The Fleet head south once more in similar circumstances to their last visit to Eastbourne in August 2009 – still looking for their first win of the season. Four years ago, of course, the requirement was much more serious, Liam Daish’s side having at that point gone six games without a win.
This time around, it’s a mere two games – and this squad is hardly comparable to the youthful, largely inexperienced one of 2009. But with a goalless draw against Havant and defeat at Dover weighing on the mind, this weekend is clearly the time for Fleet to get points on the board.
As luck would have it, Fleet’s start to the season takes in three sides who have taken maximum points from their opening couple of games, so having met Havant’s dogged resistance last week and Dover’s momentum on Tuesday, we now have a buoyant Eastbourne and Maidenhead to contend with.
After the pressure-cooker of Crabble, the comparatively calmer surroundings of Priory Lane will prove a stark contrast – though there is still an element of friction given that Eastbourne were the club that Fleet’s new owners KEH almost took over back in April.
Fleet boss Steve Brown goes into tomorrow’s game – weather permitting – believing the return from the two games played thus far “isn’t a true reflection of our performances. We will play worse this season and win,” he told EUFC.co.uk. “We have two games in the space of three days and play two teams that have started very well. We know there are no easy fixtures and the team are very keen to get three points on the board as quickly as possible. So we’ll go down to the south coast and work our hardest to put in a performance that yields maximum points.”
With heavy rain forecast, do keep an eye on the weather but given Boro’s mascot is none other than Sammy Sunshine (pictured), we are ever optimistic that the rain won’t threaten the match.
Billy Bricknell is a likely starter and Michael Thalassitis should be fit despite the blow to the head he took against Dover that forced his substitution on Tuesday night. Ben May is still on the road to recovery but embarking on light training.
Brown will be looking to his strikers to offer more of a cutting edge this weekend, saying: “I was relatively pleased with the way we played against Havant but thought we lacked any conviction and quality in the final third. The game itself was a cagey affair and one which looked like two nervous sides not wanting to lose rather than two teams trying to win. Havant in my opinion came with a game plan not to lose and they didn’t, so it was a defensive job well done.”
Reflecting on the Dover defeat, he told EUFC.co.uk: “That game was a different proposition, we knew it was going to be a case of two different styles of play. We felt at 1-1 we were the only team pressing for a winner and I felt they were very much holding on for the draw. Some of our passing and movement on the night was very pleasing to watch.
“The winning goal was a wonderful strike but to concede against route-one football is something that shouldn’t happen. It turned out to be Dover’s only shot on goal in the second half and it was a cruel blow, very much against the run of play. Having hit the crossbar first half and watched Dover’s keeper make a world-class fingertip save to deny Anthony Cook when the scores were 1-1, I’m convinced if we’d got our noses in front – which we thoroughly deserved to do – we would have comfortably won the game.”
Eastbourne’s two victories – a penalty at Weston-super-Mare enough on the opening day of the season and a late show to beat Tonbridge at home on Tuesday – see them in a top-five position among a bank of sides on maximum points. Fleet’s strikers will have to get past the familiar figure of old boy Ian Simpemba – whose former clubs include, somewhat ironically, the last two we have played in Havant and Dover. He enjoyed a new lease of life at Crabble last season after a mixed stint at Stonebridge Road.
On the bench, alongside manager Tommy Widdrington, is former Fleet FA Trophy winner and assistant manager Alan Kimble – who was at Crabble on Tuesday night no doubt taking stock of the new-look Fleet.
The Boro side also includes Brighton veteran Gary Hart, who played almost 400 games for Albion in a 13-year Football League career while supersub Elliott Levy is another to watch, having impressed against Weston and scored the equaliser against Tonbridge midweek.
[button color=”red” link=”http://www.ebfc.co.uk/a/priory-lane-directions-18533.html”]Directions to Priory Lane[/button]
Past form v Eastbourne Borough
|+ / –
|4 – 3
|7 – 2
|0 – 0
|11 – 5