Ebbsfleet United’s director of football Steve Lovell is well into his third month in the job and believes the players have carved out the opportunity to keep themselves in the division.
Although Adam Mekki’s return to Bromley was unfortunate, Lovell’s other three recruits – Michael Timlin, David Gregory and Jermaine McGlashan – have all played a big part in Fleet’s improved form and tally of 14 points from the last eight matches.
“The squad has proved it’s good enough because of the performances of the last two months,” Lovell said. “The consistency is better and Kevin [Watson]’s always said that’s what needs to improve. We’re showing that and we’re giving this football club a chance. We’re preparing for the teams as we play them, me and Kev closely, and he’s been applying it on the training ground and on the pitch and it’s been paying off for us.”
Fleet sit in eighth in the form table since the draw at Torquay in January and while 22nd might be the reality in the league table itself, Lovell knows form is everything in the final weeks of a season.
“We’ve proved ourselves over the last eight or nine games,” he said. “We’re in the top third on form and this is absolutely the time you want to be hitting any sort of form – and that goes whether you’re top, whether you’re eighth or in the bottom places.
“We can talk about the past, but it’s these next few weeks that matter. They’re the only thing that matters and they’re what everyone at the club – on the pitch and off it – is focused on right now. There’s a positive feeling going into these last eight games. If we approach it any other way, we’re not approaching it properly.”
And the club’s director of football is sure the experienced players in the squad – with the likes of Jack King, Lawrie Wilson, Josh Payne and Timlin out on the pitch – will prove their worth in the cauldron that is the end-of-season games.
“There’s a good mixture of experience and a bit of youth too,” he said. “That experience is crucial in games like at Hartlepool where you’re under the cosh a little bit and calm heads in defence keep everyone on their game. That’s something we’ve got to make sure is there this year, next year and it’s something that I’ve always believed in, that mix. It’s a good balance and we’ve got to make sure we keep our upturn in form going – there’s still a long way to go, still 24 points there, eight cup finals.
“The transfer deadline for all clubs in this league hits in two weeks time. We’ve got a decent-sized squad for that remaining time, the suspension limit for yellow cards is now 15 and none of our players are near that either. This is the squad that we’re taking forward into these last games now. Kevin’s got the boys working hard and giving everything for the football club and for us to stay in this league.
“There’s no easing up. All footballers at all clubs are working for contracts for next year and ours are putting on a good show. They have to go out there and perform for themselves, for their futures, as well as for the club – professional footballers are always playing for their next contract as I did as a player. You’re playing to prolong your career – it’s short and you want to stay in it because it’s a great job to be in and it’s one that you have to work hard on. Our boys are giving themselves every opportunity for that because of the workrate they’re putting in.
“Our run-in includes some top teams. I went to watch Dagenham-Fylde last night and Fylde are fighting for their lives and they put in a hard-working performance and got the win late. The teams that are fighting are pulling teams back down, they can upset the teams at the top too; you see it this time of the season when the pressure’s on – Maidenhead are in it, Dagenham pulled back into it a little bit. There’s about four or five teams still in the mix so it’s important that we keep doing what we’re doing because there’s a heck of a chance for us to get out of it.”
And Lovell’s role behind the scenes continues to support the management staff as all eyes are on the next six weeks.
“I’m here to help and support Kevin, offer my thoughts on games and our forthcoming opposition for him,” said Lovell. “I go and watch the teams before we play them so I can give our management staff the information to use in training and work into their game plans. We discuss it and it’s worked well. I give the reports and Kevin does all the work on the training ground and matchdays and I think it’s had a positive effect the way we’ve gone the last couple of months.
“When I came, my remit was to get players in who strengthened the squad which we did pretty quickly. That was the main thing in that period after Christmas which we absolutely had to do when the other players returned to their parent clubs.
“I’ve been working alongside Kevin on what players we needed, what positions, so my job is also going out and looking at those, identifying really only players who can strengthen the squad for the future. That’s with a mind to this season in the immediate term, obviously, and also into next.
“The role here, it’s something I’ve done anyway at Gillingham regarding recruitment and scouting which was part of my responsibilities as manager at Priestfield so it’s the same thing on that side of it.
“But the crucial thing right now is what happens in March and April. The more support we get at our games, the better, and the more belief we all have through the club, that can help get us through. The more we all believe in it when we’re watching on the sidelines, as much as Kevin and the players do, then the more chance we give ourselves – and the fans have been terrific in that regard.”