A change of scenery may well do the Fleet some good this weekend, even if it is just a short hop across the Thames to the Chigwell Construction Stadium. Venue of one of last season’s most exciting matches, a 3-3 draw that witnessed Daryl McMahon’s side come back from a two-goal deficit, a lot has certainly changed for the clubs since then.
Dagenham were one of the tips for the top this time last year until plunged into a financial crisis and it was newly promoted Ebbsfleet who of course made the play-offs in their place. Now with a new lease of life off the pitch, Dagenham are looking to get going on it – which is pretty much where the Fleet are in terms of ambitions for this weekend as well.
Without a win in six games, the Fleet must summon their early season away form that, until the reverse at Wrexham, saw them unbeaten on the road. Indeed – easy though it is to forget in recent weeks – that defeat was the only time McMahon’s men have lost an away game in 90 minutes for seven months.
For two Fleet players in particular, the game is extra-special with Michael Cheek and Corey Whitely (pictured) returning to the club for whom they played last season and lined up for in that 3-3 draw.
“They’ve looked good together,” McMahon said of the former Daggers pair who have teamed up in recent games and combined for the equaliser against Havant & Waterlooville. “They’ve been a handful and I’m sure they’re looking forward to it.”
Another Essex boy who’ll be in McMahon’s plans is Kenny Clark, the defender returning to action following his one-match suspension in midweek and the likelihood is that he’ll be reunited alongside skipper Dave Winfield as the manager’s declared preferred partnership in defence.
Dagenham had to wait nine matches this season to record a win but, buoyed by the news of their recent takeover by a US-led consortium, things are slowly beginning to change for Peter Taylor’s side. They have hauled themselves off the foot of the table with successive wins against Braintree Town and Barrow and a particularly gritty home draw against Salford City was also noteworthy.
Taylor hasn’t made too many significant additions to his squad since news of the takeover broke, so the Daggers roster is still made up largely of those young players the former Dartford and Leicester City boss managed to recruit before the season kicked off. Only Elliot Justham, Ben Nunn, Luke Pennell, Chike Kandi, Matt Robinson and Elliott Romain remain of last season’s squad under John Still, with Taylor having had to be fairly creative with the budget he was handed in the summer.
It’s a fairly young squad comprised of players largely under 24, with the most experienced in their late twenties being Gavin Hoyte (ex-Eastleigh and previously with Dagenham in League Two) and injured skipper Nunn who has yet to feature this season.
Two recent additions Taylor has made are former Fleet midfielder Liam Bellamy and ex-Charlton central player Jack Munns, who was at Hartlepool last season and won the National League with Cheltenham Town.
Romain and Kandi carry the goal threat with seven between them so far this season, while defender Alexander McQueen – cousin of Darren – has also weighed in with a couple but Taylor’s side have failed to score in their last two games and goals have been hard to come by. Ex-Chelmsford striker Tomi Adeloye, former Millwall youngster Noel Leighton and Lamar Reynolds, signed from Newport County, are other options.
Fleet have won twice (2004 and 2006) at Victoria Road in nine visits since DRFC formed, though we have only played their once in the past decade, that being last season’s 3-3 draw.
The referee for the game is Gary Parsons, who has taken charge of numerous Fleet matches before, including our cup draws against Warrington Town and East Thurrock United last season.
Ticket prices for away supporters in the A13 Steel Stand can be found here.