Salford City will have a well-timed break from league football when they travel to the Horsefall stadium to play Bradford Park Avenue tomorrow in the second qualifying round of the FA Cup.
Saturday’s match is also be the first step towards rekindling the cup fever which swept the city last year, as Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley’s men were mere minutes away from taking the club to the third round.
The team made national headlines when they knocked out League Two’s Notts County live on the BBC in last year’s competition.
3.5 million people watched live that night, and the Salford side even had the backing of the bookies with Betway putting them 14-1 to be the last non-league side standing.
That year’s stunning run included a tense second-round draw at Hartlepool but Ammies’ hearts were broken when United scored two late goals in the replay.
And in this rematch of last year’s third qualifying round tie, Salford will be hoping for a thoroughly professional job to avoid a replay at Moor Lane.
Theoretically they should have it in the bag, with a better squad now playing at a higher level.
Had Salford beat Hartlepool in their replay, they would have met Football League royalty in Derby County.
Now with an improved side on paper from the one that breezed past the likes of Southport and Notts County, the promised land of a third round tie at Old Trafford, or the Class of ’92 travelling to the lions den of Anfield is still an achievable dream.
That said, Salford do not go into this game in good form as far as the league’s concerned.
The Ammies have lost two straight matches and haven’t won in three, a run which has seen them slip from first place to outside the play-off spots.
Whilst a dip in form is hardly an excuse to start handing out the P45s it does in theory pile pressure on co-managers Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley.
And if the last three performances are anything to go by, it could be easier said than done.
The difficulty is that Salford’s long-term expectations are rather difficult to gauge.
It’s clear from the Class of ’92 that they want to be in the Football League, however there’s no apparent time frame for that goal becoming a reality.
Current National League North leaders AFC Fylde, by contrast, have made clear their aspirations of making it to the promised land by 2022.
Salford were well beaten for the second time this season by a Chorley outfit that lined up in exactly the same way Kidderminster did in their 1-0 victory last Saturday: they wait for Salford’s midfield to over-commit to their fluid build up play and break with purpose on the counter.
That said, Bradford Park Avenue don’t have the big guns to pose a realistic threat to City.
The Yorkshire team is dearly missing Chib Chilaka and they currently sit at the foot of the Vanarama National League North.
But with strong home support expected in Bradford and the magic of the cup in the air anything can happen…and as always, it usually does.
Main image: Fans celebrate in last year’s stunning FA Cup run – Charlotte Tattersall/@SalfordFCPhotos