Exeter City face Salford City at St James Park for the first time on Saturday in a 1pm kick-off, looking to return to winning ways.
Ahead of the match, Sam Moakes picks three to look out for...
Ashley Eastham’s leadership credentials must have been well known to Salford City before his arrival, as it only took a handful of matches in the Covid-impacted season till he was named Club Captain ahead of the 2020/21 campaign.
The defender began his career at Blackpool,and played the role of the true Football League journeyman in a series of loan spells to Bury, Cheltenham and Notts County amongst others. 2013 saw him finally leave his parent club for good, penning a deal at Rochdale. He won promotion in his first season, but really found a home at Fleetwood Town.
This is where he first tasted captaincy, as a deputy under Joey Barton. Described by Barton as “part of our leadership group within the dressing room”, Eastham has presumably taken those traits into his captaincy at Moor Lane. The defender has so far played 31 matches for Salford, scoring once.
Now, having written on Salford City last year, I very much assumed that James Wilson would be filling one of these ‘key man’ spots. But having scored just once since Boxing Day, the goalscoring importance has largely fallen on the soldiers of veteran striker Ian Henderson.
The striker has started 34 of Salford’s 35 matches, scoring 11 goals – joint-twelfth highest in the league – and notching up five assists. One of his biggest performances this campaign came against the then-league leaders Cambridge United, as he netted a brace and also assisted the other two goals in a 4-1 Salford victory back in February.
He achieved a 9.3 rating that day but has only scored twice since. Regardless, Henderson has been a serial goalscorer in the league since his career started in 2001, with 155 to his name, so should be one to watch out for in this matchup. Ashley Hunter has also had an admirable season going forward, with 11 goal contributions.
It would take a more foolish man than I to ignore Salford’s defensive feats this season. So, another key man I have chosen is Václav Hladký; the man between the sticks. That’s not the sort of name League Two fans may have be used to, in and amongst the John Smiths of the league, but he has more than proved he fits in since arriving in the summer of 2020.
The goalkeeper only made a handful of appearances in his native Czech Republic before arriving at St. Mirren in January of 2019. After impressing in Scotland, many thought he would be destined for a Championship move as the keeper insisted his spell helped him for a “big dream” move to England, but it was Salford who won the race to signing him last year. Hladký has kept a clean sheet in 16 of 35 matches this year – second in the league with no goals conceded in 46% of Salford matches.