If the Fleet-Dover rivalry this season has been talked up by the media, another one has probably been played down. With Aiden Palmer and Anthony Cook (pictured) having crossed the river from Chelmsford to Ebbsfleet this summer – and with Billy Bricknell and Alex Osborn having also worn claret – there is another old pals’ act in the making this evening.
Cook professed to be “absolutely buzzing for the first home league game under lights against my old club” while Palmer was equally keen to banish recent results, saying “We need to get rid of this ‘draw specialist’ name tag.”
Both sides will be especially eager for the win – the Fleet looking for their first three points at home in front of their new owner Dr Abdulla Al-Humaidi, Chelmsford looking to halt a run of four straight defeats. Fleet boss Steve Brown is no nearer having Ben May back to full fitness, while Chris Sessegnon is of course out on loan, but otherwise the squad is fully fit.
Brown told EUFC.co.uk, “Chelmsford, like us, are going through a change in personnel on the field and a change of staff off it and we both find ourselves looking to put more marks in the win column. Hopefully Tuesday sees us turning our performance into that all-important victory – although I’m sure Chelmsford will come and make life very difficult for us.”
“We welcome Dr Abdulla to Stonebridge Road on Tuesday night and I’m hoping it proves to be something of a lucky omen and we can put on a performance that nets us our first home victory.”
Fleet’s last-gasp 2-2 draw at high-flying Basingstoke left the Fleet manager grateful for a point but at the same time rueing what he considered two points dropped. “We created chance after chance to extend our lead to two or even three goals before they really got into the game,” Brown said. “Bar two excellent saves from their keeper and a free header by Corcs we would have gone in with the game almost certainly wrapped up.
“We need to be more aggressive in our determination not to concede but it’s not something that can be pinpointed toward one player or one specific reason on a regular basis – it seems every game, the one time we don’t quite get things 100% right as a team, we are punished and concede. All we can do is keep believing that the work we are doing on the training pitch and the performances we are putting in will turn into the results that we deserve.”
Fleet have not met Chelmsford since a run of three games at the tail-end of the 2010-11 season, City winning 3-1 in the league and then Fleet taking the plaudits at the two all-important play-off semi-finals, winning 4-1 and then 2-1. With new manager Dean Holdsworth in place, who guided Newport County to glory in this division in 2010, Chelmsford – seemingly a shoe-in for the play-offs every season – are in a period of transition.
They have just released popular defender Justin Miller but brought in three new players – manager’s son Jordan Holdsworth, defender Jide Maduako and recent Whitehawk signing Charlie Henry, who scored five goals in 10 games for Havant & Waterlooville last season.
City’s position third from bottom of the Skrill South table, much like the Fleet’s, is surely something of early-season teething problems. They still boast plenty of talent in a squad that includes their veteran cog in the middle of the park, Dave Rainford, as well as former Fleet man Tom Davis, who has won promotion from this division with St Albans, Lewes, AFC Wimbledon and later Woking.
Elsewhere, son of Dave Webb – Danny – is a highly-rated defender fresh from Salisbury and Dover, but with plenty of league experience, while Nicky Nicolau (Dover, Lincoln), Bertie Brayley (Canvey Island, Eastleigh), Kieron St Aimie (Oxford, Stevenage), Christian Smith (Telford) and Carl Pentney (Woking, Hayes & Yeading) have all crossed paths with Fleet fans before.
The Clarets’ most recent result, a 2-0 reverse at home to Whitehawk, saw ex-Fleet striker Jacob Erskine among the scorers for the opposition but manager Holdsworth – much like his former Charlton foe Brown – believes his side are only a game or two away from translating performances and chances into victories.
“We have to carry on believing that the way we want to play is we want to pass the ball and we don’t want to keep hoofing it into things,” he told his official website. “We were the better side [against Whitehawk] by a mile, an absolute mile so if you lose doing the right thing sometimes you have to do that rather than win doing the wrong things.
“My team were fitter, leaner and stronger and we got done today by two instances where we could have dealt with them, but I won’t be too critical of my players because their performance was excellent.”
On paper, it seems two evenly matched teams will go against each other tonight desperate to win and desperate to play good football. For only £10 admission, the signs are pointing to a cracking night’s entertainment.
Past form v Chelmsford City
|Venue||Matches||W||D||L||Goals||+ / –|
|Home||38||14||11||13||57 – 48||+9|
|Away||39||17||4||18||54 – 79||-25|
|Total||77||31||15||31||111 – 127||-16