Salford City resume their Buildbase FA Trophy campaign on Tuesday evening when Maidstone United visit The Peninsula Stadium in the Third Round.
First and Second Round victories against Gateshead and Dagenham & Redbridge have already made this Salford’s best run in the competition, and now a place in the quarter-finals is up for grabs where either ourselves or Maidstone will face a trip to National League North Stockport County.
Standing in the way is a Stones side who will be looking for a quick improvement under former manager, now Head of Football, John Still in order to escape National League relegation. The 68-year-old left the club in 1989 after winning promotion to the Football League, but 30 years later now faces the task of keeping the club in non-league’s top tier.
The FA Trophy has a habit of favouring teams threatened with relegation over the last couple of seasons with both York City and FC Halifax Town winning the competition after relegation from The National League. No doubt Maidstone’s preference is league survival, but a decent cup run alongside that wouldn’t go far amiss at The Gallagher Stadium.
Change is probably the best way to describe The Stones’ season, particularly after Jay Saunders left the club early on. They have since had Steve Watt, Harry Wheeler and Simon Walton / Tristan Lewis in charge before bringing back Still.
As a result consistency has been difficult and The Stones find themselves in the relegation zone, and when it comes to the Trophy Still is the third different person to take charge of the team in the three rounds so far.
The Stones haven’t won since their Second Round victory over Oxford City at home, losing their last three league games but progressing to the Kent Senior Cup semi-final after a penalty shoot-out victory at Dartford.
Orient was Still and Hakan Hayrettin’s first game in charge of affairs at the club, so it’s hard to judge Maidstone over the last few games. They have since brought in Dion-Curtis Henry on loan from Crystal Palace in goal as well as defenders Aron Davies on loan from Fulham and Shaun Donnellan on a deal until the end of the season.
One to watch – Dan Wishart
The 26-year-old signed for the club in November from Sutton United, who he returned to in the summer after nearly two seasons at Forest Green Rovers. At The U’s Wishart won promotion to the National League after winning the National League South in 2015-16 – with Maidstone also being promoted via the play-offs that season.
A move to Forest Green then followed, where Wishart again tasted promotion as Rovers won the play-offs to win promotion to the Football League where Wishart helped them to retain their place. His versatility makes him usable in midfield or at the back, so could be a useful player for Still.
The only time the clubs have met before was in the National League back in September, we came out with all three points after Shamir Mullings – who has now left the club – scored an own goal just after the break to hand us a 1-0 win.