The fixture against Maidstone United exactly a year and a week ago introduced Dennis Kutrieb to a peculiar kind of Kent derby – a silent one, minus fans. This evening’s version is likely to be a little different, an all-ticket affair with the two old county rivals separated by just three points going head to head.
And while Fleet go into this one bang in form, Maidstone’s win at the weekend keeps them well and truly in the hunt and looking to recapture the form that saw them go seven games unbeaten at the start of the season.
“This is exactly why the boys are playing football,” said Kutrieb ahead of Tuesday. “They want to play in front of crowds, they want to play in front of as many fans as possible. I will definitely enjoy the time on Tuesday night here with all the fans in and the boys will enjoy it definitely as well.”
The fans will certainly enjoy it if Fleet can extend their run of wins as three points would take Kutrieb’s side to the top of the table on goal difference. But while the Ebbsfleet boss eats and drinks stats, he’s not one to pay much heed to win counts or league placings.
“I couldn’t tell you how many wins we have because if I’m honest, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “We need to go for the next win, the last one is gone. I know it’s easy to say when you have a win and when you feel confidence but as a manager you need to make sure everyone is on the same page. It doesn’t matter who’s playing, they need to do things in the right way and if they do the things in the right way, they get minutes.
“There’s always lots to do because you can be better and better, there’s no limit to that for me. The players can get better, they can be better, because they know exactly what they do right and what they do wrong. If you’re first or second in the table, whether we have three games in hand, it means nothing. You need to win on Tuesday, you need to win next Tuesday and the next one. Then you can talk about being good at the moment, being second in the table.
“It’s one quarter of the season done, we haven’t achieved anything so far. But if you play in this way, if you work in this way – and the players work really honestly, they work hard for everything and if they keep working hard – we will get our results. And the results put you in the right place in the table but that doesn’t matter at the moment. It’s 11 games so it means nothing.”
Three points, however, would mean everything in the moment and give the Fleet an excellent platform going into the festive schedule of games and ahead of the break for the FA Trophy this coming weekend.
Kutrieb welcomes back Jack Paxman and Will Wood from suspension, while Lee Martin and Adam Mekki continued to sit things out with injury on Saturday.
Paxman is one of three former Maidstone players in red this season, alongside Kresh Krasniqi who played for the Stones in the derby game at the Kuflink Stadium last season and he earned a valuable half-hour in the 6-0 win over Welling. The third ex-Maidstone man is their former player of the year Alex Finney though he has been resting a knock in recent weeks.
To balance things out, the Stones have three former Fleet men in their ranks. Reece Grant has just returned to their squad from a lengthy injury, while goalkeeper Tom Hadler has recently lost his place to Millwall loanee Ryan Sandford. Jermaine McGlashan is the third former Red in the side, the one-time Gillingham winger having spent a couple of months here at the end of the 2019/20 season.
If Maidstone are to upset the current form book, they’ll be hoping to have the likes of Regan Booty and Sam Corne back in midfield, the latter having played in the 1-0 win over Chippenham last Saturday. Hakan Hayrettin’s side have had their fair share of absences but at full strength more than justified their early-season position just behind Dartford’s pacesetters.
Ex-Darts striker Jack Barham is in contention for a starting place up front, while top scorer Joan Luque is the danger man as far as Fleet’s defenders are concerned. Elsewhere the Stones can count on the attacking talent of former Sutton and Havant man Roarie Deacon as well as Christie Pattison and Michael Phillips.
Hayrettin has a couple of loanees to hand as well in Charlton and Lebanon international striker Hady Ghandour, as well as Aldershot centre-back George Fowler.
Form-wise, Maidstone’s excellent start to the season went off the rails after their FA Cup defeat at home to Dartford and they went six games without a win until Saturday. Scoring has also been something of an issue in that recent poor run, with a failure to find the net in five of those games.
But on the road, Maidstone have picked up some useful points, with wins at a stubborn Chelmsford City, plus against Oxford City and 3-0 at Bath City.
It’s been six years and six games since the Stones last took all three points from a league game against the Fleet – but if they are looking for some inspiration, then Joe Healy’s winning goal back in 2015 came against an in-form home side at the Kuflink Stadium, Fleet having gone 11 games prior to that one without defeat.
For the Fleet, they need look no further than continuing the run they’re on and, certainly as far as the home supporters are concerned, the chance to go top of the table.
MATCHDAY SMALL PRINT —————————->
• A reminder that this game is ALL-TICKET. Online tickets are available until 4pm (home fans purchase HERE, away fans purchase HERE) while we will also be selling from our reception until 4pm also (extended from noon as previously announced). The game is segregated, with Maidstone fans entering through the away turnstiles behind the Swanscombe End. Please ensure you have the appropriate (home or away) ticket for the correct entrance gates as turnstile operators will be unable to admit those in possession of incorrect tickets.
• Away supporters will have access to a mobile bar and food/drink refreshment facilities. The burger bar accepts card and cash payments, though the latter is preferred if possible
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.
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 sold from the club shop before you enter the turnstiles, or in the Social Club and Pop-Up Shop behind the Plough End.
Advance programmes purchased by both Fleet and Maidstone supporters will be available to pick up from the club shop before entering the ground.
Home fans can buy drinks from the Social Club behind the Plough End or the Main Stand bar before and after the game and at half-time. Entrance to that is via the door at the far (Swanscombe) end of the Main Stand at the end of the gangway. Also look out for our pop-up bar to the left of the home turnstiles on entry.