PREVIEW: Boreham Wood

Meadow Park was more or less where it all began for the Fleet in the National League last season, a Danny Kedwell penalty helping to scrape a 1-0 win after nine successive draws had frustrated fans and management alike. Both sides, of course, eventually made it to the play-offs; indeed Boreham Wood went all the way to Wembley only to lose to the Fleet’s conquerors Tranmere Rovers. A repeat performance has been tough to accomplish, with Fleet currently 15th and the Wood four points and four places better off.

This time last year, however, the picture wasn’t an awful lot different. Boreham Wood were 10th and Fleet 11th, ourselves then just five points better off than we are currently. And that’s why Garry Hill has thrown mention of the play-offs back into the mix with more than half the season remaining as another run to mirror last season’s autumn haul would see Fleet in a much healthier position than of late.

Having had a full week of training behind them, the new men at the helm – Hill and Hendon – may feel more ready to make changes to the lineup, having resisted the urge to tinker too much with the side going into the Emirates FA Cup clash with Cheltenham Town. The fitness of Dean Rance and Andy Drury will need assessment but any gaps in midfield could see Jack King deployed after he slotted into that position after coming on against the Robins last weekend.

Boreham Wood hope to welcome back former Dartford midfielder Tom Champion and otherwise manager Luke Garrard reports a clean bill of health, other than impressive full-back Kane Smith who has a long-term injury. The home side have been shorn of the services of their dangerous goalscoring duo of last season, Bruno Andrade signing for Lincoln City in the close season and Angelo Balanta moving on recently to Dagenham & Redbridge. Morgan Ferrier – subject of a transfer saga and war of words between club and agent over the past few months – is another to have departed in the summer, to Walsall.

Former Fleet loanee Gozie Ugwu has been drafted in from Chesterfield to help fill the gap and he’s scored three times since his arrival in September. And there’s a double reunion for Mark Ricketts, part of the Fleet’s FA Trophy winning squad, of course, but also a key component of Garry Hill’s Conference South title-winning squad at Woking.

Elsewhere in the Wood side, former Maidstone defender Manny Parry arrived in the summer from Dover and Garrard has made good use of the loan market, recruiting Justin Shaibu from Brentford and Charlton Athletic pair Josh Umerah and Reeco Hackett-Fairchild. Umerah is the man to watch with six goals so far this season, but behind him in midfield Keiran Murtagh – another one to play under Hill at Woking – pulls the strings and also has an eye for goal, and that’s one battle Fleet will certainly need to win.

The visitors need to improve their wins record with one in the last five in the National League but equally an unbeaten run of five in all competitions is a solid platform. Boreham Wood slumped to a disappointing FA Cup defeat at Southport and picked up only draws in their previous two league fixtures, so their manager is expecting a reaction against the Fleet. The Hertfordshire side have been much better on home soil than away this season, recording five of their seven victories at Meadow Park, and their sole home defeat was against Harrogate Town – though they did lose on penalties to Dunfermline Athletic as one of two National League representatives in the IRN-BRU Cup.

• The match will be segregated, and the nearest public car park is stationed in Brook Road and adjacent to stadium. Fleet supporters will be able to purchase tickets on the away gate in the West Stand, with cash on the day. However, the home club advises purchase of tickets in advance from here.


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First-Team Squad