A RECORD-EQUALLING unbeaten run. Third-placed in the division with three games in hand. Challenging for a place in the FA Cup second round proper.

Buxton’s form has hardly been manager-sacking material - and yet that is exactly what happened to ex-Bucks boss Gary Hayward and his assistant, Mark Ward earlier this week.

The Buxton board confirmed on Monday the pair had left the club. Another message on Twitter, from assistant Ward, suggested that the decision came in relation to his intention to take a pandemic-postponed family holiday that would have seen him miss the first round Cup clash at York City today.

He and manager Hayward had a sterling season at Silverlands. The pair guided the Bucks to within seven points of Northern Premier League premier division top spot and, on the way, equalled a 63-year-old club record for games without defeat.

Since the start of the season, Buxton went 20 games without loss in all competitions, including claiming the scalp of perennial promotion-contenders South Shields thanks to Ashley Chambers’ goal in a 1-0 win in the North East on October 23.

Sadly for Hayward and Ward, their bid for a club record and an exalted spot in the Buxton annals was ended on home soil at the weekend, when Colne beat them 2-1 in the FA Trophy.

The men tasked with keeping up Buxton’s push for promotion to National League North are former Curzon Ashton manager Steve Cunningham and his assistant Damian Crossley, who will take charge of today’s (3pm) trip to the LNER Community Stadium.

Cunningham and Crossley gave the Nash a superb start to the season - but theirs too is a tale of managerial machinations.

With Curzon sitting in the National League North play-off spots, the pair were dismissed in the middle of October by the board after they claimed to have found out the managers were in talks with another club.

Whatever the circumstances of their departure and quickfire arrival, the two have a perfect chance to write themselves into the lore of a thrilling campaign for Buxton fans.

They have inherited an experienced squad which features the likes of free-scoring Diego De Girolamo, Chambers and Northern Ireland international Jamie Ward. The trio have 32 goals between them already this season.

Leicester youth player Chambers made more than 120 appearances for York across two spells, first on loan from the Foxes and then as a permanent signing, scoring 21 goals.

Before joining Buxton, the well-travelled Chambers had signed at Brackley Town after making 42 appearances for National League North outfit Kidderminster Harriers between 2018 and 2020.

De Girolamo made 12 appearances for the Minstermen across three loan spells from from Sheffield United between 2014 and 2015, scoring four goals.

As well as the Blades, the Italian youth international has been at Bristol City and Macclesfield Town but seems to have made a home at Silverlands, where he has been since 2018. He scored the opener in Buxton’s 2-1 home defeat to City in the 2019/20 FA Cup third round qualifying.

A product of the Aston Villa academy, Ward made 125 appearances for Championship outfit Derby County. He was the Rams’ top goalscorer in the 2012/13 season.

Ward joined Buxton ahead of this season from Solihull Moors.