Salford City travel to league leaders Leyton Orient for the first time on Saturday in the Vanarama National League.
The reverse of the opening fixture of the campaign comes with The Ammies hoping to continue their recovery from December, and make-up lost ground on Orient who are five points clear. Tuesday’s win against Wrexham was a step in the right direction and keeps Salford in touching distance of the top two, and another result on Saturday will keep it tight.
While home form has been pretty solid, it is on the road where The Ammies need to improve having not picked up three points away from The Peninsula Stadium since the end of October. That 3-1 win at Barnet happened to send us top for the last time, but in the subsequent six games on the road we have drawn three and lost three in all competitions.
The O’s have led the way for a majority of the season, reclaiming top spot in November after our draw at Eastleigh, but had a sticky patch themselves having lost two of the last five. However they haven’t lost at the Breyer Group Stadium since a 1-0 defeat to Sutton United at the end of September. This week they strengthened the squad with the addition of Jordan Maguire-Drew from Brighton & Hove Albion, the winger who has been on loan at Wrexham this season.
August’s draw seems a long time ago, but many comments that both sides would be competing for promotion have so far proven to be true. Justin Edinburgh has continued the revival he inspired after being appointed at the end of November 2017, helped in no small part by Macauley Bonne. The striker has attracted a lot of interest with a number of Championship and Premier League reported to be monitoring the 23-year-old, and other clubs are said to be interested in Josh Koroma.
With Orient putting in consistent performances and results though their trajectory firmly seems to be upwards. There is no doubt a surprise FA Cup defeat to Maidstone United has helped Orient focus on the league season, and they face a trip to Wrexham in the FA Trophy next weekend.
It hasn’t been plain sailing through December for The O’s with defeat at Boreham Wood in December the first of two defeats in their last five. The second came on Boxing Day away at Dagenham & Redbridge, which was followed by a goalless draw at Dover Athletic who had chances to win that game, but Dean Brill saved a penalty and The Whites also hit the bar.
That was all put to right for Orient on New Year’s Day with a 1-0 win against The Daggers, and it was little surprise to see Bonne back on the scoresheet.
One to watch – Macauley Bonne
It’s quite hard to not choose the top scorer on this occasion, as Bonne’s 18 goals also make him the joint-top scorer in the league alongside Adam Rooney and Danny Rowe. The forward signed for the club in July 2017 from Colchester United and scored 22 in 44 league games last season, so another five goals and he will surpass that – if he stays put at Orient.
The only time the clubs have played each other before was in August’s 1-1 draw at The Peninsula Stadium. Rory Gaffney scored the first goal of the season before Craig Clay’s drilled effort late on deflected off Liam Hogan to level things up.