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Fleet full tilt for the playoffs

PUBLISHED: 18:10 30 July 2008 | UPDATED: 09:58 23 August 2010

EBBSFLEET United will look to build upon their FA Trophy triumph in May by mounting another concerted push for promotion via the playoffs this season. The Fleet s attempts to secure a top-five finish fell away towards the end of last term as a draining f

EBBSFLEET United will look to build upon their FA Trophy triumph in May by mounting another concerted push for promotion via the playoffs this season.

The Fleet's attempts to secure a top-five finish fell away towards the end of last term as a draining fixture pile-up - and the successful tilt at the Trophy - stretched Liam Daish's small squad to the limit.

However, having accounted for Burton, Aldershot and Torquay in their cup crusade, the expectation is now on Ebbsfleet to challenge some more fancied sides in the Blue Square Premier too.

"We are looking to go onto the next level and get into the playoff spots," boss Liam Daish enthused about the upcoming campaign. "You could say we did not do it last year, but we've probably got something more in our locker mentally now.

"The players have got something to draw on experience-wise. They know what it is about and that sometimes gives you that little bit of arrogance you need to go and get into the playoffs positions and win things. You need that - alongside the hunger to do well again."

The 39-year-old has strengthened the talent at his disposal by bringing in Brentford defender Darius Charles on loan, ex-Gillingham midfielder Craig Stone and former Bolton and Swindon Town winger Ricky Shakes, who are all likely to feature prominently in his first-team plans.

Forward Michael Gash, a recent £20,000 recruit from Cambridge City, also seems set to be a pivotal purchase after rejecting interest from Kettering, Oxford and Weymouth.

"I feel Michael is going to be a good addition to the squad," Daish explained about the most expensive capture of his predominantly fresh-faced foursome. "He's a clever player, who scored 26 goals in a side that were mid-table in the Blue Square South last year. He has got athleticism, a physical presence and decent touch and awareness. He will need to get a bit fitter seeing as he has come out of a part-time environment, but your fitness is the easy thing to do if you have got all of the other bits and pieces to go with it.

"These lads really want to make their names in football. They want to push on, achieve what they want to and carve out good careers for themselves."

He added: "The squad is looking decent with a good athletic aspect to it. We've got a young set of lads, but they are very fit, strong and driven at the moment.

"A lot of the other players have been around me for a while as well. They will be another year older and will have gained more experience. We could well be in with a shout."

Daish clearly hopes that the habit of winning silverware proves infectious among his current crop, but he's all too aware that everyone involved at Stonebridge Road must share his ambitious outlook if they are to prosper.

"Hopefully, winning the FA Trophy is a big turning point in everyone's mentality around the club," he added. "We had a brief chat with the players in pre-season to say to them: 'You've actually won something now and tasted what it is like. You can either go one way or the other now; you can sit on your laurels or you can have the hunger and desire to go and get a bit more of that feeling.' Hopefully, the latter will be the one that all of them choose.

"I went passed the office today and saw the Trophy in there and it gives you a really good feeling. That is something I want to add to and get more of. I like picking up gold medals that say 'winners' on them and I'm sure the players are going to be like that as well."

The Fleet face a tricky opening to 2008/2009 with a number of fellow contenders (Mansfield Town, Torquay, Stevenage Borough, Cambridge United and Wrexham) interspersing their first 10 matches or so, yet they so often raise their performance levels against supposedly superior opposition.

"We've got a very tough start," Daish admitted. "But, in saying that, history tells me that the players like big challenges. We could come out of it in a nice position with a fair few points already in the bag because we like those big-game atmospheres.

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