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Ebbsfleet United manager Dennis Kutrieb says the next month will be pivotal in National League South title race

Ebbsfleet boss Dennis Kutrieb believes the next month will determine whether they are genuine title contenders.

The Fleet face Dorking, Maidstone and Hampton before the end of this month, along with the rearranged return game against Dartford on February 1.

Ebbsfleet's Greg Cundle runs at Dartford's Kalvin Kalala. Picture: Ed Miller/EUFC (54068115)
Ebbsfleet's Greg Cundle runs at Dartford's Kalvin Kalala. Picture: Ed Miller/EUFC (54068115)

Kutrieb’s men sit two points behind leaders Maidstone in National League South and the Fleet boss knows how important the next set of fixtures will be.

“If we can manage to make it into February with many points then we’ll be in the mix until the end of the season to achieve the first promotion place,” he admitted.

“But the best thing is to go game by game. We can celebrate beating Dartford but from Wednesday we had to prepare for Hemel (this Saturday). If we win that one, then we can go for the next one.

“The games are coming thick and fast and we have a tough January. It’s not getting easier.”

Fleet’s cause will be helped by a fully-fit squad after a torrid time with injuries and Covid over the festive period, which saw them name just 12 outfield players against Bath.

That strength in depth was highlighted by Ben Chapman coming off the bench to score the only goal against Dartford on Sunday.

“It helps that we have the full squad available now, we’ve got 22 players and can pick whoever we want to pick,” added Kutrieb.

“You can see even Ben Chapman on the bench, who scored the winner, it’s amazing to have such a player on the bench. I know they don’t like it and they want to play, Alfie Egan the same, Adam Mekki an experienced player, Elliott Romain who scored twice against Bath.

“The players don’t like it, that’s normal, I would be surprised if anyone did like it. But we have a good squad and everyone is available every minute. It’s not easy to come off the bench after 45 minutes and score the winner and that’s why I’m massively happy.

“We have the full squad available and we can make the changes when we think someone needs a break or they have a small problem and we don’t need to put too much pressure on every single player.

“We can use the whole squad and that’s what we have to do because we have big games coming up against Hemel, Dartford again, Maidstone, Dorking and Hampton. The (last three) are all very close together in eight days so we have to be prepared.

“It was a great day for us on Sunday and we celebrated it, but the next month is where we can pick up big points and that’s what we have to do.

“When you get three points against a top team it always means a lot. We’re happy to be where we are but it means nothing. Every three points means we are in the mix and where we want to be.”

Fleet travel to Hemel Hempstead this Saturday, with Kutrieb knowing their derby win over Dartford will count for little if they fail to collect maximum points.

But it will not be easy against a side who are much changed from the team beaten 3-1 in the reverse fixture in August.

“Hemel beat St Albans on Sunday so they are not the same team when we played against them at home,” warned Kutrieb.

“They’re more confident now with a new management team, they get points out of big and small games. It’s going to be tough at their place on the 3G pitch.

“Of course, we want to win the game and (having had) a big win, it would mean more if we can get another win on Saturday.

“It would be back-to-back wins after a derby and that’s never easy after a derby.

“When you win a derby, everyone is a bit more relieved and satisfied so we need to make sure when the boys come back after their day off that they are prepared for the next game.”

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