Preview: Robins on red alert for Fleet reaction

Fleet follow games against the Hawks and the Beavers with a trip to Surrey where the Robins await – quite the menagerie of opponents this September – and Dennis Kutrieb is demanding the animal instinct from his side in response to last week’s reversal.

The Emirates FA Cup kicks off for the Fleet this campaign at a somewhat more traditional point in the calendar, following last season’s lopsided schedule.

Kutrieb’s first ever competitive match as a manager in England came in the same competition as the Covid-affected 2020/21 season began with an FA Cup tie (against Hastings United), even before the league season commenced.

As if that wasn’t an odd enough introduction to the world’s most famous cup competition, the Fleet boss also saw both his ties last season concluded on the day via successive penalty shootouts – certainly the first time that has occurred in the club’s history.

This season’s Second Qualifying Round has a more familiar feel about it and there’ll be no penalty shootout at the end of Saturday, with any drawn match carrying forward to a Tuesday-night replay at the Kuflink Stadium.

And there’s a familiar feel about the opposition as well, with Saturday’s game at the War Memorial Grounds on Colston Avenue being the 10th cup tie contested between the Fleet and Carshalton. Indeed we have met more often in cup ties than we have in the league, with just eight meetings at Isthmian Premier level between us.

The Isthmian Premier is where Carshalton currently reside and the Robins have been on an upward curve before two abandoned seasons affected their rise. Seven years ago Carshalton were on a downward spiral, relegated from the Isthmian Premier and only just avoiding successive relegations in the lower division the following season.

Since winning the Division One South title in 2018, the Robins have been pressing for promotion to the National South. Their first season back in the Premier saw them finish as runners-up but they lost in the play-offs. And they were sitting in third place when the 2019/20 campaign was abandoned.

This season, they have slipped into mid-table after a defeat at Bognor and midweek draw at home to Bowers & Pitsea but the margin to the top spots is small and Carshalton will look to resume their promotion bid after this weekend’s cup action.

A 3-0 win at Kennington in the previous round sets the home side up to renew old battles with the Fleet – in knockout football that goes back to 1974 when we first met in the FA Trophy.

Three of our more memorable cup games against Carshalton saw goalkeeper Les Cleevely sent off in a 1987 FA Cup tie following “some bother” with fans in the Plough End as the Robins won 6-2. In 1995, a 2-1 win for the Fleet in the Third Qualifying Round set the tone for a run to Round Three and the famous game at Aston Villa. And in 2007, a 4-1 victory at Stonebridge Road – our last meeting – was the first step on the road to Wembley and FA Trophy glory that season.

Carshalton have been managed by Peter Adeniyi since 2016, the former midfielder having begun as player-boss after a playing career with Erith Town, Dulwich Hamlet, Eastleigh, Lewes, Beckenham Town, Bromley and Merstham.

Their squad is a tight-knit one with the likes of striker Tommy Bradford having come through the club’s youth ranks – he scored 31 goals in 2017 and has played for the club ever since. Another five or six players have been with the Robins for the past four or more seasons while midfielder Lewis White has some recent history against the Fleet – he scored for Dulwich at the Kuflink Stadium last season.

The Robins have some recent form in upsetting the odds, having turfed Dagenham & Redbridge out of the competition in 2019/20 to qualify for the First Round Proper for the first time in more than 20 years.

Relive Fleet’s Emirates FA Cup opener from last season

Dennis Kutrieb has made no secret of his admiration for the FA Cup and its David v Goliath nature – and he admitted to watching with a tinge of ‘What if?’ last season as National South clubs drew the heavyweights in the later rounds.

Added to his determination to see off the last two Fleet results with a positive outcome this weekend, his side will be going all out to give the fans something to take home from their third away day of the season. The returns of Rakish Bingham and Tobi Adebayo-Rowling have boosted the squad and the boss is given further selection possibilities as Kreshnic Krasniqi, Alex Finney and Will Wood near a return.

Assuming Saturday’s tie isn’t drawn, this will be Fleet’s final game for 10 days, with the rescheduled Chippenham match coming in between any potential Third Qualifying Round game.

Tickets for Carshalton can be bought in advance here or via card payment on the day (£1 discount for booking online).


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