There is no let-up for Steve Brown’s Ebbsfleet as their busy Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday schedule continues apace at Kingfield tonight, where Hayes & Yeading United host another vital Skrill South fixture.
And, as on Saturday, it’s another game with seemingly little to choose between the sides as sixth plays fifth, Fleet, top of the Skrill South form table, looking to underline their play-off credentials and Hayes eyeing another three points in their admirable start to the season.
Brown was delighted with Fleet’s victory against Basingstoke on Saturday, not to mention a clean sheet and clean bill of health at the end of the 90 minutes. “The game on Saturday was a fantastic result and a real workmanlike performance,” Brown told FleetOnline.
“Basingstoke are in a rich vein of form and we were expecting a tight game from a well-organised and hard-working side. Although clearcut chances were at a premium both sides were playing some attractive football and it was always a game that was going to be decided by the odd goal.
“From our perspective it was great to keep a clean sheet and continue the winning run we are on. The goal was a superb run and delivery from Cooky and Michael Thalassitis finished with a great header at the far post. We have the ability as a team to score all types of goals and looking at the goalscoring charts… we might not have the top scorers in the league but we have goals coming from every department and spread across the team.”
Thalassitis’ third goal in as many games on Saturday sees him vying with Billy Bricknell and Anthony Cook for the privilege of being Fleet’s league top scorer – Bricknell and Cook are on five apiece, Thalassitis now on four.
Indeed Fleet are now second only to league leaders Bromley in terms of goals scored – not a bad record for a side that struggled to find the net early on in the season – and also boast the third-best goal difference in the league.
An away game will prove to be something of a novelty for Brown’s players, with just one road trip in the league in the last six weeks – the defeat at Bishop’s Stortford. With that game in mind, where the home side raced into a three-goal lead before a late rally produced a more respectable scoreline, the Fleet will need to be out of the blocks quickly in what is likely to be a fairly soulless atmosphere at Kingfield – where Hayes’ home gates have not reached far beyond 200 this season.
Former Liverpool defender and Ireland international Phil Babb has certainly had an impact since his arrival at Hayes in the summer, guiding his charges to a perhaps surprising play-off challenge. Rather than promotion, the club’s top priority has always been to relocate to a new stadium, their groundshare at Woking obviously not an ideal situation. Construction work was far from complete on the new Sharda Glass Community Stadium in the summer when a payment row broke with the building company and progress has been slow in that department.
On the field, however, it is a better picture, with Hayes a very much ‘win or bust’ side: eight wins and seven defeats – with not a single draw – puts them on 24 points, exactly the same haul as the Fleet who, of course, are (or certainly were) draw specialists. Their home record is fairly poor, however, with just two wins coming at Kingfield and they enter tonight’s game off the back of a home defeat by Weston-super-Mare.
“We could be in an even better league position,” said manager Babb. “I actually think we’ve given away far too many points. Some of the games we’ve lost we shouldn’t have done, but we’re a young side and we’re learning week by week.”
Babb was at Stonebridge Road last week to watch Fleet play Bromley and thought it “a convincing win but not a convincing performance. Ebbsfleet will be demanding more from their season.” The Hayes boss has strengthened his side in recent weeks, bringing in loan signings who have both played in the Football League this season: striker Louis Dennis from Dagenham and midfielder Matty Harriott from Northampton, both of whom played at the weekend. Midfielder Allen Bossman, meanwhile, has been released.
The Hayes squad also includes Louis Soares, who spent a few months on loan at Stonebridge Road last season and former Salisbury, Welling and Telford striker Jake Reid who has scored five goals this season. Ex-Aldershot custodian Jamie Young is in goal, having also been with Basingstoke and Whitehawk already this season. Young midfielder Frankie Merrifield was a teammate of Stacy Long’s at AFC Wimbledon last season, while defender Jack Mills is a former England U19 international, two of a host of youngsters recruited in the summer by Babb.
All the indications would rule against predicting a draw – as mentioned, Hayes haven’t had one this season. And what’s more, in five previous meetings between the Fleet and Hayes, there has never been a draw. Or make that seven if you count the two games between Fleet and a pre-merger Yeading side.
Fleet v Hayes & Yeading Utd head-to-head
|Venue||Matches||W||D||L||Goals||+ / –|
|Home||3||2||0||1||7 – 4||+3|
|Away||2||1||0||1||4 – 5||-1|
|Total||5||3||0||2||11 – 9||+2|