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Match preview: Fleet face up to Weston front

It might have been used as a 90-minute runout for reserve and fringe players in the past, but Fleet boss Steve Brown is not underestimating the advantages of the Kent Senior Cup as a motivator and confidence-booster for his players as competition for places hots up. And certainly not when his charges rack up a six-goal haul in the process.

Ben May’s introduction to the starting line-up gives the Fleet manager more options and another dimension to consider. Having got a taste for scoring once again with his brace against Sittingbourne, May is eager to shine at his new club and get them back into the mix at the top end of the table. Certainly he is keen to renew his partnership with Billy Bricknell, which yielded 37 goals at Dover last season, and was a major element of the Whites’ push to the play-off final.

That strike partnership is by no means guaranteed, however, with Andy Pugh, Michael Thalassitis and Alex Osborn – another two-goal hero on Tuesday night – to consider, an embarrassment of riches up front that finally gives Steve Brown something of a selection headache. His task in that department will be made somewhat easier, however, given the news that Andy Pugh will definitely be missing for the trip out west thanks to the ankle injury he sustained on Tuesday night.

Also sitting out the game will be defender Grant Basey, whose knee problem will not improve in time. Basey’s injury means the Fleet defence, which has maintained a consistent line-up in league games this season, will likely have a familiar look to it once again. But there is better news on midfielders Michael Corcoran and Stacy Long, both of whom trained on Thursday night, and the Fleet physio team will assess those players before Saturday.

Fleet’s previous visit to the Woodspring Stadium – in their promotion run-in of 2010-11 – ended in a 3-2 defeat and indeed Weston have the edge on Fleet down the years, having also won an FA Trophy back in 2004. The Somerset side, for so long members of the Western and later Southern Leagues, have built on an excellent run-in to last season that saw them finish in an impressive 7th place.

This season the Seagulls’ momentum has taken them to third place, with five wins from nine games, masterminded by manager Craig Laird. The Weston boss is something of a football family man, with four of his sons playing professionally and semi-professionally – Scott Laird plays for Preston after helping Stevenage to promotion through the leagues, namesake Craig plays in the USA while Jamie and Callum Laird are both in their father’s Weston squad to face the Fleet.

Jamie Laird is a survivor of the side that beat the Fleet back in 2011, as is goalscorer that day Kane Ingram, defender Martin Slocombe, midfielders Dayle Grubb, Ben Kirk and Brett Trowbridge and striker Naby Diallo. Highly-rated Diallo has three goals to his name this term, but is behind striker partner Tristan Plummer who has netted four times this season.

Both men are capable of giving the Fleet back line a testing time and Plummer in particular has drawn praise from his manager for giving Weston a “genuinely quick centre forward”. Laird desrcibes him as having “great pace, he plays on the shoulder of the last defender and makes great runs in behind. There is no doubt in my mind that he will score continue to score goals in this league, but he also works tremendously hard for the team and helps us defend from the front.”

Tristan Plummer is the brother of Dwayne, a Fleet player for the briefest of occasions back in 2003, when he made one substitute appearance against Margate.

League form

Weston-super-Mare: W W W D D

Ebbsfleet United: W D D L D

Head-to-head

Venue Matches W D L Goals + / –
Home 2 1 1 0 5 – 3 +2
Away 2 0 0 2 2 – 4 -2
Total 4 1 1 2 7 – 7 +0

 

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