Daryl McMahon was handed bad news about striker Darren McQueen this week as he learned the 22-year-old is now likely to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. Last season’s top scorer, McQueen was injured in the home win over FC Halifax Town and the outlook for recovery time has got progressively worse since.
“It’s the worst possible news,” McMahon told FleetOnline. “He’s likely to miss the rest of the season now. It’s a massive blow for us and for him as he was looking to make leaps in this league. But we’ll rally round him as a club as we do, support him, keep his chin up. There’s lads in that changing room who have been out for the same time and we know Darren will come back stronger.”
Better news for the Fleet boss is that two of those long-term injury victims are well on the road to a return. Bradley Bubb and Dave Winfield are both nearing the stage where they can get some real fitness under their belts.
“Bubb’s doing really well,” McMahon said. “In the next week or 10 days or so he’ll be back training. Dave’s recovery is going fantastically too so we’re hopeful for a month for him to be in the reckoning.”
Andy Drury’s recent calf injury showed no signs of flaring up following 90 minutes for the midfielder on Tuesday night and Marvin McCoy, who missed out on a place because of a knock, was back in training as well this week.
McMahon is hoping to build on a solid performance against East Thurrock in midweek and said pre-match talk about an FA Cup run helped inspire his players. “On Tuesday in the changing room before the game we discussed each other’s FA Cup experiences and how good, how special those days are,” he said. “Everyone’s got different moments. Gritty’s got quite a few, I’ve played for Leyton Orient at Fulham who were in the Premier League and beaten them plus a few others, Aaron has a couple, Keds too, Andy Drury. But they’re few and far between when you consider the amount of games people have played at the club. And they don’t come round that often. So it was a case of let’s do this for ourselves, for the fans, because the Cup can make for terrific memories.”
But, despite all the talk of the Doncaster game, the Fleet boss insists minds must be on the league campaign ahead of games against Barrow, Torquay United and Sutton United. McMahon is especially pleased by a new solidity to his side, who have conceded just two goals in seven games, and he’s seeing a big difference from the team that began the season leaking more goals than was healthy.
“Bringing Chris Bush in was probably the start of that, he’s had a big impact in the team,” McMahon said of the former Chelmsford defender. “With Clarkey back to full fitness that’s another huge impact. Jack Connors is getting back to some excellent form, Marvin McCoy and Sam Magri are both very good full backs and Yads came in and did a brilliant job so we’ve got very good defensive players throughout.
“Now it’s just about keeping on doing that. If you keep a clean sheet, you only need one goal to win, it makes the whole task much easier. Across the course of a season that’s vital because you can’t keep expecting the team to turn around one- and two-goal deficits. You can do that once or twice, as we have, but you can’t rack up points and you can’t be successful if you’re going to ship goals and give yourselves mountains to climb every week. Those games might be fun to watch but in the main you can’t concede that many goals. Dean Rance has had a big say on that as well, he screens the back four really well and if you take the pressure off your defenders before the other team are in your box, that’s half your battles won.”
Barrow come south with assistant manager Neill Hornby taking charge, having only been brought to the club as assistant a week ago. In that time, Micky Moore was dismissed for only winning one game in 12, a run that included being dumped out of the FA Cup by Shaw Lane. Hornby is the third man in the hotseat for Barrow this season after Paul Cox departed following a poor start to the season. The Cumbrian club’s directors haven’t been slow in voicing their dissatisfaction with their plight and, in the short term, Hornby has vowed to weed out any disillusioned players in the squad.
The former Burton Albion academy and first-team coach has said he will ask his players to play an aggressive, high-tempo game aimed at closing the Fleet down at The Kuflink Stadium. “The whole of training this week has been geared towards the Ebbsfleet game,” Hornby told his local newspaper, The Mail. “They are a very organised, very well-drilled team. They don’t concede many and the thing that sticks out about Ebbsfleet for me is how organised and how drilled they are. We will know everything about Ebbsfleet. That’s where I’m looking at the moment; I’ve been sat all afternoon looking at videos of Ebbsfleet, reading reports on them. I can’t do any more.”
Barrow’s chief threat will come from striker Byron Harrison who featured among the leading scorers in the division last season, while former National South-winning Sutton midfielder Bedsenté Gomis (who Fleet fans might remember from a rather exuberant celebration at Gander Green Lane) moved north in the summer. Goalkeeper Stuart Moore might also be familiar as the former Basingstoke stopper who produced some excellent performances to shut us out during the 2014/15 season, though he has recently lost his place to Joel Dixon.
Defenders Dave Nieskens (injured) and Jimmy Dunne (suspended) will be missing, while midfielder Andy Parry is a long-term casualty. Striker Adi Yussuf, a former teammate of Luke Coulson’s at Oxford City, is back after a spell on the sidelines. Barrow have drafted in midfielder Chris Clements from Grimsby Town, meanwhile, on loan.
The Bluebirds have yet to win away from home, their two victories this season coming against Woking and Boreham Wood at Holker Street, but the Fleet – who are looking for their 300th league win at this level (thanks to Paul Saxby for that statistic!) – will need to beware of a renewed determination under a new manager.