Standing in the way…

Like the Fleet, Boreham Wood’s matchday squads haven’t been subject to many changes over the past few weeks and there are unlikely to be huge surprises in either side as the two go head-to-head for the right to remain in the Vanarama National League this gripping Saturday ahead.

Captaining the side and part of a three-man central midfield is former Fleet man Jack Payne. The Gravesend-born skipper (pictured below) spent five years at Gillingham before further EFL appearances with Peterborough United, Leyton Orient and a promotion to League One with Blackpool. After leaving the Fleet in 2019, he signed for Eastleigh and Crawley Town before a move to the Wood in 2022.

Alongside Payne is usually Woking loanee Matt Robinson who found himself surplus to requirements at Kingfield this season and made the temporary switch north of London in September. The tall former Leicester City youth player has spent the bulk of his career with Dagenham & Redbridge where he rubbed shoulders with Mark Cousins.

Boss Luke Garrard has two options elsewhere in midfield. Mo Sagaf and Angelo Balanta (who scored for the Wood at the Kuflink Stadium earlier this season) are the two most likely candidates. Like Robinson, both players have turned out for Dagenham in the past and Balanta is the more attack-minded, having scored 20 times in a first spell with the Wood from 2016–18. He has more often than not been used off the bench this season.

Defensively, Fleet fans need no introduction to either goalkeeper Nathan Ashmore or the versatile Chris Bush (above), who can deploy as a centre-back or full-back and usually anchors the Wood’s three-man back line. Both of those players have reached the play-offs with both ourselves and their current club. Alongside Bush it’s likely to be Crewe loanee Billy Sass-Davies, a Welsh U21 international, who was sent off in the reverse fixture between us and David Agbontohoma, a 22-year-old former Arsenal and Sheffield Wednesday youth.

Another player who has been sent off against the Fleet in his time with the Wood is Femi Ilesanmi. Yet another former Dagenham man, he has also played for York City and Dover Athletic and this is his second spell with Boreham Wood, for whom he has played more than 200 times. Naturally a full-back, he could form the attacking left flank of a 3-5-2. Balancing that formation out on the right side should be Portuguese Erico Sousa. A one-time Manchester City youth, he dropped into non-league up north before appearing in the EFL for Accrington Stanley, Tranmere Rovers and Grimsby Town. He arrived at Meadow Park in summer 2022 and gets amongst the goals, with eight in the league this season.

That leaves the front two and lately Garrard has favoured Lee Ndlovu and Kabongo Tshimanga. Zimbabwe-born Ndlovu spent seven seasons in the National North with Brackley Town, where he scoored more than 70 goals. Now coming to the end of his second season with Boreham Wood, the 29-year-old scored 14 last term and 10 this campaign and he found the net in last season’s play-off semi-final that Wood lost in the last minute at Notts County.

Tshimanga is the man who has made a difference to Boreham Wood’s survival hopes with seven goals in his last 12 games since arriving on loan from Peterborough United. The ex-MK Dons graduate had a breakthrough season in the National South with Oxford City in 2018/19, earning a move to Boreham Wood. Almost 40 goals across two seasons propelled him further up the rankings with Chesterfield and then last year to Peterborough. He was at Fleetwood Town on loan earlier this season until a return to familiar pastures at Meadow Park.

Off the bench, Garrard has options up front including another former Fleet man Tyrone Marsh who is in his fifth season with the club and has scored 50 goals in his time. Defenders Cameron Coxe, the experienced ex-Maidenhead man Jamal Fyfield and Wealdstone signing Charles Clayden have taken up the other bench seats of late, while midfielder Tom Whelan is another option.

A big side, certainly at the back, the Wood’s likely starting eleven comprises six players at six foot-plus with the same number of players aged over 30.

Boreham Wood have scored exactly the same number of goals in the league as the Fleet this season – 59 – and have conceded one less at 73. The Fleet have more wins to our name, 14 to Boreham Wood’s 12 but Garrard’s team have lost two fewer. There is little to pick between the sides, which all adds up to an intriguing contest (at least for the neutral!) this Saturday lunchtime.

Fleet fans can buy tickets on the day but are advised to do so online to save the £2 price rise on the day. Click here to bolster the red army making their way for another historic Fleet end-of-season showdown!


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