Sutton United are the first of four visitors to the Kuflink Stadium as February unfurls – with three home league fixtures and one FA Trophy tie likely to firm down a path for the remainder of the season.
Fleet’s players gave their fans renewed belief with a memorable comeback against Woking on Tuesday evening, the Cards having now gone four games without a win this season against Ebbsfleet.
And now with Sutton and Chorley coming up in the next fortnight, Kevin Watson has called on his players to produce consistency to back up the Woking result.
They certainly have form in that department, Fleet’s best run of the season coming against Woking, Sutton and Chorley during a purple patch back in October.
“All it is in this league is consistency which we’ve lacked and since I’ve been here we’ve never really backed up a performance with another good performance,” said Watson.
And with four points taken against Torquay and Woking, Watson knows that’s a platform for an improving Fleet squad.
“I’ve seen a side to my team which I’ve liked the last two games,” he said. “Sure, it wasn’t free-flowing brilliant football, it was a hard-fought scrap. My team talk rarely changes barring technical details of the teams we’re playing against but in terms of the way teams play, it’s much of a muchness.”
Andre Blackman returns from suspension and Watson will hope Myles Weston can play some part for the first time since he limped off against Dover more than a month ago. Tomi Adeloye is certainly pushing for a start as well if the manager’s post-match comments are anything to go by, his energy as much a key component of Tuesday night’s win as his goals.
The Michael Timlin signing remains under embargo and Josh Payne has two more games of an extended suspension to serve.
Sutton will be a formidable stumbling block, their wretched form when Fleet beat them 3-2 in October completely turned on its head since. The U’s are now nearer to the play-offs than they are the drop zone and Watson will hope to emulate what they’ve achieved in the months ahead.
“It will be tough,” he said. “I saw [Sutton manager] Matt Gray at an Under 23s game last week and I said to him we kick-started their season after beating them. He said it clicked after that.”
It certainly did, Sutton winning six and losing only two league games since then going from level points with ourselves to 12 points ahead.
Like Woking, Sutton used to have a wretched record at the Fleet but two 1-0 wins in their last two visits have turned that on its head.
Fleet will be glad to hear that midfield dynamo Craig Eastmond is out suspended but it’s Harry Beautyman who will need a careful eye, the former Welling and Peterborough midfielder having scored 12 goals this season, as many as front two Tommy Wright and Omar Bugiel combined.
Despite Sutton’s good form of late, however, they have gone three games without a goal and with a much-weakened side also fired blanks in a Surrey Senior Cup game at Leatherhead in midweek.
What has made Sutton’s resurgence all the more remarkable is they’ve done it with barely any overhaul in personnel. Former Fleet loanee Louis John has returned to the club from Cambridge United and New Zealander Nik Tzanev has arrived in goal, but those players aside Gray has masterminded their ascent with much the same squad he had when last our clubs met.
The match is not segregated and Sutton fans may use the club bar by the turnstiles. Car-parking is available at Ebbsfleet International Station Car Park C for £3. This is the best option for parking near the stadium. Please respect local businesses by not blocking private property. Drivers are also warned that parking on the Thames Way clearway near the roundabout runs the risk of being ticketed.
Fans can purchase advance tickets for the Buildbase FA Trophy game v Royston Town next weekend from main reception before kick-off.