The National League Play-Off Semi-Final comes to The Peninsula Stadium on Sunday when Salford City host Eastleigh (KO 15:30).
After 46 games The Ammies are now just one game away from a possible first appearance at Wembley, and possibly two games from the Football League.
However in the way is an Eastleigh side fresh off wining at Wrexham on Thursday night, after extra time when Danny Hollands’ superb strike gave them a 1-0 win.
The Spitfires finished seventh to qualify for the play-offs with 74 points, seven points ahead of Ebbsfleet in eighth. Last summer they were hit with the news that Stewart Donald had put the club up for sale to take over at Sunderland, and there was some concern as they started the season with six defeats from nine.
In September they converted some of those defeats into wins and draws before being rocked by the departure of Andy Hessenthaler to Dover with Ben Strevens taking the reins. He continued the club’s upturn in results and by December they were looking good for the play-offs.
Eight wins from 10 from mid-January to March boosted those hopes even further, and in February their win at The Peninsula Stadium took them above us and firmly into play-off territory. Despite three defeats at the start of April, a play-off place was secured on Bank Holiday Monday with a 2-0 win against Maidenhead United.
It is the first time since their debut season in 2014-15 that they have achieved that, although on that occasion they lost out over two legs to Grimsby Town.
Eastleigh have three wins, a draw and a defeat in their last five including Thursday’s win at Wrexham, which ended a run of four games on the road without a win. Despite that, they ended the season with the fourth best record on the road with 36 points from 23 games (W11 D3 L9).
Goals haven’t been in short supply either with 14 in their last 10, however they have only kept three clean sheets in that period.
One to watch – Paul McCallum
The striker finished second in the Golden Boot challenge with an incredible 26 goals score, with just two of those from the penalty spot he actually scored the most goals from open play as four of Golden Boot winner Danny Rowe’s 27 were from the spot.
It’s not just the quantity either that has counted for the 25-year-old. He has scored eight goals against the top six including braces at Salford and Leyton Orient, so there is no stage fright when it comes to competing with the division’s best for the former Os and West Ham striker.
The Spitfires are one of four teams to be unbeaten in both league games against Salford this season. Lois Maynard came off the bench to score late on as we drew 1-1 at Silverlake, with Ben Williamson having given the hosts the lead early in the second half, although Nathan Pond had a goal ruled out too for offside.
In February’s reverse fixture McCallum gave Eastleigh the lead when he finished off Joey Jones’ cross, and it came at a time when Salford were building momentum. Carl Piergianni had a goal chalked off for a foul by Matt Green in the second half before McCallum scored again to take the points back to the south coast.