Preview by Dom Bleackley
The National League counterparts both kick off their campaign in the competition this weekend, entering at the 3rd Round Stage. Wanderers will be looking to improve on last season’s FA Trophy venture, where they were knocked out by Aldershot Town in the 5th Round, having overcome Yeovil Town and Kidderminster Harriers in the stages prior. The Magpies, like Dorking, also fell at the fifth hurdle last campaign, losing to FC Halifax Town on penalties after playing out a 0-0 in regulation time.
An injury-stricken Wanderers squad may have welcomed the unexpected two week break the postponement of last Saturday’s clash at Altrincham has provided. The side’s last outing came in front of the TNT Sport cameras at Mill Farm, where White’s men and AFC Fylde produced an enthralling 3-3 draw.
AFC Fylde Recap
After watching his side earn a point, the Wanderers boss stated his side were “unlucky not to win it in the end”, despite finding themselves 3-1 down at the interval in a “massive game of two halves”. Second half goals from Josh Taylor and James McShane, married with some Harrison Male heroics between the sticks earned Wanderers a memorable draw.
Nick Haughton opened the scoring for the hosts inside three minutes with a sweetly struck strike into the bottom corner after a sharp turn to beat Dan Pybus’ challenge. However the Fylde #10 quickly saw his opener cancelled out as James McShane poked the ball home from close range, the ball fell to Macca in the 6-yard-box following some meagre attempts from the Fylde backline to clear Hayden Hollis’ header back across goal. 1-1 with less than six minutes played suggested it was to be an entertaining spectacle for the cameras of TNT Sports to catch live, but it was the heroics of Male which made for the best viewing for much of the first half, stopping Chris Beech’s side from putting the game out of sight with a number of fine stops. Despite his stubbornness between the sticks, the Wanderers ‘keeper had no chance of preventing Luke Charman’s effort on the half hour mark, who, after darting to the near post, diverted a low cross underneath Male to put his side back in the ascendancy. Soon after, Jon Ustabasi put the hosts 3-1 up, driving home a fierce effort after being found by the wirey Haughton. With minutes left of the half, Taelor O’Kane thought he had made it four only to be denied by a wonder save from Male, who tipped the teenagers effort, which seemed destined to find the net, onto the crossbar. Some Wanderers changes in the second half helped alter the flow of the affair; Dan Gallagher and Luke Moore were introduced just after the restart, bringing added solidity to the spine of the team. With just over 20 minutes to play, and following a good spell for the visitors, McShane turned from scorer to provider, rounding off a neat Wanderers attack down the right-hand side with a cut-back to Josh Taylor, who maintained his 100% scoring record in front of TNT’s cameras with an effort too powerful for Theo Richardson in the Fylde net. White’s side continued to put pressure on a vulnerable Coasters backline, and were rewarded for their efforts with a stroke of luck in the origin of the leveller. Macca again in the right place at the right time to level the scoring once again with a rare header, the ball fell perfectly to our #10 following George Francomb’s marvellous free-kick which struck the bar, the defender agonisingly close to opening his scoring account for the campaign.
A contrast of emotions was evident from the Wanderers boss at full-time, who was concerned with his sides first half performance, but delighted with the “never say die Wanderers spirit” his men displayed. White also singled out the strong performances of Francomb and Male, while emphasising that it’s “a real positive” that last season’s top scorer, McShane, is back amongst the goals following his return from injury earlier this month. Results elsewhere meant Dorking moved down into 16th, three points adrift from the relegation zone.
Alfie Rutherford and Jimmy Muitt are ineligible for any further participation in the FA Trophy this season, their involvement in previous rounds with Bognor Regis Town marks the pair as cup-tied.
Matt Briggs (hamstring), Charlie Carter (broken wrist), Tom Blair (ankle), Jason Prior (leg) and Dan Pybus (shoulder) will remain sidelined with their respective injuries, Marc White confirming in his weekly update on Friday that three players from the Academy will be included in the matchday squad on Saturday.
Opposition Focus – The Magpies
Unlike Dorking, Alan Devonshire’s don’t go into this weekends clash with the luxury of a two-week break from competitive action, but will surely travel with elevated confidence after their 1-4 win at Oxford City last Saturday. The win moved The Magpies up to 13th in the league’s standings, two points above Wanderers and extending an unbeaten run in the league which stretches back to October.
Despite 129 years between the two clubs formations, Maidenhead and Wanderers share a similarity of the fifth tier being the highest either club has reached in their history. The Magpies’ recent run of form leaves them in a stellar position as we enter the festive period, five points separates them and the relegation zone, surely comforting viewing for Devonshire and the players, who narrowly avoided relegation last campaign by just one league position, and two points. However last season’s avoidance from relegation wasn’t the nearest The Magpies have come to demotion since their promotion back in 2016/17. In the COVID-struck 2019/20 campaign, where the season was curtailed and the outcome of the final standings was decided on a points per game basis, Maidenhead were spared by a margin of 0.002, as Ebbsfleet Untied dropped into the National League south.
Sam Barratt, who netted a brace in Maidenhead’s 1-4 dispatching of Oxford City last weekend, is one of a number of incomings at York Road this season. Barratt, having already spent a successful three years at the club between 2020 – 2023, arrived back in Berkshire on a short-term loan from Barnet last month. The Magpies have found joy in the PL2 market, with Casey Petit being an ever-present in midfield since arriving from Luton Town’s U21 side. Along with Petit, Crystal Palace academy product, David Omilabu also joined Devonshire’s side on a permanent basis.
Reece Smith is Maidenheads top scorer this campaign with an impressive tally of seven goals from midfield. While goalkeeper Craig Ross, who signed from Woking in the summer, has proved a shrewd addition in a defensively sound Maidenhead side.
Maidenhead were one of fifteen clubs to play in the inaugural campaign of the FA Trophy’s senior counterpart – the FA Cup, back in 1871/72. They went onto reach the quarter finals of the competition three times in the 1870’s.
Last Time We Met
A 10-man Magpies side picked up their first win of the season at Meadowbank in August earlier this year, leaving Dorking pointless after the opening two fixtures of the campaign. Shawn McCoulsky missed an open goal in the biggest chance of a first-half which ended 0-0, Maidenhead’s #9 would soon redeem himself though, cooly slotting his side into the lead on the hour mark after breaking clear of the Wanderers backline. Dorking’s pressure on the Magpies goal was compounded with Zico Asare receiving a second yellow card, however the visitors remained stubborn at the back and Ashley Nathaniel-George’s goal wrapped up the three points late in the game.
Priced at Adults £12, Cons £10, U18s £6 & U8s £4, secure your tickets online now:
Don’t forget our Family Ticket, where two adults and two children are able to watch the Wanderers take on Maidenhead for just £25!
*Reminder: Season Tickets are not valid for this cup fixture*
The printed programme remains in place for 23/24, available at the merchandise and food outlets on Saturday priced at £3!
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Visiting Fans Information
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