Fleet sail into town for relegation shootout

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ST ALBANS City are about to enter arguably the biggest four days of their season as they take on two of their relegation rivals. The first of those games sees Thurrock travel to Clarence Park this Saturday.

ADDRESS: Clarence Park, York Road, St Albans, Herts, AL1 4PL

Tel: 01727 864296

THE LOWDOWN: It’s been a season of struggle for Thurrock this year as Fleet have found it difficult to find the form that saw them in contention for the play-offs last year.

Manager Hakan Hayrettin left Ship Lane back in October after he was unable to guide them to a single league victory in the opening two and a bit months of the campaign.

Hayrettin was replaced by 30-year-old Greg Lincoln but he handed in his resignation in January after just 11 games in charge which included heavy defeats to Dover (7-2) and Chelmsford City (6-1).

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Assistant manager Grant Gordon has been placed in charge until the end of the season but Thurrock find themselves embroiled in the relegation dogfight and had it not been for City’s 10 point deduction would currently be in the bottom three.

Thurrock’s heaviest defeat this season was their loss against Dover while their biggest victories came at home to Lewes and away at Maidenhead when Fleet ran out 3-1 winners.

THE MANAGER: Grant Gordon was handed the reins at Ship Lane following Greg Lincoln’s resignation at the turn of the year.

The assistant manager quickly assembled an experienced coaching staff to assist him at Thurrock bringing in ex-Braintree boss Robbie Garvey, former West Ham midfielder Lee Hodges and Lee Goodwin who made his name as a defender at Dagenham & Redbridge.

Gordon gained managerial experience at Billericay Town and has also been on the coaching staff at Braintree Town.

THE SQUAD: Experienced front man Danny Hockton arrived on loan at Thurrock last week with the brief to fire Fleet to safety. The forward’s former club include Dover Athletic, Braintree Town and Margate where he scored an incredible 36 goals in just 40 games.

At the other end of the pitch goalkeeper Joe Woolley has reclaimed the number one jersey after missing the start of the campaign following a hernia operation. The talented shot stopper began his career at Charlton Athletic and arrived at Ship Lane in October 2008.

In front of Woolley Fleet have a number of experienced defenders they can call upon. Left-back Lee Flynn is a name familiar to Saints fans after he clocked up 40 appearances in the blue & gold of City. The 37-year-old left Clarence Park in 2007 to join the Fleet and has since racked up over 120 appearances for the Essex outfit.

On the other flank, Craig Pope was part of the Histon squad that made a rapid rise through the divisions. The right-back, who also includes Barnet and Cambridge City on his CV, joined Thurrock last season and has been a key figure at the back.

At the heart of the defence, Rob Swaine recently made his 100th appearance for the club having made his first appearance back in 2007 during a 5-0 win over City.

Kenny Clark is another figure who has been at Ship Lane for several seasons now. Clark, who can play either in the middle or at full-back scored Fleets’ goal in their 1-1 draw with Havant & Waterlooville on Tuesday, his fifth goal of the season.

Brentford youngster Chris Bush made the temporary move to Essex earlier this week having also enjoyed loan spells with AFC Wimbledon and Woking this term. The big defender made his debut in Tuesday’s draw with Havant.

Jacob Mingle is another new face at the club having made his debut in last Saturday’s draw at Hampton & Richmond. The midfielder lists Horsham and Braintree amongst his former clubs and also had a spell at Staines earlier this season.

Winger Matt Bodkin has provided three goals to the cause this season the most recent coming in Fleet’s 1-1 draw with Staines. The former Nottingham Forest trainee gained Football League experience with Gillingham before a spell with Dover Athletic. Bodkin arrived at Ship Lane in the summer of 2009.

Another familiar face to City fans will be that of Dean Cracknell who made 53 appearances for the Saints between 2005 and 2008.

Cracknell was a member of City’s Conference South promotion winning side and spent last season at Park View Road with Welling United.

Joao Carlos is a pacy winger capable of using either foot who arrived at the club from Ryman One North in October while Reece Harris is at the club on loan from Braintree Town.

In the attacking third Thurrock can call upon David Knight. The former England U19 international returned to the club in November from local rivals Aveley for his second spell at Ship Lane.

Another player who has returned to the club is former Hitchin Town man Paul Olima. The big forward, who can also play in defence, was previously at Lewes and netted twice in the Rooks’ 3-1 win over City back in November.

LAST TIME: All looked to be going well for City when they built up a two goal lead at Ship Lane on the opening day of the season. Goals from Drew Roberts and Inih Effiong had put the Saints in a commanding position but they were pegged back by a brace from Cliff Akurang.

The Essex side’s last trip to Clarence Park ended in a 1-0 defeat last season courtesy of a goal from current City skipper Adam Everitt.

REFEREE (subject to change): Lee Venamore (Maidstone) assisted by E Amir & S Kay.