After just two games as assistant manager, Kevin Watson has been thrust into the National League limelight as he takes charge of the Fleet for Saturday’s crunch match against Maidenhead United.
Following the announcement of the departure of Garry Hill on Thursday, Watson is tasked with a much-needed points gain in the short-term as pundits roll out the ‘six-pointer’ clichés for the visit of the 17th-placed Magpies.
And he has fresh options with the acquisition of Charlton’s Albie Morgan, something of a coup for the club with Addicks sources suggesting the teenager could quite easily walk into a League One midfield.
With injuries ongoing to John Goddard and Alex Lawless in the middle, it would certainly seem to open the door for an immediate start for Morgan, particularly given the Fleet have him only for an initial month and Charlton manager Lee Bowyer is keen for the player to get significant game time in men’s football under his belt this season.
Andre Blackman’s second-half cameo v Torquay will also give Watson pause for thought, the new signing’s match fitness certainly there or thereabouts having featured in seven games for Southend this season.
In Hill’s final game, the only change made was the return of Josh Umerah to the starting lineup, a gambit that part-way paid off with the striker adding two goals. Fleet certainly adopted a more attacking setup with Umerah, Gozie Ugwu and Alex Reid all in the side from the first whistle and the option of Tomi Adeloye to add more firepower from the bench.
It was defensive frailties that caused most concern, however, and if Fleet can snuff those out – and keep their goal intact for the opening spells of each half – then the platform is there to take the game to Maidenhead.
Maidenhead arrive at the Kuflink Stadium in poor form after an impressive start to the 2019/20 season. They won their opening four away matches, soaring to fourth in the table at one point, but having failed to win in eight games now – and having lost six of their last seven – the trapdoor is looming for Alan Devonshire’s side.
Which is not to underestimate them. Any team that can win four successive games on the road which included Torquay, Yeovil and Sutton, isn’t a poor side. Devonshire said his squad had lost their zip of late but as much as Fleet will eye this game as an opportunity for three points, so the Magpies will see it as a chance for recovery.
Devonshire has a small squad to operate from, made smaller by the recent exits of Brad Keetch and Henry Landers on loan. Familiar faces remain in the Maidenhead side, with midfielder James Comley still the engine room of midfield and skipper Alan Massey the organiser at the back.
Into that side have come striker Danny Whitehall, who was most recently playing for the enigmatically named Nebraska Bugeaters in the USA, and he has scored six so far this season. Young midfield dynamo Josh Smile has stepped up a division and is taking it in his stride while former Wealdstone prospect Freddie Grant has come in at left-back. Ex-Aldershot attacker Shamir Fenelon is another summer addition.
Maidenhead have scored only three times in their last seven games and not more than once per match in that poor run but their strikers might be encouraged by Fleet’s Tuesday night video highlights unless the home side can shut up shop more convincingly.
Fleet won this corresponding fixture last season by 3-0, with Ayo Obileye playing for the Magpies that night, and that win broke a run of three consecutive 1-1 draws between the two clubs. Mutual form might indicate a draw as the most likely outcome on this occasion but it’s three points both sides will be hell-bent on achieving.
The match is not segregated and Maidenhead fans are free to use the Fleet social club. Car-parking is available at Ebbsfleet International Station Car Park C for £3. Drivers are advised to avoid parking around the premises of local business and to avoid leaving cars on the Thames Way clearway near the roundabout as that runs the risk of being ticketed.