The first game of the season was a long time ago now, as Tonbridge Angels and the Fleet crossed swords again, with the 2021/22 finish line fast appearing on the horizon. The first Kent derby of the season is also the last since two clubs who know each other very well meet.
And for all intents and purposes, both sides know their immediate fate. Fleet will contest the play-offs, although the exact nature of how is still up in the air, while Tonbridge will surely play National League South football again next season, although the math of that is not quite yet. trenches.
So while some of the big questions have been answered, there are still some big playthroughs. Fleet will be looking to keep a third-place finish in their hands by taking maximum points from Longmead, while the same result for the Angels (or whatever improves Billericay’s result at Bath) will be enough for Steve McKimm’s side to absolutely guarantee survival.
Dennis Kutrieb expects another different type of game as Fleet has moved from Dulwich to Concord and now Tonbridge, each with their own characteristics and game plans.
And the boss doesn’t think the Fleet’s Opening Day victory over Tonbridge will play a part in the rematch eight months later. “It was the first game, everyone was running away from us,” he said. “They couldn’t handle us because they didn’t know what to expect and we were on top. But obviously Tonbridge are a good team now and have nothing to do with relegation and that’s well deserved. They will know what to do to fight us. They will be different from Concord, but we may have to expect a similar game and so we all have to perform at our level and keep that race going.
The three-game winning streak should see Fleet come home and dry out in third place if they can repeat that over the next three or four games. Fleet is second behind Maidstone in the forms table, but will be fully aware of how this division falls short of such a table once the whistle blows.
Tonbridge, on the other hand, have won just one of their last six games and McKimm has criticized their players for the nature of their recent loss to Slough. They responded with a good point away at Dulwich on Monday and were denied the three points only by a last-minute equalizer from Danny Mills.
The Angels haven’t had much change to their roster since visiting Kuflink Stadium in August and the majority of likely starters this weekend will be much the same as the squad that appeared last summer. There are a few new additions though, with defender Teddy Perkins arriving from Welling and former Maidstone striker Jake Embery also in the door.
Former Welling hotshot Adam Coombes is another new face and he has scored four times since his arrival, but the main danger remains Tommy Wood, who netted the winner for Tonbridge at the Kuflink Stadium in 2020/21. He has 12 goals to his name this season and has attracted interest from other clubs, although he is described as only ’50/50′ to make an appearance, having missed last week’s game at Dulwich.
Tonbridge also has the option of another former Maidstone face, Ibrahim Olutade, who scored his only goal on the opening day of the season at the fleet.
Longmead have welcomed large crowds this season with Kent derbies against Maidstone, Dartford and Welling in four figures. Some 954 people visited the last home game against Slough and Angels’ average hovering around the 850 mark, so another decent turnout is expected – with Fleet fans likely, as always, to travel in good numbers.
It will be the Fleet’s 47th visit to Tonbridge, although the league’s first meeting since the 2014 2-0 win over Tommy Warrilow’s Angels. This calendar year, McKimm’s side have lost just two at home in the league and faced National League opposition in the form of King’s Lynn Town and Bromley to draws in the FA Trophy before these matches don’t end in penalty shootouts, so on their own patch and with survival. to absolutely confirm, this is sure to be another engaging encounter down the final stretch to the finish line.