Eastbourne Borough head west on Saturday in National South to face Gloucester City, at the start of a December which will see the Sports clock up some 850 miles on the road.
Away trips to Braintree, Dover and Whitehawk are on the schedule later in the month.
The Gloucester fixture is Borough’s second furthest, after Truro – and the Tigers do not even play in Gloucester. Homeless since their own ground, close to the River Severn, was swamped by floods in 2007, they have been plagued by planning and environmental issues, and expect finally to return during the 2018-19 season. Evesham United – 20 miles north of the city – is their fourth and current temporary home.
The Tigers held their own for several seasons in National North before being switched to the South division this season, and they are struggling. With team finances cut to the bone while the new ground is built, Gloucester have probably the lowest playing budget in National South, and background issues make them a troubled club.
Jamie Howell’s squad will travel with fresh morale after Tuesday night’s FA Trophy dramatics. “We’ve had a few ups and downs in recent weeks, but I was delighted with the response, the commitment, the character of all the lads. Strange surroundings, gritty opponents – that Royston side would have turned over plenty of higher-ranked teams on the night. We re-found our self-belief.”
Howell has been quite short of bodies, but that is about to change. “We are negotiating for four players, and a couple of those may well be on board by Saturday.
Supporters have understandably been keen for news, but it takes time – identifying not just any players but the right players, dealing with their current clubs, possibly releasing them from a contract, or agreeing a start date if it’s a loan.
“In addition, we have Yemi Odubade almost back to full fitness, and we have some genuinely promising youngsters knocking on the door. Harry Ransom and Tyler Pearson were key players for me on Tuesday night and there are at least three other Academy boys whom I would trust in a first-team shirt.
“So we should be moving from a quite skeletal squad to a proper depth of squad. This is a really busy month – five league games, plus FA Trophy and Senior Cup, between now and New Year’s Day – so we will need a big pool.”
Lloyd Dawes remains sidelined after coming off injured last Saturday and will miss the Gloucester game. Kiran Khinda-John suffered a dislocated thumb during the Royston replay but is expected to be fit.
After the Gloucester trip, the Sports are back at Priory Lane on Tuesday night (7.45pm) in an appetising Sussex Senior Cup tie against Worthing, who began the season in disarray but have rallied recently under manager – and Howell’s brother-in-law – Adam Hinshelwood. Expect no family favours!