You wouldn’t blame the players of Southport and Solihull Moors if they had a gentleman’s agreement to go easy in their FA Trophy encounter.
Both sides have big FA Cup replays coming up next week – Southport welcoming Tranmere Rovers and Solihull travelling to Blackpool in the second round.
And the third round reward is on the table. If Port get past Rovers then they take on Premier League giants Tottenham Hotspur. For Moors, the prize is a home date with another big gun, Arsenal.
Of course, competitive football doesn’t work like that and come 3pm both sides will no doubt be doing their all to progress.
Also, what better way to go into their biggest games of the season than with a confidence boosting win?
National League North Southport unquestionably pose a threat to Solihull but the Moors are flying high in the National League. A Trophy run is a realistic target for the Midlands club. After an FA Cup one, of course.
When the bookies compiled the odds for this year’s FA Trophy, the names Ebbsfleet United and Dagenham & Redbridge won’t have been too far from favouritism.
Indeed, with both clubs ensconced in mid-table at the halfway point of the season – and gradually improving – bosses Garry Hill and Peter Taylor may relish a lengthy cup run to bring a trophy-laden end to their first year at the helm.
After spending five years in charge of the east London club, Fleet boss Hill has a close affinity with the Daggers but tomorrow he has the job of plotting their downfall when they meet in the first round at Stonebridge Road.
Since taking over as manager from Daryl McMahon on November 8, Fleet have only lost once in seven matches – to League 2 Cheltenham Town in an FA Cup replay – and have won three of their last four.
Dagenham, with new owners now making their mark, have gone one better, losing one in their last eight and would love to give boss Taylor another taste of Wembley where his office as England manager once lie (for one match, against Italy, in 2000).
Priority will be the key word at Stonebridge Road tomorrow but whoever shows the most ambition to progress could be a major player in this year’s competition.
Away from the FA Trophy, the only game taking place in National League North has caught my eye.
Struggling Darlington visit a Chorley side who will move back to the top of the league should they win for a sixth time this season at Victory Park.
Starting with the hosts, they came flying out of the blocks under new boss Jamie Vermiglio but a five-game winless run saw them sacrifice their lead to Bradford Park Avenue.
They forced a replay with Doncaster in the FA Cup last month although were beaten 7-0 at the Keepmoat Stadium, but then bounced back to dish out a drubbing of their own, winning 4-0 at Kidderminster.
Chorley are now unbeaten in their last three and how their opponents would love to be battling it out at the top with them.
Instead, Darlington have been unable to build on their mid-table finish in what is Tommy Wright’s first full season in charge.
Last weekend’s humiliating defeat at home to rock bottom Nuneaton Borough left many fans calling for Wright’s dismissal and questioning the players’ commitment.
Darlo can at least take confidence from the fact they have only lost twice on the road.