Daryl McMahon has warned against any complacency ahead of the visit of newly promoted Poole Town as the season kicks off on Saturday.
The Fleet boss travelled south to watch the Dolphins at home to a youthful Bournemouth side earlier this week and told FleetOnline: “They showed some decent football and they look to play it around; I think they’ll come here to try and do the same. They’re a promoted side and you don’t get out of any league if you’ve not got something about you plus a squad of good players. We’ve got to be right on it from the moment 3pm comes on Saturday.”
Fleet’s pre-season has been somewhat interrupted by injuries but McMahon is hoping Dave Winfield will be fit for a return. “He’s looking hopeful. Stuey Lewis may be a little way behind him and we’re still assessing Aaron McLean and Charlie Sheringham.”
The injury list saw Fleet’s final pre-season at Greenwich on Tuesday called off and McMahon explained the situation. “The Greenwich management – Gary Alexander and John Mackie – are good friends of mine, we played together at Leyton Orient. While we fielded a side at Sutton, we didn’t have everybody available on the Tuesday plus with the injuries so close to Saturday so I had a chat with Gary and John about the game. It would have ended up being a lot of our youth team and myself and Stacy Long playing again. It wouldn’t really have served anyone’s purpose, ours or Greenwich’s, so we ended up having a good training day instead and they played a stronger Leyton Orient side than we’d have fielded. That worked out better for us and they got themselves a more competitive game.”
Poole arrive at Stonebridge Road for the first time in 23 years as Southern League champions (pictured) having enjoyed a rise from the depths of the Wessex League in rapid time. They have won five league titles and finished second twice in the last eight seasons under current manager Tom Killick so will be used to winning and not short on confidence.
The Dorset side haven’t made big changes in the summer, preferring to stick by and large with their promotion-winning squad. They have drafted in Nathan Ashmore’s former teammate Lee Wort at Gosport who scored 50 goals in 2013/14 for Sholing. Alongside him, midfielders Abdulai Baggie and Carl Pettefer have Football League experience with Tranmere and Oxford United respectively while Marvin Brooks, another midfielder, was the club’s top scorer from the middle of the park last season.
The spine of their squad has been together for some time so can boast plenty of experience at Southern League level. Squad-wise, defender Michael Walker is suspended for their visit, but manager Killick has signed adaptable former Basingstoke man Ryan Case and Italian Nilo Zanchetta so has plenty of cover at the back. Poole are also bringing a full supporters’ coach for their first game back in the sixth tier of English football since 1992.
Poole’s pre-season campaign has seen them register four wins, a draw and three defeats, the latest a 4-0 reverse at home to Bournemouth’s up and coming stars, and they have also lost to Eastleigh. Their victories came at the expense of Swanage Town, Bemerton Heath, Weymouth and Dorchester Town.
Manager Killick told his local newspaper of the game, “You can’t describe it as a gentle introduction. We are under no illusions there is a big disparity financially but we have come into the league to be competitive and I expect us to be competitive against Ebbsfleet. They are well-supported and have a good ground. In a strange way I’m quite happy with it.”