Three weeks – a fortnight of self-isolation followed by a further week without a game – have flown past since Fleet’s players last kicked a ball in anger and a return to action couldn’t be much tastier than a visit from Havant & Waterlooville.
One of the pre-season favourites following their runners-up spot and eventually unsuccessful play-offs bid last season, they are of course managed by former title winner Paul Doswell whose successful track record includes promotions with Sutton United and before that Eastleigh.
Throw in a return for Fleet’s ex-skipper Danny Kedwell – the club’s highest goalscorer of the 21st century – and former defender Sam Magri and there’s plenty of potential stories in the making.
But that’s the past and for Dennis Kutrieb and the current Fleet squad it’s all about the future. The immediate future is a busy one following the last three postponements with a packed January to follow a busy December.
A potential two FA Trophy ties lie in wait next week but first Fleet will seek to claw their way back up the table. With three games in hand and a mixed set of results for the leading clubs in our absence, the nine points Fleet could add to their total mean the top spots are well within reach.
But that’s for another day. The immediate concern this Saturday is ‘just’ the three points on offer with players and supporters eager to get back to the job in hand.
The enforced break did allow Kutrieb to run the rule over a full complement of players on their return to duty last Monday and with Alex Eirich making a first appearance in the Tonbridge game, he offers a further attacking option.
Havant come here off the back of a mixed bag of results. Their dramatic late defeat at Marine in the FA Cup denied them the chance of hosting Tottenham Hotspur in Round 3, while a home defeat to Hemel Hempstead Town was another result not on the cards.
But the Hawks followed that up last week with a 3-1 defeat of Chelmsford City in which striker Tommy Wright scored a hat-trick. A goalless draw at home to Slough Town in midweek may not have been the desired result but Havant played 70 minutes of that with 10 men after George McLennan’s dismissal (his suspension starts after this weekend’s game).
For all the points dropped, Doswell’s side remain seventh in the form table, just one place behind the Fleet – the same gap as exists in the league table with us ninth and the visitors in 10th.
Having played a game less than the Fleet, Havant will also be mindful of their games in hand and ability to climb back up the table starting with their hopes for a positive result at the Kuflink.
Kedwell’s return from Hollands & Blair to Havant last month paid off with the Fleet’s academy manager finding the net courtesy of the penalty spot in a win over Oxford City. The Hawks have also beaten Dulwich and Billericay this season.
Doswell’s side features plenty of his former employees from Sutton, with goalkeeper Ross Worner as well as Roarie Deacon, Tommy Wright, Bedsente Gomis, George McLennan, Simon Walton and Josh Taylor all familiar to the Hawks boss down the years.
Elsewhere, the recruitment of former Woking pair Moussa Diarra and Godfrey Poku over the summer looks like good business while Joe Iaciofano (St Albans), the experienced Billy Clifford (Wealdstone) and Anthony Straker (Bath City) are other notable new faces.
Wright’s hat-trick against Chelmsford last week has taken him to the top of Havant’s scoring charts with four while the familiar figure of Magri has found the net three times from defence. And although Frenchman Gomis has yet to score this season, the midfielder has a good record against the Fleet from spells at Sutton United and Barrow.
Havant and Fleet shared the spoils in our last meetings in 2018/19, a 1-1 draw at the Kuflink Stadium followed by an amazing 3-3 in Hampshire, Fleet fighting back from a 3-0 deficit inside 10 second-half minutes. Two of our scorers that day, ironically, were Kedwell and Magri.
Havant might prefer to forget their visit prior to that, a 7-0 thrashing in the FA Cup, and they have yet to win on Fleet soil – something Doswell did accomplish, however, in his last two visits with Sutton.
This will be the 14th meeting of the two clubs, with Fleet leading 6-3 in terms of wins.
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