FA CUP PREVIEW: Luton Town v Solihull Moors
Solihull Moors have already enjoyed their fair sprinkling of FA Cup magic this year, by knocking out League Two Yeovil Town in the first round to set up the trip to Kenilworth Road.
They did it the hard way too, as with 52 minutes gone at Huish Park, Moors were trailing 2-0 to the Glovers and on their way out, before the hosts crucially had Kevin Dawson dismissed.
Moors took full advantage, as Jack Byrne’s double saw them level within eight minutes to force a replay at the catchily named Automated Technology Group Stadium.
Yet again, they fell behind in injury time to former Luton trialist Francois Zoko, before top scorer Akwasi Asante scored from the spot to set up a penalty shoot-out as Moors held their nerve to go through 4-2.
Solihull had no such trouble in the previous round, knocking out Southern League Premier Division side Kettering 3-1 on home soil.
Moors have have only been in operation for nine years themselves, after being formed from the merger of Moor Green and Solihull Borough in 2007.
After spending nine seasons in what was then the Conference North, the Birmingham side currently ply their trade in the National League after securing promotion to the fifth tier of English football for the first time in their short history by winning National League North last season, finishing nine points clear of North Ferriby United
Solihull made an excellent start to life in their new surroundings, winning three of their first five games, with one defeat at Wrexham.
They then went on a run of seven games without a win, losing four, including 4-0 at York and 5-2 against Dagenham, before ending that in style, hammering Maidstone 4-2 and seeing off Southport 4-0 at home.
Such success over the last few years has seen a change at the top, with manager Marcus Bignot, who took over in June 2011, and led them go the title last season, left the club last month to take over at League Two side Grimsby Town.
The club appointed another impressive young manager, with Hednesford’s Liam McDonald filling Bignot’s boots as he started with a 3-2 home defeat against Dover, before the cup heroics at Yeovil.
Defeats at Barrow and Torquay followed, before McDonald picked up his first league win, a 2-0 victory over North Ferriby United, while a 0-0 draw at Southport in arctic conditions on Tuesday night sees Moors up to 16th in the table, six points away from the drop zone.
Since taking over, McDonald has already made two signings, the first an eye-catching one with former Wrexham defender Curtis Obeng joining.
The 27-year-old had been at Altrincham, but is a former England U19 international who was snapped up by Premier League Swansea City in 2012 after impressing with Wrexham, although left the Swans without featuring for the first team.
Meanwhile, the new Moors chief also went back to his former club to bring midfielder George Carline to the club as well, to bolster his squad.
Team news: Luton are once again at full strength for the game, with just long-term injuries Danny Green and Nathan Doyle missing.
Top scorers: Hatters: Danny Hylton (12). Moors: Akwasi Asante (12).
Milestones: Central defender Johnny Mullins is in line for the 500th appearance of his career if he plays tomorrow.
The 31-year-old started his career at Reading and has played for Kidderminster, Mansfield, Stockport, Rotherham and Oxford, before joining Luton in the summer.
Defender Stephen O’Donnell is still awaiting his 50th game in a Luton shirt too.
Man in the middle: Christopher Sarginson - taken 18 games so far this term, including eight League One matches, with 52 yellows and two reds.
Had the whistle for Luton twice last term, the 4-1 defeat at AFC Wimbledon, plus a 3-1 victory over Morecambe.
Prior to that, has officiated Luton four other times, with three wins over Newport County (4-2), Corby Town (4-2) and Notts County (2-0), plus a 1-1 draw with Chester, when he sent off Kevin Roberts,
Assistant referees are Andrew Newbold and Michael Webb, with the fourth official Adam Crysell.
In charge: Liam McDonald - 31-year-old began his playing career at Worcester City and had spells with Hednesford, Barwell, Kettering Town and Tamworth, where he was a member of The Lambs’ famous run to the FA Cup third round proper, before hanging up his boots at the age of 27.
Played against Luton in the 2011-12 season when Stuart Fleetwood, Janos Kovacs and a Francino Francis OG saw the hosts 3-0 winners.
McDonald’s first job came at Redditch United, where he stayed for three years, before being was installed as Hednesford Town boss in May this year.
However, once Marcus Bignot left to join Grimsby, McDonald took over, leaving the Pitmen fourth in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier Division.
View from the opposition: Manager Liam McDonald talking to the FA.com: “It’s a great draw for us, and as soon as I got into the club there was this huge FA Cup fever and everybody has been excited about this for weeks.
“It’s 100 per cent winnable and the players know that, the carrot is dangled for the third round – these guys could be playing the teams they support and that determination will drive the lads on.
“We’ll play with that freedom, this is the biggest game I’ve ever managed in and that’s hugely exciting from a personal point of view.
“It will be a proud day. If someone said to me three years ago I’d be managing a National League side in this round of the FA Cup it would have been a dream, but this is now my reality.”
Played for both: Craig Hinton - former Birmingham City trainee had spells at Kidderminster, making over 200 appearances, and Bristol Rovers, before joining Northampton.
Loaned to Luton in November 2010 and made just two appearances in the FA Trophy matches with Welling United.
Returned to Northampton in January 2011 and went back to Bristol Rovers as assistant boss in March 2011, before joining Solihull Moors in August 2011 and became number two to Marcus Bignot in the 2012-13 season.
Left to take up a coaching role at West Bromwich Albion Academy U15s and U16s, before taking the Northampton Town U18s, leaving to take up a position with the Football Association earlier this year.
One to watch: Akwasi Asante - 24-year-old striker, who came through the ranks at Birmingham, although left St Andrews with just one first team appearance, that in the Europa League for the Blues back in August 2011 against Nacional, replacing Chris Burke in the 88th minute.
Went on loan to Northampton, netting once for the Cobblers in a 2-1 win at Morecambe and had spells at Shrewsbury and Kidderminster, before dropping down to Solihull in August 2015, scoring 17 times as the club won National League North.
Impressed this year, with back-to-back hat-tricks against Maidstone and Southport, while has netted five in his last six games, with a double against North Ferriby, to make it 12 for the season.
We’ve got form: This will be the first competitive meeting between the two sides.