WHAT is it with Ian McDonald and the FA Trophy?

In his three previous attempts at the competition, he has tasted final success twice and now could be on the verge of a quick-fire hat-trick.

Victory over in-form Halifax Town on Saturday was a momentous day in the new-look Farnborough Town.

Not only was it McDonald's first win in charge but it also proved that his tiny squad of players still have the commitment and ability to mix it with the best that the non-League game has to offer.

Next on the agenda, however, is a home tie with a banana-skin look about it as Doc Martens League leaders Tamworth - victors over three Conference sides already this season - come to town on March 15.

While the rest of the Conference high-fliers have fallen like dominoes this season, Boro now find themselves just three games and two rounds from a trip to Villa Park - in what would be their second visit to a Premiership ground in four months.

Trophy success under Geoff Chapple with Kingstonian in 1999 and 2000 — with Geoff Pitcher and Gary Patterson playing key roles — helped launch Ian McDonald into the elite.

Now, on this showing, teams will fear coming to Cherrywood Road and Macca's the man to watch, as Boro look to surpass all previous achievements and reach the semi-finals for the first time ever.

The boss said: "My luck in this competition has been sitting close to Geoff Chapple for such a long time, hopefully his luck has rubbed off on me.

"As much as it's nice to win and progress in the Trophy, I'd swap it for three points against Doncaster tonight any time.

"The boys have played well in my short spell here but the one thing we've done better today [Saturday] is the way we dug in when under the cosh. There were 12 heroes out there.

"We're playing against one of the top sides in the league, who train full time, and I think that showed at times.

"But we knew it was going to be difficult and we dug in. We rode our luck a little bit at times but in the end it was us who looked the more likely to score."

Macca's guidance passed third top Halifax was all the more impressive as he only had 13 fully fit players to play with.

With Pitcher, Stuart Reeks, Ronnie Girvan and Paul Harkness all ineligible and Dean Green only half fit, Macca's options were limited to say the least and the starting eleven all but picked itself.

It did mean a change in tactics, however, as Joff Vansittart's introduction steered Macca towards choosing an attacking 4-3-3 formation with Rocky Baptiste enjoying a free role behind the big front two of Vansittart and Ken Charlery.

Indeed, such were Macca's problems, he could only name four substitutes with young Mark Ayres coming into the first team squad for the first time this season.

The return of Chris Piper and Christian Lee from suspension was a massive boost, however, as they slotted in superbly at the back.

But bookings for Piper and Darren Annon means that both will miss the quarter-final clash, leaving Macca with an even bigger headache.

The attacking formation didn't take long to click as the aerial ability, pace and strength of the front three began to cause Halifax problems.

Baptiste forced a brave early save from Shaymen keeper Lee Butler while he and Charlery combined to set up a chance for Lenny Piper, whose near post effort flew just wide of the upright.

Brain Quailey then should have done better with a free looping header which suffered the same fate, and Boro soon made him pay with the opening goal on 18 minutes.

Tony Taggart's cross from the left was only half cleared to the feet of Lenny Piper, who drilled in an effort from 20 yards. Butler could only parry and the ball landed at the feet of Baptiste, who made no mistake from eight yards.

Good Boro pressure forced Halifax into making a number of crucial defensive blocks, most notably from Vansittart while Lee should have done better with a close range header from Charlery's near-post flick-on which cleared the crossbar.

A second goal had to come and with the clock ticking down to half time it eventually arrived.

Taggart again started the move with a ball into the box, Charlery flicked on, and after a kind ricochet off the body of Baptiste, Vansittart finished off with a rasping shot at the near post which flew into the roof of the net.

Somehow, however, you got the feeling that Boro's work hadn't been done yet, and it was no surprise to see the Shaymen bomb forward after the break in search of a comeback.

Boro did, as Macca rightly said, ride their luck a little at times but it was luck they deserved, especially as Lee and Darren Annon defended so stoutly.

Annon, in particular, got a toe to everything as he has ever since Macca took charge, and although Tony Pennock was forced into a couple of crucial blocks and a fine save to deny Mark Monington's far post header, Boro were coping with backs firmly against the wall.

Moningotn then came closest to pulling a goal back with a shot which rebounded off the post to Quailey, who blazed the rebound over, while substitute Andy Farrell twice went close himself with efforts which just missed the target.

But as the half went on and the clock ticked down, Boro got more assured. In fact the longer it went on, the more it looked as if it was they who would bag the crucial third goal to all but kill the game.

Both Baptiste and substitute Green fired across the face of the goal with efforts from tight angles, while Vansittart just looped over from close range after more good work by Baptiste.

Halifax frustrations spilled over in the dying seconds, leaving referee Desmond to book Annon, Farrell and Simon Parke for their part in an ugly 19-man brawl in the penalty box, but it did little to dampen Boro spirits as they continued their impressive cup record to date.

Only the mighty Arsenal have triumphed over Boro in the two main cup competitions this season, and on this showing, Tamworth will need a performance of similar proportions to stop them in their tracks.

BORO: Pennock; C Piper, Taggart, Annon, Lee, Patterson, L Piper, Butterworth (sub Green 72mins), Charlery, Baptiste, Vansittart. Not used: Potter, Osborn, Ayres.

l Farnborough Town are also in action next Tuesday when they make the re-arranged trip to Leigh RMI (ko 7.45pm).

First though, the reserves are in action tomorrow night when they entertain Ashford Town (Middx) in the semi-final of the Aldershot Senior Cup (ko 7.45pm).

l A formal shareholder's meeting has been called following a behind-closed-doors meeting of the new-look Steering Committee last Wednesday, detailing the club's finances in the wake of Graham Westley's departure.

Some pre-1999 shareholders are not happy with the current situation and information that has been given, prompting a formal request to be made to General Manager Vince Williams.

The meeting is expected to take place within the next week.