dartford-bonner-kedwell

New year, same stakes…

After Blue Monday, Fleet are hoping for Super Sunday as Dartford make the return trip to Stonebridge Road for the first game of 2017.

With the ground capacity back above 3,000 thanks to the full opening of the new stand for the first time, a bumper crowd is expected to see if the home side can wrestle back local honours from their neighbours and, more importantly for the long term, three points as the league campaign goes down to the wire.

Daryl McMahon was blunt in his assessment that his side “weren’t good enough to get the three points, simple as that” on Boxing Day but believes the Fleet can take some plus points from the climax to that match.

“The last 20 minutes when we were taking the game to them, I think we’ve got to take that into Stonebridge Road. We’ve been good at home, we’ve shown plenty of energy and quality at home and I think we need to do that again.

“You can get carried away with a win or a loss or a draw in any week,” the Fleet boss added. “This is another game now to be had. We’re still in a position to go and attack things. We’ve been on a great run prior to the Boxing Day game, 28 points from 33 in the last 11 games available, so that’s not too bad. It was disappointing to lose [to Dartford], a disappointing performance other than the last 20 minutes, but we’ll brush ourselves down.”

Fleet have options to change things, with Sean Shields, Bradley Bubb, Mark Phillips, Jack Powell, Charlie Sheringham and Sam Deering all failing to make the starting eleven last week.

Dartford’s options are a little tighter, with Keaton Wood likely to still be covering for the suspended Tom Wynter at left back. In the interim, however, Dartford have signed striker Tom Murphy from Maidstone, the player probably best remembered for scoring the winner at Crabble when Dover beat the Fleet in August 2013. He will be unlikely to unseat Boxing Day goalscorer Duane Ofori-Acheampong and may have to settle for a place on the bench, though could potentially replace Danny Harris if Tony Burman does want to make any changes.

This will be only the fifth New Year’s Day clash against Dartford and recalls the last one in 2013 when Fleet were again looking to avenge a Boxing Day defeat and had to rely on Nathan Elder’s late striker to secure a point.

The Darts haven’t won at Stonebridge Road since 1989 in the Kent Senior Cup and you have to go back further, to 1979 to find their last league win but with confidence high in the visitors’ camp, they’ll be looking to make it a festive double against a Fleet side intent on revenge.

As ever, the North Kent derby is one not to be missed.

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