"The last few weeks have been much improved" - FC Halifax Town v Maidenhead United: Opposition Focus
We spoke to Daniel Darlington from the Maidenhead Advertiser for the lowdown on FC Halifax Town's opponents on Saturday.
How have Maidenhead been doing lately?
The last few weeks have been much improved for the Magpies. After winning their opening two league matches, they went on a long run of eight matches without managing a win.
At that point manager Alan Devonshire admitted he was struggling to find the right balance between defence and attack, but the arrival of midfielder Jay Mingi on loan from Portsmouth has helped in this regard.
His presence seemed to have a galvanising affect pretty much straight away. They drew 0-0 at Yeovil Town, in a match that also saw Mingi red-carded, and then claimed three wins in all competitions, starting with a first in nine matches against Hastings United in the FA Cup.
It was a result that lifted the mood around York Road and since then they've won a couple of entertaining league games against Woking and Wrexham, both 3-2.
Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Eastleigh was somewhat deflating after a good run of exciting victories, but that's where Maidenhead are again this season, they'll win some and lose some, but hopefully they'll be competitive in most matches.
What will the mood in the camp be going into Saturday's game?
The mood will be reasonably buoyant given the club is looking to reach the second round of the competition for the first time since 1886.
However, they'll be under no illusions as to how tough it will be to progress past a Halifax side who've been doing well in the league and are currently amongst the play-off positions.
That said, they did manage to snatch a last gasp win when the teams played each other in the first game of the season and both teams have since had chance to bed down their new arrivals and find a system that works for them so it will be interesting to see how this one plays out.
A lot will depend on how much the Magpies can get from their younger players, the likes of Josh Kelly, Reece Smith, and Jay Mingi.
Kelly was ill and only available as a substitute against the Spitfires, and they missed his presence up front. He netted two great goals in the games against Woking and Wrexham, including the winner in the latter.
How much does this game matter for Maidenhead?
Given the history, and the fact they haven't made it to the second round since 1886, I would say it means a great deal to them. Their recent victories in the league have off-set the threat of relegation to an extent and, while staying in the National League is always the priority, I think they'll play as strong a side as they can to try and get a positive result on Saturday.
Who will be your dangermen and why?
The danger men will be Josh Kelly, Jay Mingi and Sam Barratt, but whether all three are fit and available to play remains to be seen. Barratt returned to the starting line-up against Eastleigh, after grabbing the winner in front of the BT Sport cameras against Woking. Kelly should have shaken off the bug he picked up ahead of Saturday's game. Reece Smith might be another player to watch. He's come through from United's academy and is starting to show that he belongs at this level, or possibly even higher.
What can Halifax expect to come up against in terms of style of play and approach?
I would expect Alan Devonshire to set the Magpies up to be difficult to beat, first and foremost, but a lot might depend on which players he has available. They'll then look to hit Halifax on the counter through the pace they have in the side. It worked nicely in the games against Woking and Wrexham. Dev’s been forced to chop and change his team throughout the season, so I guess he'll play a style that best suits the players he has available.
Shaun Donnellan has been in and out of the side with a hamstring injury and might be touch and go to play. Remy Clerima has also missed a lot of games recently. Nathan Blissett hasn't been able to get a regular run in the side due to injury, while Dan Sparkes is slowly returning to full fitness following injury. George Wells has also missed the last month or so through injury.
Likely line up and formation?
I would expect a similar line up to Saturday's game with Eastleigh. Lovett; Donnellan, De Havilland, Massey, Beckwith; Mingi, Upward, Smith, Ferdinand; Barratt, Kelly.