Garry Hill is expecting no easy ride at Braintree Town this New Year’s Day, despite the Fleet picking up maximum points in their two games since Christmas Day. The Vanarama National League’s bottom club responded to their 4-2 defeat at the Kuflink Stadium on Boxing Day with a 1-0 win at relegation rivals Maidenhead United and will be looking for revenge on home soil against the Fleet.
“All the teams have got to fight in this league,” Hill said. “We won the game here, made hard work of it, and it’ll be very tough. It’s not the best playing surface at Braintree, we know that. We’ll have to pick a team and have a roll call.”
That roll call came yesterday as the Fleet squad trained on Sunday during a busy festive period that shows no let-up following New Year’s Day, with a trip to Chesterfield to follow on Saturday 5th. Hill took the opportunity to throw on fresh legs early last Saturday with the game effectively won and Danny Kedwell retired from action somewhat sooner than usual, while Dean Rance made way for Lawrie Wilson.
Braintree go into the game boosted by a win over their old manager Alan Devonshire at Maidenhead but dealt a blow with the loss of skipper Joe Ellul. The central defender, who scored the first equaliser at the Kuflink Stadium, signed off his Braintree career on Saturday and will be taking up an opportunity abroad in 2019.
Replacing Ellul will be one certain change, while Braintree made two more last weekend, former Chelsea academy defender Jon Muleba and ex-Dartford youth striker Justin Amaluzor returning to the side.
The victory over Maidenhead ended a run of eight games without a win for Braintree and manager Hakan Hayrettin wants them to tighten up in defence as they pursue the seven-point gap to safety. The Iron’s home form is worse than their away record, however, with just one win against Dover in October seeing crowds drop to below 400 for their most recent fixture against Boreham Wood.
Fleet will certainly want to begin 2019 in much better form than the manner in which 2018 was ushered in, when we conceded three first-half goals to Bromley in a televised fixture.
We have played at Cressing Road on nine occasions since 1992, winning five – the last of those a 3-2 win in August 2011.