With £36,000 still burning a hole in the FA’s pocket, tonight’s result at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium will decide which club gets their name entered as payee on the cheque and who will take their place at Accrington in Round Two on 1st December.
Fleet will have to overturn some history if they’re to see off Cheltenham Town, having lost the past two cup ties at what was Whaddon Road by 5-1 on both occasions. Those were FA Trophy games in the early Nineties but Fleet might prefer to look at their last visit to Cheltenham. That saw a shock result as Dave Arter’s goal gave bottom-of-the-table Gravesend & Northfleet a 1-0 win over a Robins side that would end the 1996/97 season promoted.
All of that, of course, is a very long time ago and the only result that offers any bearing on Tuesday night’s replay is the 0-0 draw at the Kuflink Stadium 10 days ago. Since then, Fleet have recorded another goalless draw while Cheltenham picked up a rare win, easing past a demoralised Notts County by 3-0 on Saturday. That result saw the Robins leapfrog the Magpies and inch their way out of the League Two relegation zone, while an earlier midweek victory over Coventry City in the EFL Trophy also handed them their first win on home soil this season.
Only once have the Fleet defeated League opposition away from home in the FA Cup (Carlisle United in January 1963) but they need not travel in trepidation, having given a good account of themselves in the first game, the first-half in particular having offered several chances to take the lead and perhaps clinch the tie. And with Fleet’s three successive clean sheets as part of a six-match unbeaten run, the onus will be on the home side to break down a stubborn visiting defence.
Cheltenham had Luke Varney to thank for the three points on Saturday, the veteran striker bagging two goals as part of a lineup that saw former Havant and Portsmouth midfielder Nigel Atangana start. However, Varney has had painkillers to get through recent games and was advised not to risk starting Saturday’s game. Winger Alex Addai, who tormented the Fleet after coming on as a substitute, sat the 90 minutes out on the bench at the weekend, but he may be considered tonight. Meanwhile, the Robins are sweating on the fitness of Chelsea loanee and midfield playmaker Jacob Maddox.
Like the Fleet, Cheltenham are coming off the back of three successive clean sheets – and if neither side can find a way through that, then it’s the dreaded spot kicks afterb half an hour of extra time.