Two sides with contrasting FA Cup fortunes meet at the Kuflink Stadium this weekend, with FC Halifax Town having beaten League Two opposition on Tuesday night while the Fleet saw their own hopes dashed.
The visitors will need to be mindful about concentrating on run-of-the-mill fixtures with a TV date in the offing v AFC Wimbledon but for the Fleet, it’s very much a case of concentrating on the league from now until Christmas, with only one FA Trophy match to punctuate the run of games to come in December.
“We go into a little intensive period of games coming at us in a quick space of time now,” said Garry Hill. “I want to make sure we have as many fit players as possible of those we have in the squad through to Christmas and beyond. That’s why Kenny Clark didn’t play Tuesday. We put him on the bench purely in case there was a 15-minute spell where we needed him for whatever reason if we were getting bombarded in the box and under the cosh. What I didn’t want to do with Halifax and then Maidenhead coming up and so many games in the Christmas period was risk him at Cheltenham. We’ve got Jack King and Chris Bush who can drop in there so the value of risking a player not 100 per cent fit wasn’t there. You can’t let your heart rule your head. Kenny would play with one leg, we all know that, but sometimes you have to put reins on players because one game out could be six games out.”
Following Clark’s rest from FA Cup duty with a calf complaint, he may need to be called upon as Sam Magri starts a suspension for his sending-off at Cheltenham, meaning that King will also likely keep his place in the starting lineup. Dean Rance was running pre-match at Cheltenham in midweek and his rehabilitation work continues with a view to returning in the near future, while international duo Myles Weston and Ebou Adams are back after their travels. Weston scored again for Antigua & Barbuda in a 4-2 defeat in Martinique, while Adams (pictured above) played 62 minutes in Gambia’s 3-1 victory over Benin.
Saturday’s game will be Garry Hill’s first league encounter at the Kuflink Stadium and two weeks into the job, he’s getting a feel for what needs to be done.
“We’re assessing the playing squad between now and the end of the season,” he said. “There’ll be decisions made which people have to respect and understand and all that of course has been well-documented. I believe there’s a structure in place and going forward it will make us strong and competitive even though there will have been reductions compared to what the club has been used to. The number-one thing as far as I’m concerned is the well-being and stability of Ebbsfleet United FC for the immediate future and beyond.
“I don’t think any team can expect to be successful or be competitive unless they put everything in. You’ve got to make sure that the work ethic runs right through a team at any level of football, then the quality shines through and the goals come. Whatever our finances are compared to others, any side we put together and put out there will be a competitive side.”
Jamie Fullarton’s visitors are looking for only their second win in Northfleet in seven attempts, Fleet having won the other five stretching back to 2003 and the old Halifax Town club. And with just one win on their travels this season, which came on the opening day at Braintree, the Shaymen’s form has been patchy. Much as they did in 2017/18, they made a flying start to this campaign but until beating Dover last weekend, they had gone 14 matches without a victory. The Dover win, plus a draw and victory either side of that against Morecambe in the FA Cup, will have done them the world of good, however. And despite their run of poor form since August, Halifax have proved hard to beat – much like the Fleet, victory and defeat have proved to be fine margins.
Winger Matty Kosylo is always a threat for the visitors and they have some experienced players, including Nathan Clarke who played against the Fleet for Huddersfield Town way back in 2001. Injuries to right-back Michael Duckworth, midfielder James Berrett and striker Ben Tomlinson seem set to keep those three sidelined while experienced loanee Joe Skarz from Bury is pressing for a recall in the left-back position after suspension.
As in Fleet’s win over Barrow recently, there is little to choose between the sides. Halifax are one point and one place better off, both clubs having won six games this season, and our goals for and against columns make for similar reading. Manager Fullarton is facing a similar problem to his Ebbsfleet counterpart, namely converting chances into goals. “You start to worry and get concerned if you don’t create chances,” he said.” We are still working hard on increasing and improving the ratio of goals to chances. I started preparation on Ebbsfleet days ago. We’ve given the players a game plan and hopefully revitalised energy levels so they’re ready to go with the same commitment that we showed against Morecambe.”
• The match is not segregated. Car-parking is available at Ebbsfleet International Station Car Park C for £3, the best option for parking near the stadium. Local businesses are continuing to contact us to warn they will clamp cars parked on or blocking private property. Drivers should not block areas around Watling Tyres, In-Car Wash (Grove Road), the Ebbsfleet Business Park and the Lower Road Industrial Estate. Furthermore, drivers are warned that parking on the Thames Way clearway near the roundabout runs the risk of being ticketed.