Fleet fans will likely be taking as much interest in the clash at Vauxhall Road between Hemel Hempstead Town and Whitehawk as their own side’s end-of-season affair with Eastbourne Borough. Fleet’s destination on Wednesday night rests on the outcome of that game (a win for Hemel takes them through, a draw for Whitehawk is enough for them – unless a draw and a 5-0 win for Dartford occurs, in which case it’s the Darts).
But Daryl McMahon is having none of the ‘dead rubber’ suggestions about his side’s game against Eastbourne, with neither club having anything to play for. He insists that he wants to win football matches under any circumstance and he’ll be sending his players out with that message ringing in their ears as Fleet seek momentum going into the play-offs.
That said, the manager is contemplating some changes. “I might do a couple of different things,” he told FleetOnline. “I always want to win, I always want us to play well, but we might get a few youth teamers involved if I think we need to. We have a couple of players nursing minor knocks so I’ll protect them on Saturday so they’re fine from Monday onwards. But we’ll still have a strong team out, there’s no doubt about that.”
Fleet haven’t played for two weeks since the defeat at Sutton and McMahon has used that time to reinvigorate his squad and turn them to the task at hand, promotion via the play-offs. “The boys were able to get away and have some family time then report back here ready to go over the next two weeks,” he said. “After Sutton, the lads who have played 30 to 35 games had a bit of downtime, and the lads who haven’t played as much had a little bit more training. The majority of those played against Stevenage and Spurs in those arranged matches, so that we get to a stage after the Eastbourne game where everyone’s in a good place, they’ve got games in their legs where they need it and they’re all ready to help the club achieve the same aim we started the season with.”
Eastbourne come to Stonebridge Road having assured themselves of National League South status with a win over Gosport last week – their first victory in seven games. Although they were mathematically still in danger of the drop last week, much of their season has been spent in mid-table and manager Tommy Widdrington would surely liked to have seen a little more consistency from his side.
He has secured the services of top scorer and player-of-the-year Nathaniel Pinney for next season, while another ex-Fleet face – Craig Stone – is also on board for 2016/17 as Borough will seek to mount a greater challenge on their new 3G pitch.
The Sports have yet to beat the Fleet in 14 attempts, going back 16 years, and if nothing else will be playing for pride on Saturday. They could move up or down one place depending on other results to finish the season somewhere from 13th to 15th.