Oldham Athletic and Eastleigh make a return to National League action for the first time in 14 days when both sides meet at Boundary Park.
After a brief break in league action which saw the first round of FA Cup games played out, football in the fifth tier resumes for matchday 19 on Saturday where Oldham will look for a route back into the winning column.
A disappointing 2-0 defeat at League Two side Newport County last weekend saw Latics drop out of the FA Cup though attention will be turned to the National League where the chase for the playoff spots remains finely balanced.
Shane McCoughlin was the one who punished Oldham with two well taken strikes. Matthew Bondswell’s low cross was met by McCoughlin after Latics failed to clear, firing a driven shot into the bottom corner.
Both Joe Nuttall and Alex Reid were thwarted by strong Nick Townsend saves before Newport’s midfielder sealed the victory after arrowing a terrific strike into the bottom corner from 25 yards.
The result has seen Oldham remain without a win in their last three in all competitions, whilst boss Micky Mellon will find a victory imperative particularly at Boundary Park where his side have picked up three successive draws.
More dropped points will be costly for any side in the midfield scrap that separates fifth and nineteenth by just nine points. A victory this weekend would be vital for Oldham whose opponents sit directly below them, whilst it could see them climb as high as eighth though Gateshead would have to suffer a heavy defeat for that to happen.
Eastleigh meanwhile ended a two-game run of defeats with an emphatic 5-1 win over Boreham Wood in their first round FA Cup tie. The home side raced into a 3-1 lead in the first half courtesy of goals from Nigel Atangana, Chris Maguire and Ludwig Francillette.
With just over a quarter of an hour played Atangana rifled Eastleigh in front before Matt Robinson capitalised on a poor clearance by curling an accurate effort into the corner to equalise just a minute later.
In what was a rapid start to the game, the home side restored their advantage with 22 minutes gone. Jake Tyler found himself down the right side inside the box where he picked out Maguire who volleyed home.
Centre half Francillette meanwhile got in on the act after latching onto a well taken free kick from the right to tap in from close range to give the Spitfires a two-goal cushion.
The defender meanwhile wasn’t done there in front of goal. He connected well with a header that met Lee Hodson’s smart cross to add a fourth for the home side following a fine display.
Perhaps the only blemish on an otherwise top performance saw Jayden Harris dismissed following a late challenge with just under 20 minutes to go. The red didn’t deter Eastleigh however who notched a fifth to cap it all off.
Maguire grabbed his brace in injury time, netting perhaps the best of the lot after latching onto a long pass before sitting two Boreham defenders down and smashing home.
It rounded off an impressive but important victory for the Spitfires who had previously lost successive National League games to Maidenhead United and Woking. The win did however mean Eastleigh have now won five of their last six at the Silverlake Stadium.
An upcoming trip to Boundary Park meanwhile will be an opportunity for Eastleigh to improve on their recent record away from home. Three defeats in their previous five visits to National League grounds provides room for improvement for a side whose only away wins have come in their last five trips.
They have however been a ruthless outfit in front of goal in recent weeks, 14 goals in their last six league games have made them a dangerous predicament for opposing sides like Oldham this weekend who will look to slow that run on Saturday.
It would be frankly ignorant to not take a keen view at 30-year-old forward Paul McCallum who has been lighting up the National League so far this season.
12 goals in 13 starts this campaign has seen Eastleigh’s number nine roar to the top of the scoring charts in England’s fifth tier and become crucial to the Spitfires’ season.
McCallum has been in red hot form particularly in recent weeks, where the Englishman has found the net seven times in his last five appearances for the club, which included a hat-trick against Ebbsfleet United.
His performance in that game had a bit of everything in the box from the centre forward, who equalised for his side with a clever diving header that he guided past the Ebbsfleet keeper before instinctively latching onto the rebound to prod home the second.
McCallum’s third really highlighted his taste for a headed goal but his movement and positioning proved pivotal to secure the third, peeling away to back post to head back across goal to find the corner.
The forward is enjoying his most prolific National League campaign since the 2021/22 season where he bagged 18 times in 36 appearances for Dagenham & Redbridge, though he is well on course to beat that record just six shy having played 23 games fewer.
In what is his second spell at the club, McCallum is now approaching half a century of goals for the club in 83 appearances, whilst Oldham will be hoping to stop a striker who is at the top of his game.
In the dugout
Richard Hill returned to his role as permanent manager at the end of September following a brief interim spell after Lee Bradbury’s dismissal came just five games into the season.
Hill is now in the hot seat at the Silverlake Stadium for the second time after being manager from 2012 to 2015 that saw the 60-year-old lead the club to a National League playoff semi-final appearance.
He then returned to Eastleigh as caretaker manager in 2017 though since took on roles behind the scenes mainly as Director of Football. A two-year stint as Head of Football Operations at Sunderland came before his return as manager at Eastleigh where he has officially taken charge of seven fixtures.
His side picked up 11 points from the seven initial games he oversaw as interim though since his official appointment Eastleigh have collected four wins from seven with a fifth in sight when they take on Oldham at the weekend.
Today's referee is Aaron Farmer, with Neil Evans and Zhahir Mustafa taking up the roles of linesmen. Sam Bragg will be the fourth official.
Match coverage and information
Live audio commentary is available on Latics Player, guiding you through the match.
Alternatively, supporters can also follow the game with live updates on the club's official Twitter account: @OfficialOAFC
As this game is being played within the blocked broadcast hours stipulated by UEFA, live streaming will not be available through National League TV for supporters in the UK. The game will be available overseas.
As always, we will endeavour to ensure confirmation of the line-up is published as soon as possible.
However, supporters should note that team sheets in the National League are exchanged 15 minutes later than in the EFL and as a result, the line-up is likely to be published slightly later than in previous seasons.