A new month unfolds at the Kuflink Stadium as spring approaches and the smell of competition is in the air. Not that the season until now hasn’t featured fiercely competitive showdowns but once March hits, the end of the season is tantalisingly close and so in turn the games take on an ever greater meaning.
With four of the Fleet’s next five games coming against sides in and around the top seven mix – three of those at home – it’s action not to be missed at the Kuflink Stadium right through until the end of the campaign.
And we begin this Saturday with the visit of third-placed Oxford City as Fleet seek to close the gap on the visitors, with two games in hand on them into the bargain.
A 1-0 defeat at Oxford earlier this season was, to put it mildly, unfair on the Fleet given a strong attacking display at the Velocity Stadium but the home side’s defensive qualities were certainly to the fore that evening and they haven’t conceded too many more since.
Which is why Dennis Kutrieb will be glad that Rakish Bingham might be in contention for some involvement, with Fleet’s second top scorer back in training this week. Together with Dominic Poleon having picked up three goals in his past four games, that gives plenty of firepower options to add to Shaq Coulthirst and Elliott Romain as well.
Alfie Egan and Tobi Adebayo-Rowling remain sidelined and there was news awaited about the extent of Craig Tanner’s injury following his substitution in the first-half at Bath City last weekend.
With 36 points still up for grabs through March, April and early May, Fleet have games in hand on all the teams above them with the exception of Dartford – and while nobody will be bandying about phrases like ‘six-pointer’ just yet, a fourth win over Oxford City in our sixth home meeting with the Hoops would certainly be welcome.
The visitors arrive at the Kuflink Stadium having just confirmed Ross Jenkins as manager to replace David Oldfield, who departed the club for Weymouth in January. Jenkins has been working alongside interim boss Andy Ballard these past weeks and having achieved good results and kept his side in the promotion hunt, he has now been rewarded with the job on a permanent basis.
Oldfield’s departure might well have derailed Oxford’s play-off campaign but a brief wobble aside, they have been one of the most consistent sides at the top of the table – never outside the play-off spots since week three of the season.
That’s something of an achievement for a club who have generally previously started very well but tended to tail off in the new year in the past. Not so in 2021/22, with third-placed City boasting the third best goalscoring stats in the division, the third best defensive record too and they’re third in the form table. It’s all about the threes for the Hoops!
Fresh from a 1-1 draw achieved with a late equaliser at St Albans in midweek, Oxford come to the Fleet with four wins, a draw and just the one defeat from their last six matches. Last Saturday they hit five against Tonbridge at home, although that was against 10 men and no regular goalkeeper for 80 minutes.
City’s danger man is former St Albans and Havant striker Joe Iaciofano who has 15 goals to his name this season, plus recent loan signing from neighbours Oxford United, Gatlin O’Donkor, found the net on his debut last week. The Hoops can also call on Harvey Bradbury and former Torquay striker Elliot Benyon, who played against the Fleet at Wembley all those years ago.
Midfielder Josh Ashby and left-back George Harmon have been amongst the goals, too, so like the Fleet, the Hoops have goals options throughout the side.
The dynamo of the team in midfield is – potentially confusingly for Saturday’s radio commentators! – Reece Fleet. The appropriately-named player for this game scored a memorable winner against us in November and he will make a landmark 300th appearance for City at the Kuflink Stadium at the weekend.
A familiar face is Charlie Rowan, who played for the Fleet last season, although the former QPR and Watford centre-back has tended to be named on the bench more recently.
Oxford City’s last visit to DA11 came on the final day of the 2016/17 season when Fleet needed to win and Maidenhead to lose at Margate to secure the title – Fleet duly obliged against Oxford, but Margate didn’t against Maidenhead!
MATCHDAY SMALL PRINT ——–>
Our online ticketing sales platform at fleetlive.club has tickets available until 12.00pm on matchday. We would advise pre-purchase for both your and our convenience in gaining admission to the ground.
On-the-day ticket sales continue to be available from the windows by main reception, 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.
Tickets may also be purchased before the game from local pubs The Edinburgh Castle and The Rose.
Check out the new food stalls (to the left of the main turnstiles entrance, there is our Würtsel Haus German sausage experience and straight ahead as you enter the ground is the Manhattan Grill for all your burger, hot dog and more needs!). Pop-up bars are also situated near to the turnstiles and by ‘Geeks Corner’ between the Plough End and old stand. Our new guest lager from Iron Pier Brewery features in another popup bar next to the German food stall.
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 and again, we would recommend an early arrival. 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.
If you wish to purchase your programme in advance for collection from our club shop before you enter the ground, you can do so either via our online shop or when booking your matchday tickets online.
Programmes are also on sale at the ground from the club shop, the popup bar as you enter the turnstiles, the Main Stand tea kiosk or in the Social Club behind the Plough End, costing £3. Advance-order programmes will be available to pick up from the club shop before the game and before you enter the turnstiles.