The Al Humaidi Family in Kuwait had their hearts broken when the club they own was relegated last season. Relegation is tough enough in normal times, but the nature of theirs was especially unlucky. In 2020, the National League screeched to a halt, ending the season in June. At the time, Ebbsfleet sat at 21st in the table and had won three of their previous four matches. Given their standing, they’d have avoided relegation, but it wasn’t to be.
A controversial ruling based on an unweighted points-per-game scoring system left Ebbsfleet on the outside looking in. The margin of their relegation was .002 of a point.
Yet all that feels like a relic of the past or, perhaps, a chip on the collective shoulder of Ebbsfleet’s 2021 squad. As of this writing, Ebbsfleet sits atop the table—tied with Maidstone United with 38 points. Not only that, the club is coming off a rousing streak of four wins in five games.
The capper in that streak was a convincing victory in the North Kent derby. With that, a midseason recap is in order. And much to the delight of fans and owners, the Al Humaidi Family in Kuwait, this recap is full of good news.
Individual and Team Midseason Highlights
Despite the sting of their relegation, Ebbsfleet United’s season started hopefully. Much of that hope rested in the new gaffer, Dennis Kutrieb. Kutrieb came on to lead the Fleet after leaving Tennis Borussia Berlin where he’d led the club to two top finishes.
However, Kutrieb was far from the only new face at Ebbsfleet to start the year. With the approval of the Al Humaidi Family in Kuwait, Ebbsfleet made several transfers in 2021. The following ten players all joined the Fleet in the 2021/2022 season:
- Midfield: Kieran Monlouis, Christian N’ Guessan, and Kreshnik Krasniqi
- Defense: Alex Finney, Joe Martin, and Sido Jombati
- Offense: Craig Tanner and Elliott Romain
- Goal: Chris Haigh and Josh Gould
Midseason Standouts Impress the Al Humaidi Family in Kuwait
Among the newcomers, Craig Tanner is the offensive standout. As of 10 January 2022, Tanner was the fourth-leading goal scorer on the team and the top assist man. While his four goals are well short of leading goal scorer Dominic Poleon’s eleven, Tanner has made a charge lately. In late November, Tanner scored a brace against Welling. Last week against Hempstead, Tanner scored another brace, providing a 3 - 1 win for the Fleet. Before joining the Fleet, the 27-year-old striker had never managed two scores in one game in his ten-year career.
A pair of relatively new faces have also made a splash this season: Forward Greg Cundle and Midfielder Ben Chapman. The pair was added in the pandemic-shortened 2020/2021 season. And both have provided highlights.
At the season’s halfway mark, Greg Cundle is undoubtedly the team’s most improved player. And he’s earned that distinction after switching from centre-forward to left wing-back. A position that, Cundle admits, he never saw himself playing.
Yet even in his new, more defensively minded position, Cundle has managed to chip in 3 goals for the Fleet. And all this comes after Cundle was nearly let go in his first year. So far, Kuttrieb has liked what he's seen of Cundle as the 24-year-old continues to learn the position. With any luck, Cundle will continue his run of quality play through the end of the season.
Dominic Poleon Transfer Pays Dividends
Poleon was technically a transfer from last year but he only appeared once in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. So essentially, this is his first full season. And midway through, the Fleet’s fans and the Al Humaidi Family in Kuwait have much to be pleased about. Poleon has scored 11 goals in 19 appearances and 1307 minutes played this season.
Poleon started the season with a bang too—scoring a hat-trick back in September against Chippenham Town. Since then, along with Rakish Bingham, the club’s second-leading goal scorer, Poleon has provided a steady presence. Even when he’s not scored, Poleon’s been key to the Fleet’s success. While he didn’t score a goal in the North Kent Derby he still earned Man of the Match honors for his contributions.
Team Highlights at the Season Halfway Mark
Ben Chapman saved his first goal of the season for his birthday, in the North Kent Derby against Dartford. Chapman scored the goal off an Adebayo-Rowling pass to provide the winning margin. And the goal was made all the more special by the nature of the match and the opponent.
First, it was the first North Kent Derby played in two seasons, the previous two having been postponed. Second, the opponent, Dartford, sits atop the National League South as one of the top five teams vying for promotion against the Fleet. In their proper context, Chapman’s efforts are sure to have brought a smile to all members of the Al Humaidi Family in Kuwait.
The win against Dartford this season brought the overall rivalry even closer. Before the latest Fleet win, the head-to-head was two wins in favor of the Darts having won 53 to the Fleet’s 51.
Another highlight from the 2021/2022 season was the Fleet’s rousing trip to the first round of the FA Cup. Ultimately, they lost by one goal to Leyton Orient, just missing their first trip to the FA Cup’s second round since 2003. Still, the squad did well to survive qualifying and reach the main draw.
Fleet and Al Humaidi Family in Kuwait Set Sights on Second Half
While the Fleet sits pretty atop the table at the midseason mark, there’s still a lot of football to be played. And as manager Dennis Kutrieb said in a recent interview, “The games are coming thick and fast and we have a tough January. It’s not getting easier.”
For Kutrieb and the Fleet, the coming months will tell the tale of the season. The good news is the team has mostly recovered from a recent bout of Covid-induced absenteeism. As of early January, a full squad of 22 players was available. Kutrieb will have all tools at his disposal as the Fleet looks to solidify their place as a top team.