This is no free hit

The first time Woking assistant manager Martin Tyler came across Fleet’s caretaker boss Kevin Watson was when he commentated for Sky Sports on the former Tottenham midfielder’s debut at Hillsborough in a Premier League clash in 1992.

Now the two will come face to face across the Kuflink Stadium’s dugouts as their respective sides go in search of a place in Round One of the Emirates FA Cup.

For the home side, it’s something of a case of deja vu in the competition: last season Garry Hill had just taken over as Fleet faced Cheltenham Town in the Cup and here we are nearly a year later with Watson having been placed in charge against Hill’s former club.

“A lot of people will say the FA Cup’s a free hit,” said Watson. “It’s not for us and it’s not for me. You’re one win away from drawing a League team and that could be a big League team which would be nice for the club. It would be a few quid in the coffers so nothing about free hits.

“It’s not about, oh it’s only a cup game, a rest from the league. That doesn’t happen, not while I’m in charge. We’ll be going all out to win the game.

“It’s a game where we’re fortunate enough to come in at the last qualifying round,” Watson added. “Sure, it’s a break from the League. The Cup has no pressure in the sense you don’t have to worry if teams around you win and get a points gap on you so in that respect we can play with freedom and I’d like to think we did that a little bit last Saturday anyway. But this is a game where I want to sit watching us on Monday evening in the draw for the First Round Proper.”

Watson has upped the training regime to four sessions and, although he wasn’t on board when Fleet drew 2-2 at Kingfield in the League earlier this season, he knows plenty about Woking from last season.

“They’ve been a surprise package,” he said of the former league leaders. “I saw them last year with Hungerford. It’s not really surprised me that they’re doing OK. But when you listen to the FA Cup draw knowing the luck we’ve had at the minute, you know who we’re getting and it couldn’t have got much harder. The only thing is we’ve got them at home and we won’t go out to defend because if you try to defend, you’re asking to lose the game.”

Albie Morgan is out of contention as Charlton have not granted permission for him to play but Fleet have the other loanees available and Alex Lawless is pressing for consideration if passed fit.

“It’s a shame he can’t play this Saturday,” Watson said, “but I have no qualms about that. The rest of the squad have responded really well and want to get us through this round.”

At Woking earlier this season (photo: Phil Fiddes/Woking FC)

Woking have a rich FA Cup pedigree – but not so much against the Fleet. They reached Round 3 last year and hosted Premier League Watford, while enjoying runs to Round 2 in the two seasons prior to that.

But over the past 11 years, the Cards have let slip a two-goal lead to the Fleet only to lose a replay in 2008, while four years later they lost at home to a late Moses Ashikodi goal. Neither have they yet won at Stonebridge Road so will be looking to overturn history on Saturday.

To do that, they will also need to turn around a recent poor run in the National League, a nine-game winless run having seen Alan Dowson’s side slip from top spot to seventh.

Fleet have made five signings since the last game against Woking, but the visitors will line up much the same. Southampton loanee Tyreke Johnson, who scored that fine opening goal in our league fixture, is out with a dislocated shoulder and Dowson’s only new recruit is Salford City midfielder Mark Shelton who scored on his debut last Saturday – though it is unknown if Salford have given permission for him to play in the Cup.

See this link for match prices and car-parking information. The match is not segregated and it is an all-pay game with season tickets not valid. Supporters may use the Main Stand bar/Sponsors Lounge until 2.45pm.


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