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PREVIEW: FC Halifax Town

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Fleet’s hard-pressed squad face another long journey north hoping to emulate their last visit to Yorkshire against a town beginning with ‘H’. That visit to Harrogate was the last time Garry Hill’s side found the net and with the scorer of the winner that day, Andy Drury, facing suspension the manager hasn’t been slow in recruiting a new face.

Gozie Ugwu, whose hottest form in the National League came under Hill at Woking, travels with his new teammates after ending a loan spell at Boreham Wood and it at least gives his boss the ‘luxury’ of naming a recognised first-teamer on the bench.

With Chris Bush and Dean Rance due to return for selection following this match, Hill would be forgiven for eagerly awaiting its conclusion to return his matchday squad numbers to a healthier level.

But the manager has constantly put confidence in his first eleven’s ability to compete and while goals have been hard to come by of late, there can be no argument that the Fleet are anything but a tough nut to crack with a defence still as miserly as ever.

With Ugwu offering the Fleet another option up front, the manager will be hoping for more of the same on his travels, with his side having lost only once on the road (and that by the narrowest of margins) in 2019.

Ugwu might take note that FC Halifax is a happy hunting ground for debutants, Corey Whitely having opened his account in his first Fleet game at The Shay last February.

Fleet grabbed their first ever win at Halifax last season and, as in 2017/18, have the opportunity for a double over the home side. However, Jamie Fullarton’s team will be buoyed by a 3-0 midweek win over Barnet that lifted them to 12th, their highest position for some months.

The Shaymen have some added firepower in their ranks having signed former Barnet loanee Manny Duku on a temporary basis from Cheltenham Town while Salford’s former Hartlepool striker Devante Rodney is another addition. Both were on the scoresheet on Tuesday, as was a third loanee – central midfielder James Ferry from Stevenage.

That makes it three wins out of four for Halifax, whose early season form marked them as promotion contenders until they fell away badly through the autumn.

They will be looking to avenge their worst defeat of the campaign, a 4-0 thrashing at the Kuflink Stadium earlier this season – Hill’s first win as Fleet manager.

A pitch inspection at The MBi Shay on Friday morning after recent rain passed the test and Fleet will travel hoping to close the gap on Sutton United and Eastleigh above them.

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