Salford City compete in the Buildbase FA Trophy Second Round for the first time ever on Saturday when Dagenham & Redbridge return to The Peninsula Stadium.
On the back of the festive fixture which has ended better than it started, focus now switches to the Trophy and the non-league Road to Wembley.
It’s a competition that has never particularly been a friend of The Ammies since we first qualified for it in the Northern Premier League First Division North days. At first it was the virtue of being in The National League that saw us reach the furthest stage in our history, before a 3-1 win against Gateshead at The Peninsula Stadium in December extended that.
Meanwhile The Daggers have a way to go to equal their best as they were runners-up in 1996-97 after losing to Woking in the final after extra time, while Dagenham as an individual club before the merger in 1992 actually won the competition in 1979-80.
However this is the first time they have qualified for the Second Round of the competition since 2006-07, when they won The Conference and were promoted to the Football League therefore didn’t compete in the FA Trophy. Since relegation from League Two in 2015-16, The Daggers have been eliminated from the FA Trophy in the First Round until victory against Ebbsfleet United in December at that stage.
Angelo Balanta scored the only goal of the game in the first half on that occasion, before scoring the winner against us at The Peninsula Stadium in the National League a week later which made the Essex club the only side to beat us on home turf so far in the league this season. Carl Piergianni scored the opening goal for Salford.
That was when they were on an impressive run of form which also saw them win against Leyton Orient on Boxing Day, however since then they have been halted by Barnet, Orient, and a 4-4 draw against Boreham Wood last weekend.
The Last 32
With four of the remaining 15 National League sides guaranteed to be eliminated, there is a possibly better chance for all the remaining top tier sides to make a good run out of this campaign and reach the final.
In the last five seasons, three sides not in the National League have reached the final and two of them have won, Brackley Town (2017-18) and North Ferriby United (2014-15), both on penalties.
Of the five winners though, two have been subsequently relegated (Halifax and York City) while Brackley lost in their following play-off final. However Cambridge United went on to win the National League play-offs in 2013-14, while Grimsby Town won the play-offs after defeat to FC Halifax Town in the Trophy final in 2015-16. The last side to win both the Conference and the FA Trophy was Wycombe Wanderers in 1992-93.