Salford City begin the new year away at Leyton Orient with an eye on extending their current unbeaten run.
Richie Wellens’ side finished 2020 unbeaten in five league games after a 2-0 win against Walsall on Boxing Day.
The Ammies go into the weekend in sixth with at least one game in hand on the teams above, and Saturday provides a chance to move further ahead of the chasing pack – which includes Leyton Orient – ahead of the games in hand against Mansfield Town and Scunthorpe United in the next couple of weeks.
It’s become a busy start to 2021, but forward Brandon Thomas-Asante says the mentality ingrained in the squad is playing a significant role in Salford’s current form, as it will continue to do for the rest of the season.
“The thing with our squad is that, in terms of our league, we’ve got some of the best players in our league who should be in higher leagues. We’ve never really doubted ourselves as a squad and we look around the dressing room, and we can see, we expect ourselves to do very well in this league.
“Now we’re seeing the form starting to pick up, it’s only what we expected from the start of the year. But we can’t just rely on our ability alone, we’ve been saying that, Ash Eastham all the seniors have been saying that, we need to go into every game battling first and earning the right to show our talent and what we can do, so we just need to be present in every game and I don’t see why we can’t and that form continues.”
The 22-year-old has returned to the starting line-up after serving a three-match suspension, and has hit the ground running with consecutive assists for James Wilson. As he approaches his half-century of Salford appearances, Thomas-Asante is hoping to contribute more.
“I think even from, I think his [Wilson’s] first game was Plymouth if I’m not mistaken, we linked up a few times in that game and from as soon as he came in I’ve really enjoyed playing with him, so it’s really good that I’ve been able to strike that chord with him and hopefully it can continue and can benefit the whole team.
“I’m very happy that I’ve started to get a little bit of a run, hopefully I can continue that, keep on contributing and hopefully get some good results like we have been.
“As a squad we’ve really been getting used to the Gaffer, how he wants to play, his style of play because everyone has a different part to play in that and I think it was about getting used to what the Manager requires of me. I’m more accustomed to playing down the middle so I’ve switched out this season and that’s another bit of learning I’ve been able to get under my belt so I’ve really sort of taken to that and now I’m starting to really enjoy it there as well so it’s just about adapting.”
Ash Hunter misses out on the trip to East London as he serves a one-match suspension for picking up five yellow cards. Luke Burgess is back in contention to start in his place after making a goalscoring return to the side last weekend. Richie Towell and Darron Gibson (both leg) remain sidelined with injuries.
The O’s are knocking on the door of the play-offs in their bid to return to League One, and could catch Salford on points with a first win against The Ammies (P3 D2 L1).
Ross Embleton’s side ended a run of three defeats with a 2-0 win against Southend United on the weekend, although the Orient boss won’t be at the match as he self-isolates. Despite that run Orient have won five of their last six at home in League Two.
13-goal striker Danny Johnson has been the main man for the East London side, supported by Conor Wilkinson who has seven in League Two, one ahead of The Ammies’ top league scorers Ian Henderson, Ash Hunter and James Wilson (six each).
Last season’s scheduled visit was postponed due to Covid, but in our meeting at The Peninsula Stadium the game finished 1-1. Our last visit to E10 was in the National League, a 3-0 win in January 2019 when Carl Piergianni scored twice, once either side of a Rory Gaffney goal. There have been seven goals scored in the previous three instalments of this fixture, five for Salford and two for Orient although both were officially credited as own goals.
It would be a first appearance against Orient for Thomas-Asante, who played with O’s midfielder Ousseynou Cisse at MK Dons. He is expecting it to be a challenging game, but is confident that with the right application there’s no reason Salford can’t get a result.
“I really am looking forward to it to be fair, it’s a Club who I’ve been aware of for a while, even growing up I had them in my Academy category so I’ve had a few battles with a few of their players even growing up as kids so it will be interesting.
“I think we’re going into it confident, but also knowing that they’re posing a threat as every team do, we just need to go and turn up on the day really and if we out battle them then as I say show what we can do, I reckon we’ll cause them a lot of problems.”
HOW TO WATCH
Saturday’s game will be available to stream online for £10 in the UK and £7 abroad.