title=”August 9th 2008 FLEET 2 MANSFIELD 2″] This was the time for Fleet to take off, with the FA Trophy in the locker and the delayed Kent Senior Cup also won pre-season, the cheers of 25,000 fans still ringing in their ears from Wembley and owners MyFC backing them what could go wrong? New £20,000 signing Michael Gash opened the scoring after only 8 minutes and Stacy Long added a second as the Stags, freshly relegated from the Football League, hardly knew what hit them. Gradually they came back into the game as Fleet failed to keep up their first-half momentum. First Michael Blackwood and then just before the final whistle Mark Stannard grabbed an unlikely point for the visitors in front of a 1,872 crowd.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”August 11th 2012 NUNEATON 4 FLEET 5”] A crazy game full of defensive errors, interspersed with some fine goals, saw Fleet come back from a nightmare start that saw them trail 2-0 after 18 minutes to lead 3-2 at the interval as Tom Phipp (20) Nathan Elder(23) and Moses Ashikodi (31) turned the game on its head. Soon after the restart Liam Enver-Marum (50) stretched the lead only for the hosts to reduce it once again. Phipp restored Fleet’s two-goal margin with an excellent chip and then Preston Edwards made a brilliant penalty save – which was just as well as Nuneaton scored a fourth just before the finish.[/toggle]


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Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison

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First-Team Squad