The road to Wembley begins for Salford City as they travel to Merseyside to take on Marine in the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup.
This is the last hurdle in English Football’s most prestigious competition, with a win ensuring a place in the draw for the first-round proper, and a potential tie with a Football league side.
Salford go into the game looking extremely confident. The Ammies sit at the top of the Vanarama National League in just their first season in the competition. Graham Alexander’s side are unbeaten in their last 14 competitive games in all competitions, with their last defeat coming way back in August against Sutton United.
Last time out Salford recorded a dramatic 2-2 draw thanks to a late equaliser from in-form striker Rory Gaffney. Alexander’s side will be aiming to better this result on Saturday and ensure that the game against Marine is far more comfortable.
Marine Football Club currently sit 18th place in the Evo-Stik premier division with just 13 points from their 12 games this season. The Merseyside-based clubs last victory was in the FA Cup third round qualifier, seeing off FA Trophy holders Brackley Town in an exciting 3-2 win. Marine haven’t managed to capitalise on their cup success though, losing 3-1 to Matlock Town and drawing 0-0 with Whitby Town since.
Salford City manager Graham Alexander spoke about the excitement around the Fa Cup as well as his experiences. He said:
“It’s a special competition for anyone in English football. The history and tradition of it is there for any football lover from the youngest age. Everybody can remember their own club having good cup runs or one particular game, so to be involved in it as a player, a coach or a manager it is always a special occasion.
“We have to take the competition out of the equation when we are focusing on the game. But i think it always gets the blood pumping a bit when you go into the FA Cup, it is a special competition.”
Alexander also spoke about the challenge of facing a lower league side, as well as how he plans to react after failing to win last weekend.
“If we take our foot off the peddle, even a couple of notches, we put ourselves at risk of not getting the result we want.
“I think it has been a really productive week. Obviously with the run we have been on, winning a lot of games and winning them well, Saturday was a little bit of a reality check for us.
“We spoke about it straight after the game about learning from it and we’ve put things into place. The players have spoken about it as well, the things they could have done better, and we’re looking for an improvement on the performance and the result.
The former Preston player went on to clarify that this competition is not a break for Salford, and they will be taking it extremely seriously.
“It’s certainly not a break. It’s a change in competition but it is not a break. We need to keep the same focus and same mentality going into each game. Saturday for me is just as big a game as last week and i know the players are desperate to do well as well.”
Striker Adam Rooney stands out clearly as a key man for Salford this season. The former Oldham Athletic and Aberdeen forward shocked football fans with a move from the SPL to Salford City this summer, and has hit the ground running in the National league. The prolific forward has 12 goals already this season in the league, and will be keen to open his FA Cup account. Rooney has previous experience of playing in the FA Cup with Oldham Athletic and Birmingham City and will be looking to make that experience count.
Central midfielder Craig Carney will be crucial for Marine if they wish to cause an upset and prevent Salford from reaching the first round draw. The creative midfielder has already hit the net 5 times this season, making him the clubs top scorer. Salford will also want to keep an eye on winger Finlay Sinclair-Smith. He scored twice in the last round of the FA Cup.
Unfinished business in the FA Cup
Salford City and the FA Cup have previous history. The Ammies shot on to the National scene in 2015 as they defeated Notts County in the first-round proper of the FA Cup, live on BBC television. The result was the biggest in the clubs history at the time, and really helped raise awareness of the meteoric rise through the lower leagues of English football.
Since then they have failed to recreate this magic. One year later, Salford fell short to Stockport County in the third qualifying round. Then in 2017 it was a very similar story, with the Ammies losing to York City in the second round of qualifying.
Now though it’s different. With the team thriving in their first season in the National League, two of the hottest strikers in the country and a strong fan base behind them, Salford will believe that they can reach the first-round proper again and push on to make more FA Cup magic.
Where and when
The match kicks off at 3pm at Marines Rosset Park. Fans can pay on the gate, with Adults tickets priced at just £10, and concessions at £5.