Preview: Fleet seeks to maintain ‘Bourne supremacy’ – Ebbsfleet United Football Club
It’s always hard to see past a cup tie on the horizon, but Fleet has three essential league games to play until the first round visit to Leyton Orient and Dennis Kutrieb insists the top priority for its next matches is to fight for these next matches.
Having taken a maximum of nine points in the last three league games – in and around the Emirates FA Cup’s simultaneous advance – Fleet is in good shape to take a new lead against Eastbourne, Braintree and Bath City in the next eight days.
First, the visit to Priory Lane to take on Eastbourne, whose good start to the season shows that 2020/21 progress on the South Coast was not a flash in the pan and that Fleet will look to protect a good record against the sports.
Fleet reported good health following the heroic acts against Hampton & Richmond Borough, with only medium and long term issues affecting Christian N’Guessan and Adam Mekki barring their participation.
For the Tobi Adebayo-Rowling form (on the picture) and Michael West, Saturday’s visit represents a return to their former club from where they both joined the fleet at the same time in the summer of 2020. Adebayo-Rowling has thrived on the right side of Kutrieb’s reconfigured tactical setup last Saturday and has become increasingly influential since returning from injury earlier in the season. Another former Eastbourne player returning is, of course, Elliott Romain who has enjoyed several seasons as the club’s top scorer.
For Eastbourne, the match represents a chance to master the fleet. Two places behind us and with two more games played, Sports are tied on points but a win for them would help reverse the disparity in the games in hand. Danny Bloor’s team excelled last season after three successive campaigns ending in 18th place.
Eastbourne was third in the table at the end of the season in February, well above expectations – and Bloor continued that foundation with what appears to be another tilt towards at least the play-offs in 2021/22. While an opening day beating at the hands of Hampton – 5-0 at home – suggested the bubble may have burst, Sports have improved dramatically since then.
Their only other league loss came to the Dartford leaders, but they recently inflicted Maidstone’s first loss at Gallagher Stadium and crushed Braintree Town 6-0.
The form of reception, however, remains a bit sketchy. The 5-0 loss to Hampton was offset by the 6-0 victory over Braintree, but Sports also fell from the FA Cup against Horsham, lower division at home and last week only managed a draw 2. -2 with Sorts and Chippenham at 10, their third 2-2 result at Priory Lane this season.
The two teams shared the points last season when Alfie Egan’s first goal for the club with 18 minutes remaining seemed to give the fleet the points until Dean Cox equalized four minutes later.
Cox is now plying his trade elsewhere, but Bloor has kept the bulk of his squad together over the summer. Chris Whelpdale, Greg Luer and Charlie Walker still pose the biggest threat to the fleet’s defense and midfielder James Hammond was also included in the goals.
With the signing of Hemel Josh Oyinsan, these players have been responsible for 18 of Eastbourne’s 22 goals this season and the home side are one of three teams topped the division’s scoring charts this season.
And there will be a familiar face trying to stop the fleet at the other end, with former Maidstone goalkeeper Lee Worgan moving to the South Coast from Dorking Wanderers last month.
Sports are likely without Steven James due to a knee injury, while Charlie Lambert and Jayden Perez are gone on loan.
Tickets for the game can be purchased in advance online from here. The option of paying at the door is also available.