FC Halifax Town v Maidenhead: Opposition focus

Mike Fondop-Talom netted four goals in 12 appearances for Halifax last season
Mike Fondop-Talom netted four goals in 12 appearances for Halifax last season

FC Halifax Town will face a Maidenhead side capable of going anywhere and picking up points on the road, according to Daniel Darlington, who covers the club for the Maidenhead Advertiser.

The Magpies are 18th in the National League, having won 14, drawn five and lost 21 games in the division this season.

They go into Saturday’s game in mixed form, having won two, drawn one and lost three of their last six matches.

“Maidenhead have been playing pretty well lately,” said Darlington. “Their form since the turn of the year has been that of a top 10 side.

“They’ve been solid without being spectacular. They won all of their matches 1-0 in February, a run which saw manager Alan Devonshire win the manager of the month award.

“On Tuesday they broke a two match losing streak with a 2-1 victory over Havant & Waterlooville. The result moves them nine points clear of the relegation zone and should seal their National League status for another season.

“That said they have lost their last three away matches in the league, to Harrogate (1-0), Ebbsfleet United (3-0) and AFC Fylde (2-1). Before that they went to leaders Leyton Orient and won 1-0 so they are capable of going anywhere and picking up points on the road.”

Darlington says The Shaymen can expect to face a side that, first and foremost, will make themselves difficult to beat.

“Maidenhead will probably defend deep and try and hit them on the break with pace on the flanks. They’ll be happy with a point but will try to nick all three if they can. They’re also a danger from set pieces, corners and long throw ins through James Comley.

“If they play, the dangermen will be Adrian Clifton, United’s top scorer with 14 league goals this season. He bagged the winner in Tuesday’s victory over Havant.

“Northern Ireland under 21 international Josh Kelly came off the bench to spark the side into life on Tuesday, setting up both goals in the 2-1 win.

“James Comley, United’s central midfielder pulls the strings for the side and is their best play-maker. Central midfielder Ryan Upward has popped up with some important goals of late having recently returned from injury. He got the winner against Sutton recently and was also on target on Tuesday.”

The Shay pitch is not expected to be in great condition for the fourth game there in the space of eight days, but Darlington doesn’t exoect that to be too much of a problem for Maidenhead.

“United will play to the conditions, so if the pitch isn’t the best – as it wasn’t at York Road this week – they’ll be more direct and try to get the ball forward to Clifton as quickly as possible.

“They’ll also use the likes of Kelly, Nombe, Akintunde, if played, to whip crosses into the box from the right and left. The full-backs also like to get forward to bolster the attack. They’re also a threat from set pieces with Comley’s delivery and big men like Ayo Obileye, Alan Massey, Remy Clerima, Clifton etc looking to get on the end of things.”

Darlington says Maidenhead have few long term injury absentees - although striker Ryan Bird has missed a lot of the season - but that Devonshire is likely to shuffle his pack for Saturday.

“Mike Fondop, loan signing from Wrexham, is likely to start up front – possibly for Clifton who was on international duty alongside Comley for Montserrat last week,” added Darlington.

“Dev felt a few of the players looked tired against Havant and were in need of a rest.”

Likely line-up (4-5-1): Pentney, Twumasi/Gabriel, Clerima, Massey, Steer, Odametey, Comley, Obileye, Upward, Nombe/Akintunde, Fondop.