Saturday’s opponents Wrexham may have had the best start in this division since they first got relegated into it in 2008 but Daryl McMahon isn’t fearing reputations as he insists the Fleet need to start shaking up their opponents a little more.
Preparing for but not fearing the opposition is what the Fleet boss wants his players to do: “I don’t really care about Wrexham or any team in this league,” he said. “I think it’s important that we do what we do. And do it better. We’ve come into the league last year and had a better start, after 10 games we’ve got a couple more points, but we need to go after teams a bit more.”
Certainly the amount of possession the Fleet have enjoyed in the majority of their games so far this season can’t be faulted but by emphasising the need to go after teams a bit more, McMahon will want to see more attacking edge and more working of the opposition goalkeeper.
The expectation will be on Wrexham after their start to the season and the fact that the Racecourse has traditionally been an unhappy hunting ground for the Fleet. In five trips over the past decade, we have drawn two and lost three, one of those defeats still fresh in the mind. Last season, McMahon felt his side were hard done by when Wrexham’s 2-0 win came courtesy of a disputed line call and a late penalty… though Fleet gained revenge with a fine 3-0 win at the Kuflink Stadium in the return fixture.
Kenny Clark resumed full training this week and is expected to challenge for at least a place on the bench, with skipper Dave Winfield’s hamstring problem also improving. International-duty duo Ebou Adams and Myles Weston returned in midweek and resumed training, with Adams hopefully well over any fatigue from a multiple-flight marathon getting to the Gambia for his country’s match against Algeria.
Wrexham, under rookie manager Sam Ricketts – the former Hull City, Bolton and Wales defender – are looking like a side rejuvenated. Now, as in this fixture last season, they are flying high – only for 2017/18’s season to go spectacularly off the rails as they missed out on a title challenge and then the play-offs altogether. That’s something Ricketts will be determined not to let happen this time around, with Wrexham fans having suffered more false dawns than any other set of supporters in this league.
Despite their start to the season – six wins, three draws and just one defeat (at Solihull) – the manager has warned that his players need to up their game. “We have managed to take two points a game on average, certainly before a ball was kicked you would have taken that,” he said. “But I feel we need to get better. We’re doing well, it’s been a brilliant start, but we have improvement to make and I need to stress that.
“I want us to be up there as I’m sure the players and the fans do but there’s another level we have to reach. Ten games is a bit of a marker because it is a round number. We have progressed in the first 10 games as a team, I think we are better now than what we were at the start of the season.”
Wrexham are without key defender Manny Smith who faces a two-month lay-off after sitting out the last three matches with a knee injury. Their chief threat will be traditional centre-forward Mike Fondop-Talom. He almost signed for Margate a few seasons back but has since played for Whitehawk, Oxford City and Guiseley. He scored five goals in the first six games for Wrexham but hasn’t found the net in the last four; he’s employed as the Red Dragons’ chief danger through the middle.
Other new arrivals include midfielder Luke Young who impressed for Torquay over the last few years, winning their player of the year award for three of the past four seasons. Manager RIcketts has also made use of the loan market, bringing in goalkeeper Rob Lainton from Port Vale plus Scott Burgess from Bury, Brad Walker from Crewe Alexandra, Jordan Maguire-Drew from Brighton, Stuart Beavon from Coventry City and Rekeil Pyke from Huddersfield. Midfielder Akil Wright won Vanarama player of the month recently and defender Jake Lawlor was signed for a fee from Salford City.
Wrexham have won two and drawn three of their five home games this season, with 3-0 and 2-0 victories over Boreham Wood and Aldershot Town respectively. That balances neatly with Fleet’s away form of three wins and two draws. McMahon’s side have been resilient on the road this season, picking up maximum points at Hartlepool, Barnet and Eastleigh plus a draw at Leyton Orient, so the big venues certainly won’t faze the Fleet. But it will need a step up from the last away trip to Dover and the performances at home if the visitors want to improve on their Racecourse record. Michael Cheek has form against Wrexham, having scored four times against them in the past including the only goal to give Braintree a win at the Racecourse in 2016/17 and two goals in a 3-2 win the season before..