Preview: the Proper prize awaits…

When you beat Slough by a two-goal margin, what do you follow it up with? Well, if last season is anything to go by, from a Fleet perspective it’s a win over Hampton & Richmond Borough.

In 2020/21, the Fleet fell to a disappointing last-minute defeat at The Beveree, only to go and win 2-0 at Slough and then followed that up with a 2-1 victory at home against Hampton.

That sequence has broad similarities this season as Fleet began their recent away run with defeat at The Beveree, then last week saw off Slough by 3-1 and now face Hampton back on home soil straight off the back of that.

And Dennis Kutrieb is more than happy to have the chance to put that right again as the Emirates FA Cup reaches its final qualifying round stage, with the reward for passage through it potentially huge.

“I’m happy to get this draw because when you get a heavy defeat in the league and you are allowed to play against this team again a few days or weeks later, that’s always a good thing,” said the Fleet boss. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a good team or if it’s a bad team – it’s the chance that you can make it better and of course we want to make it better.

“It’s going to be a very tough game but I think it’s a great game for the fans, so hopefully we are packed out because it’s also a very big game for the club.

“Every round is fantastic. I don’t care if it’s the First Round Properor or if it’s a fourth qualifying round, the next round is always the most important one.

“Hampton deserved the win definitely,” Kutrieb told BBC Radio Kent’s Charles Webster [see full interview below]. “Sometimes you need to accept when you lose, we take it on the chin. And I’m very sure the boys are very hungry to make it better this Saturday.

“You can see they are very hungry this week, they’re noisy on the pitch, they’re focused they’ve worked really hard and that’s what we love to see.”

And with cup fever in the air as both clubs vie for a First Round place, the Fleet manager wants to be out there on the pitch almost as much as his players.

“I would love to play to be honest,” he said. “These are the games where I would say, let me get 10 kilos lighter and give me permission to play. I would love to be involved on the pitch but the most important thing is the boys are confident, they know what we want to do and everyone’s on the same page. You can see everyone’s knocking on the door, they want to be involved on Saturday in the starting 11 or even in the squad.”

There’s certainly a palpable excitement in the air around the club, on the training ground and amongst fans as they snap up advance tickets through the week. Fleet made the First Round Proper three seasons running from 2017–19, but it only took one win to reach that stage then – doing so from the National League South and through three qualifying round is an altogether more tricky task but it certainly gets the ‘cup run’ vibe flowing.

Fleet have a full squad to choose from but for the injuries to Christian N’Guessan and Adam Mekki, both sustained at Chelmsford, though Kutrieb’s selection headache is eased somewhat thanks to the seven substitutes available in the FA Cup.

Hampton come to the Kuflink Stadium in confidence after building on their 3-0 win over the Fleet in September with two more three-goal hauls in the FA Cup rounds. And they fired four at home against Chelmsford City last weekend to move to within a point of the Fleet in the league table.

The two sides will be well prepared for each other, with few surprises awaiting either manager. Beavers boss Gary McCann will be without the services of loan defender Ben Shroll who made his debut against the Fleet, the youngster having returned to his parent club, while forward Nathan Minhas has also departed.

Wealdstone loanee Zach Dronfield has extended his stay for a further month, however, and Sheffield Wednesday’s Charles Hagan remains with Hampton until January. McCann was hoping to bolster his ranks with a seven-day approach made to an unnamed player but if that materialises before Saturday, it’s one the Hampton manager may keep close to his chest until kick-off.

The Beavers danger men come in the form of wide man Ruaridh Donaldson who’s in good form, while David Fisher, Jorome Slew and Ryan Gondoh all carry an attacking threat. Experienced defender Dean Inman, who missed the win over the Fleet, has returned from injury while Alan Julian – who has just passed 600 career appearances – remains the barrier to goal.

• Tickets will be available at the club from 9am to 6pm on Friday and online all the way through to midday on Saturday. Click here to book your tickets online now. On-the-day sales are also available from our ticket windows prior to kick-off. Please note the turnstiles do not accept cash or card payment.

• A 32-page programme will be available for £2. That can also be pre-ordered alongside your matchday ticket, or bought separately here. This issue has been selling very well online so order in advance to ensure your copy – all pre-ordered programmes must be collected from the club shop before you enter the turnstiles. Programme sales online will cease at 10am on Saturday morning and thereafter the remainder will be sold at the ground.

• 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 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.


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