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PREVIEW: Fleet home in on Hawks in season’s biggest game yet

Saturday’s eagerly awaited clash between two of the bookies’ pre-season choices will see both sets of strikers lacing up their shooting boots with added intent.

Both clubs recorded uncharacteristic blanks on Bank Holiday Monday after a good start to the season and the Kuflink Stadium meeting will be the perfect opportunity to restore the goals rush with the added benefit of taking a potential three points from a rival into the bargain.

Fleet, of course, did everything bar score at Chelmsford (some might even suggest Craig Tanner did score, but not in the eyes of the referee and his assistants) and manager Dennis Kutrieb had no concerns about his side’s dominant performance, other than the lack of a goal celebration for the effort.

Havant’s Monday reverse was entirely unexpected, losing 1-0 at Chippenham Town, a side with several newcomers following their Covid-enforced break that led to the postponement of Fleet’s own visit there.

Both managers have been happy to draw a veil over the last clash that saw both of them dismissed along with three players (with Chris Solly’s red since rescinded) but it remains a spicy fixture and a somewhat unlikely rivalry in the eyes of some supporters between clubs many miles and several counties apart.

One familiar face who won’t be involved is former Fleet defender Sam Magri, out with sciatica. He’s the only survivor of Doswell’s triple raid of Ebbsfleet that also brought Danny Kedwell and Andy Drury to the South Coast. Another former foe – Jamie Collins, who skippered Sutton to the 2015/16 National League South title – is also missing.

Not that Havant have too many problems in defence with Mike Green, a decade-long mainstay at Eastleigh, newly signed this summer, plus Josh Passley (Dover), Joe Oastler (Oxford City), Joe Newton (Coventry City) and Manny Adebowale (Crawley Town) all available to be called upon.

Following a somewhat disappointing campaign last season before it was cut short, Doswell has recruited heavily this summer. There’s plenty of experience with Scott Rendell (Woking, Aldershot, Maidstone), Oscar Gobern (Huddersfield Town, Eastleigh), Alex Wall (Luton, Woking, Concord) all coming in. Elsewhere there’s hotshot striker James Roberts who was at the heart of Oxford City’s fine form in 2020/21, plus a pair of former Weymouth promotion winners in Jake McCarthy and Abdulai Baggie.

And then the manager has players he knows he can rely on from previous seasons – goalkeeper Ross Worner, midfielder Billy Clifford and former Sutton frontman Tommy Wright.

In addition to the defeat at Chippenham, Havant strolled to a 3-0 win over Welling United on the opening day and a last-minute win at Hampton & Richmond Borough which leaves them just a point behind the Fleet at this early stage.

The two clubs shared a win apiece last season, Havant winning 3-0 at the Kuflink Stadium before succumbing 2-1 at their own ground, with Dominic Poleon (pictured above) scoring the winner with his first touch.

Craig Robson, Rakish Bingham and Billy Clifford tangle in last season’s win at Havant

Doswell has made no secret of his admiration for the Fleet squad assembled under Kutrieb but will be planning to mastermind points grabs similar to those he directed at the helm of Sutton United. Last season’s games will offer little indication for how this one turns out, however, with personnel on both sides having changed considerably.

From Havant’s last visit here in December, there are likely to be no more than three players involved in tomorrow’s Hawks side, while the Fleet will likely feature no more than five from the same game.

Kutrieb will, of course, be without Christian N’Guessan after he was carried off at Chelmsford. The midfielder’s X-ray cleared any fears of a broken ankle but an MRI scan will assess any potential ligament damage.

Ahead of the Havant meeting, the Fleet boss highlighted clean sheets as just as important as finding goals at the other end. “We are very big in preparing for the opponents. Not conceding is very important. I am very confident with our squad that we will score goals and we will have chances. Against Chelmsford we had chances, against Havant we will have chances too but it’s important in all games that we find the right balance not to concede.

“Saturday will be a little different. They are a big side, it will be physical – we will need to face it and we will face it but it’s not all about that. We have a different approach, we have good pace, it’s about passing the ball quickly and individual decision-making, too.”

MATCHDAY SMALL PRINT —————————->

ONLINE SALES
Our online ticketing sales platform at fleetlive.club currently has tickets available for both the Havant and Maidstone United matches. Again, we would advise pre-purchase for both your and our convenience in gaining admission to the ground. Online ticket sales cease at noon on Saturday matchdays.

On-the-day ticket sales will, however, continue to be available from the windows by main reception from 1pm, accepting card and cash payments. Turnstiles open at 1pm but please remember they will only be accepting online tickets (printed out or on your device) and tickets bought at the windows on matchday. The dedicated season-ticket gate will continue to accept your season-ticket cards as usual.

CAR PARKING
Car-parking as per usual on matchdays is available at Ebbsfleet International Car Park C for £3. Please have the correct change if possible to aid our parking staff. Please note that the areas near to Northfleet Station, namely Railway Street and Hamerton Road, have recently become resident/permit-only parking and non-valid vehicles will be ticketed. The area on Thamesway before the roundabout as you approach the Kuflink Stadium is a designated clearway –though that is not particularly apparent as you approach – so you are advised not to park here because of the risk of being ticketed.

NHS VACCINATION BUS
All adults will be able to receive a first or second vaccination via the NHS bus which will be located outside the home turnstiles from 11am-6pm this Saturday. You do not need to have registered with a GP to receive a vaccination. All adults vaccinated on the day will be entitled to a free child’s ticket to the match. More information here.

MATCHDAY PROGRAMMES
You can purchase a full season subscription to all remaining league and cup programmes for £54 by clicking here. If you wish to purchase multiple copies or for individual games, you can do so either via our online shop or when booking your matchday tickets online.

Programme sales online will cease at 10am on Saturday morning and thereafter the remainder will be sold at the ground.

Advance programmes will be available to pick up from reception before the game.

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CONTACT...

Ed Miller

Ed Miller

Ed Miller has been Ebbsfleet United's communications manager and programme editor since 2014 and responsible for the club website since 2007. Contact him on ed.miller@eufc.co.uk

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