Kent derbies are very much like London buses for Garry Hill. He hasn’t experienced a single one in his managerial career but three come along in the next five weeks as Fleet go in search of their first win against local rivals in 2018/19.
Two draws and a defeat have been Fleet’s lot in Kent derbies this season but the Gallagher Stadium has been a happy hunting ground in the past and Hill will be hoping to hammer another nail into Maidstone’s coffin as he plots his own side’s play-offs catch-up.
His team have rediscovered their shooting boots over the past week with six goals in two games. That came with a little help from the Fleet back line as last Saturday’s phenomenon of three defenders registering on the scoresheet recorded a first-ever occurrence for the club.
Fleet could gain ground in the play-off race with nearest rivals Eastleigh and Gateshead both without games due to opponents’ involvement in the FA Trophy.
Danny Kedwell has a second chance to make his 200th appearance for the Fleet, an opportunity heightened by the international weekend robbing the side of available personnel.
Maidstone may appear doomed to the drop into National South, sitting 14 points adrift with only 24 more available – but on home soil against their county rivals, they would like nothing more than to derail the Fleet’s ambitions.
In a season of change and turmoil, the Stones’ faith in Harry Wheeler over Jay Saunders paid few dividends, while the current John Still/Hakan Hayrettin combination has yet to achieve the desired results, Still admitting in midweek that he was already planning a summer rebuild of the squad.
There has been plenty of player turnover, too. Only four of those in amber and black who featured in the 1-1 draw at the Kuflink Stadium in October are likely to be lining up at the Gallagher this weekend.
Jack Powell, denied the opportunity to return with Maidstone following his move away from the Fleet in October, is likely to feature this time around and it was his two goals for the visitors last season that gave the Fleet a 2-1 victory.
Blair Turgott has returned from his lengthy injury to bolster the Stones front line and it was his midweek penalty that gave Maidstone safe passage into the Kent Senior Cup final following a shootout win over Gillingham.
Elsewhere, ex-Sutton pair Dan Wishart and Josh Taylor have been drafted in, as well as Justin Amaluzor who has already played against us this season for Braintree Town. Another new face to watch out for is teenager Jake Embery, who scored 24 goals for Herne Bay earlier this season prior to his controversial move to the county town.
Maidstone won their first home game since mid-August earlier this month but their cup form at the Gallagher has been good with five wins – given the likely frenetic flavour of a derby game, that might just suit them.
That win over relegation rivals Havant & Waterlooville was their only National League win in 10 games, however, and with just 30 goals scored, it’s the lowest tally in the division save for Aldershot Town.
Tickets for the game are available on the gate on the day.