FC Halifax Town vs Dorking Wanderers
Saturday 16th September
Another trip up North awaits Dorking this weekend as 5th place Halifax Town welcome Marc White’s side to The Shay Stadium, looking to build on last weekend’s 0-0 draw at Oldham Athletic.
A second goalless draw on the spin for Wanderers may represent a gradual steadiness coming into the side, their resolute nature under difficult circumstances was heralded by White in his weekly catch up broadcast on Friday afternoon, the manager stating “it was a good clean sheet, building blocks”. Given the paradoxical nature of last seasons performances, the Wanderers boss may welcome some consistency, not least, as reiterated in his latest update, that the team and club are very much in the process of “transitioning to a different model”.
Amidst scorching temperatures at Boundary Park, the manger's problems began to rise in cohesion, as he was tasked with losing Niall McManus and his captain Barry Fuller with just six minutes of football played. McManus picked up a minor injury in the warm-up which meant Bobby-Joe Taylor came into the side, forcing a reshuffle before a ball was kicked. Further confusion ensued when Fuller pulled up following a challenge for the ball, his early departure from proceedings meant Ryan Seager was introduced, taking up an unfamiliar role on the right wing as Bobby-Joe dropped into the back three. The Wanderers boss would then go on to receive a red card just ten minutes later for kicking the ball away, rounding off a chaotic first quarter of an hour. On a “great, challenging day” as described by White, where chances were at a premium across the game, his injury stricken side may have felt aggrieved to have not taken all three points back down south. Jason Prior headed an effort goal bound after meeting Seb Bowerman’s cross, Oldham keeper Matt Hudson getting a hand to the effort but the nearby Wanderers players appealing strongly that the ball had already crossed the line, referee Richard Aspinall waving the claims away. The Latics had a wonderful opportunity to snatch all three points very late in the day as Kurt Willoughby hit a close range effort over the crossbar in the dying minutes.
In his weekly update, White confirmed that Barry Fuller (hamstring) and Luke Moore (knee) are both set to be sidelined for a month, but there is expectation that Niall McManus and Matt Briggs are available to return and be involved for Tuesday’s match against Wealdstone at Meadowbank. Briggs’ return in particular offers some much needed options on the flanks, with Jimmy Muitt still a few weeks away from making his return.
In other wide-man related news, Wanderers this week announced the signing of winger Tom Blair from Havant & Waterloovlle. The 24-year-old, who was involved in Southampton's youth set-up, will wear No29 and is set to be involved in this weekend's match day squad. White described him as an “out and out winger” with an “exceptional delivery”.
Opposition Focus: The Shaymen
Last season represented Halfiax’s lowest finish in the National League since 2018/19, finishing 11th in Chris Millington’s first season in charge. Millington, who replaced Pete Wild, stepped up from his role as assistant manager following a strong 2021/22 campaign for the Shaymen, finishing 4th with 84 points before losing out to Chesterfield in the playoffs, Wild going on to manage League Two’s Barrow following Halifax’s strong campaign. Despite dropping back in the league standings, The Shaymen did finish the campaign with silverware, winning the FA Trophy for the second time in the club's history after defeating Gateshead 1-0 at Wembley, Jamie Cooke scoring the decisive goal just before half-time.
Millington has enjoyed a stellar start to his second season at the helm, his side currently sitting in 5th place in the table, the sides only defeat coming in their first away game of the campaign against Boreham Wood. They have since gone on to draw four out of the following six matches and boast the best defensive record in the league, conceding just six goals in eight games.
A number of notable additions to the squad over the summer include a quartet of EFL talent in former Bolton Wanderers defender Adam Senior, who joins following a loan spell last term, Grimsby Town winger Max Wright and forward Aaron Cosgrave, who departs AFC Wimbledon after loan spells at the likes of Southend United and Kings Lynn. Moving in the other direction in the close season have been the likes of defender Jack Senior to Doncaster Rovers (no relation to Adam), striker Jordan Slew to Morcombe and midfielder Kian Spence, one of the goalscorers in last season's corresponding fixture who has re-united with boss Pete Wild at Barrow.
Last Time We Met
On what was a cold Wednesday evening in Halifax last December, Wanderers ran out 3-1 losers on one of the more disappointing away days of the campaign. Goals from Jamie Cooke, Kian Spence and Tyler Golden gave the hosts a commanding lead, Ryan Seager’s close range finish with around ten minutes to play ultimately a consolation as Wanderers dropped down to 17th place with just one win in eight at the time.
The Wanderers squad making the trip to The Shay Stadium this Saturday will look very different to that of last December. A jubilant and optimistic Marc White alluded to the progression within the club as he revealed the squad were making the trip up North on Friday, more optimal preparation compared to last term as Wanderers strive to match the ever-improving standards throughout the division.
Tickets are available on the turnstiles for this Saturday's match, priced at: Adults £21, Cons £18, Age 12-17 £9, U12s £4.
Guide to The Shay: