Fleet boss Kevin Watson conceded that a draw was probably the right result after his side and Sutton United played out a stalemate at the Kuflink Stadium.
That was Fleet’s 12th draw of the season and the line between one point and three has often proved a fine one. All of Fleet’s six league wins have required at least a second goal and Watson knew that was what was needed against Sutton after an impressive first-half.
“We limited Sutton to a couple of free-kicks on the edge of the box and once where Marv slipped and Grimesy cleared it off the line,” he told BBC Radio Kent’s Matt Cole. “They didn’t have much else after that, we didn’t create an awful lot but first half we were value for our one-goal lead, if not two. At the minute we’re struggling to get that second goal and as we all know, [it’s] too many draws when we needs wins. We do need the extra two points – however, it’s a point gained.”
That point certainly proved to be something of a gain after Chesterfield lost their evening game and Chorley, AFC Fylde and Dagenham failed to make further headway.
“I thought we played the conditions really well the first half and it spun a little bit in the second half where Sutton did, so a draw was probably a fair result,” said the manager. “I think six weeks ago we possibly would have gone on to lose that game but we’ve got a good group now and we batten down the hatches.”
Once again, Watson’s gameplan wasn’t helped by a pitch that is proving to be unforgiving for players who like to run with the ball.
“The pitch is not helping but that’s the same for both teams,” he said. “We have to play in a way I don’t particularly want to. Our explosive, powerful players, it’s very difficult for them to play, to even keep their footing.
“[The pitch] looks OK from here but I can tell you it’s not. The surface is loose, it moves, it’s difficult to run and get away from people. It’s difficult in front of the new stand, it’s a wonderful stand at our level but it has had its pitfalls concerning 10-15ft down this side of the pitch which becomes very heavy. When you’ve got wingers who want to run by people, it makes it difficult.”
Watson saved some words of praise for his midfield in the continued enforced absence of Michael Timlin.
“The two boys in there today – Adam Mekki and Frankie Sutherland – were outstanding. They didn’t stop running, won headers, won tackles. Adam’s more of a wide player but he was diligent in his defensive work. He wriggled out of tight areas, drove us forward, so I was really pleased with him. And there’s no possible way I could have left out Tomi Adeloye after his heroics the other night and he did OK.
“Kingy was back today from injury, he was brilliant at Torquay, Andre Blackman was back. Unfortunately no Josh Payne, no Michael Timlin, Alex Lawless is a couple of weeks away. But all of a sudden I’ll have decisions to make, there’ll be players that won’t even be getting changed and that makes my job difficult but gives us the best possible chance of staying in this division. We’ve got those players coming back and Myles Weston has been our talisman and now he’s got a bit of a groin problem.
With those players to come back, Watson insists the Fleet are very much still in the fight.
“If we’re hanging on to the coattails of the teams above and we get these boys back then we’ll give it a right go, we’re not going to give up without a fight,” he said.
“To be fair to Garry [Hill], he had to rebuild nearly a whole squad. Obviously there was a firesale at the end of last season and I’ve only got – and Garry only had – three players from that. So to build a squad from nothing was going to be difficult. And it’s no fault of anyone. As a club the budget needed to be cut, lowered from what it was and it was a rebuilding process. All credit to Garry for even getting a squad together, it was never ever going to be easy.”
And it continues not to be easy as Watson is still without the service of the embargoed Timlin, a situation he is awaiting clearance on soon.
“We identified a combative midfielder, which Michael Timlin is, [was where we’re lacking],” Watson said. “He’s been great around the place and he’s an experienced head, a leader. That’s what we were looking for for a long while so you can’t wait to get him out there.
“The situation is that the club’s dealing with it. Steve Lovell deals with that side and how it gets sorted and as soon as they tell me he’s available, then you’ll see Michael Timlin in an Ebbsfleet shirt very soon. I’m a manager doing the job to the best of my ability as are my staff. The players are giving me everything and what goes on financially I have no input.”