The match action continues to come thick and fast, in what is proving an eventful and topsy-turvy league campaign, and with the latest round of fixtures completed over the weekend, our resident pundit BILL WATERSON delves into the drama to bring you the lowdown on who fared well and who didn’t.
Saturday saw Matchday 16 in the Vanarama National League North, and the weekend threw up more than its fair share of surprises in a division that has already shown a propensity for raising eyebrows. The 11 fixtures produced five draws and six away wins, with five sendings-off included for good measure.
The team who came closest to a home victory were Hereford, who were, of course, denied by an 89th-minute strike from Josh Hancock that sent the 100 or so raucous, vocal Alty fans home in good spirit. Although we dropped to 10th because of the solitary point in a 1-1 draw, we cemented our position in second place in the form table, with our next league opponents Chester having earned one more point than us from the last six league fixtures. To put this into some context, however, the bottom three in the form table are Alfreton Town, Hereford and Nuneaton Borough.
At the top of the league table, the Chorley blip has now grown to five games without a win after Spennymoor Town came from behind to triumph 2-1 at Victory Park. Chorley are still top, but not by much. Spennymoor are third, just one point adrift, while Bradford (Park Avenue) are now only goal difference behind the Magpies after joining them on 30 points with a comfortable 4-1 win at York, who never recovered from having a man sent off after 25 minutes, Bradford taking the lead from the resultant penalty.
There could have been a takeover at the top, but for Kidderminster Harriers blowing their big opportunity in spectacular fashion, losing 4-1 at home to bottom club Southport, who were actually 4-0 to the good after only 34 minutes. A mere one point separates leaders Chorley from Kiddy in fourth.
The teams in fifth and sixth, Brackley Town and Chester, shared the points a St James Park, with Chester equalising for the second time in the 90th minute to preserve their 10-match unbeaten run. Both teams are on 26 points.
One point back on 25 are Boston United, after their 1-1 draw at Ashton United, who equalised in the 88th minute in the immediate aftermath of a Pilgrim sending-off. Also on 25 points, but outside the play-offs, are AFC Telford United, who were pegged back 1-1 at Alfreton Town, where Jordan Sinnott’s 77th-minute equaliser secured a point for the home team.
Stockport County strengthened their play-off credentials with a comfortable 2-0 win at Curzon Ashton. Jim Gannon’s team are a point ahead of Alty and two outside the play-offs on a total of 23, while Curzon Ashton come next in 11th place, two points behind the Robins.
Leamington are 12th on 19 points, following their 2-0 win at Nuneaton Borough, who consequentially slipped to the foot of the table. Guiseley and Darlington are also on the 19-mark, after sharing the spoils in a 0-0 draw, as are York City.
Alfreton Town are in 16th place, a point behind this group, followed by Blyth Spartans, after their 3-0 home defeat to FC United of Manchester, for whom Tom Peers made his debut. It is ironic that Tom should mark the occasion by scoring, given the late chance he blazed over in Alty colours on our recent visit to Croft Park. Well done, that man!
There are three teams on 14 points, Hereford, FC United of Manchester and, slipping into the relegation zone for the first time, Ashton United. Southport moved on to 11 points after their remarkable win, while Nuneaton Borough have 10, with a long fight ahead of them. But a long fight is a much better option than the alternative that they were facing a few days before.