Unbeaten on the road, Fleet make the trip to Hertfordshire on Saturday hoping to get a first ever victory over Hemel Hempstead Town after last season’s fixtures both ended in draws.
With Daryl McMahon hoping to see a little more spring in Fleet’s step than that with which they ended the Trophy tie against Molesey, the onus is on his players to deliver. “We had no real tempo and we were lacklustre against Molesey,” McMahon said. “It was everything we hadn’t been this season. It’s the performance rather than the scoreline that disappointed me. It wasn’t really about the result. But we’ve been back on the training ground and we’ll improve.”
It may have been a harsh assessment by the Fleet manager but his players will be under no illusions that any slip in league performances could have repercussions for team selection.
Joe Howe was hoping to be in with a shout of playing after his recent lay-off and with McMahon admitting that last week’s 3-5-2 formation was something of a trial run, the likely reversion to the tried and tested formula could see Matt Fish recalled. Jordan Parkes will return to the hometown club he skippered to Southern League glory two seasons ago for the first time since his summer transfer to the Fleet, while there will also be a reunion of sorts with former academy assistant manager Steve Watt who put pen to paper on a deal with the Tudors last week after his release from Maidstone United.
Like our forthcoming league opponents Bath City, Hemel began the season well with four wins from their first five games but have only won one of their last six – that, however, was an impressive 6-2 victory at Gosport Borough.
The Tudors certainly have the players to be a force in National League South, with Jamie Slabber up front and Matthew Spring in midfield boasting tremendous experience. On paper they certainly have a mean defence, having recruited goalkeeper Jamie Butler from Concord, while Ben Herd (Boreham Wood, Aldershot, Shrewsbury Town) and Terrell Forbes (QPR, Yeovil, Dover) provide added steel.
Former short-term Fleet striker Dennis Oli is likely to be out injured, as is full-back Ed Asafu-Adjaye. The Tudors are also sweating on the fitness of Slabber, Spring, Forbes, James Potton and Oliver Hawkins. Slabber has something of a track record against the Fleet, while Hawkins is the type of tall, awkward forward that Fleet have struggled against in the past against sides such as North Ferriby and Wealdstone.
The talk from Hemel is of a patched-up side of walking wounded facing the Fleet but whether that is the actual situation or not, a determined Tudors side galvanised by Watt in midfield will nonetheless be out to make life as difficult as possible for the visitors.
The home side’s woes continued in midweek when they went down 3-0 at home to Bishop’s Stortford in the Herts Senior Cup, both teams fielding relatively strong sides, though Hemel were forced to name five academy players on the bench and lost the influential Spring to an injury.