Dorking Wanderers v Gateshead
Between them, Dorking Wanderers and Gateshead scored 200 goals in 82 league matches. They conceded a combined 100. They have both started the new season where they left off the last.
Dorking started the campaign with a 2-2 draw against Chesterfield before a 3-2 loss at Oldham Athletic and a 4-2 win at Maidstone United, who pipped the Surrey outfit to the National League South title last term. The high number of goals isn’t unwarranted either – there have been more shots and a higher expected goals total in Dorking matches than any other side in the division. Marc White hasn’t been shy in wanting his side to assert their style on the rest of the division, sticking with his open three-at-the-back style rather than moving towards a more cautious 4-5-1.
Gateshead, meanwhile, have drawn all three of their matches, drawing 2-2 with Dagenham and Redbridge and Barnet before a 1-1 draw with Notts County in midweek. The Heed have proven they can score goals in a variety of games, the first a relatively tight affair with just 13 shots at goal, the second a dominant display in which they accrued an xG of 2.5 and the latter when they were on the back foot and watched the opposition have two-thirds of the ball.
These sides are adaptable and love nothing more than working out how they can hurt the opposition. A meeting between two sides that won promotion because of the goals they could score meeting in the top tier of non-league football. It should be a cracker.
Scunthorpe United v Solihull Moors
Scunthorpe United have learned quickly just how tough the National League can be.
They were comfortable on opening day, seeing off a Yeovil Town side that offered little out of possession for the most part. However, they came under pressure late on, conceding, and have since been shellshocked at Maidenhead United, the hosts racing into a three-goal lead, and it didn’t get much better in midweek at Woking, losing the game 2-0 and the shot count 20-6. That Keith Hill changed shape in midweek suggests he’s not entirely happy with his starting XI and it could mean more changes coming into the weekend.
Solihull Moors haven’t reached the levels of last season just yet but they remain unbeaten, seeing off Aldershot Town 4-1 on opening day before 1-1 draws with Southend United and York City. Signs of Solihull Moors’ playing identity showed on Wednesday but the quality of their passing wasn’t good enough. However, Ardley can be pragmatic and simplify things to get his side back to their best, something I anticipate will happen on the road this weekend. And despite absentees, Josh Kelly made his first start in midweek, his replacement, Alex Reid, scored his first of the season and Connor Parsons debuted from the bench too.
The Moors are comfortable in their own skin and have a manager that knows how to get results. Scunthorpe remain in transition and may struggle against one of the division’s better sides.
Torquay United v Boreham Wood
Torquay United and Boreham Wood come into this game level on points but with one side performing poorer than the other.
Gary Johnson’s Gulls have not started this season well. The former Bristol City and Yeovil Town manager oversaw a huge churn of playing staff this summer with many key players departing. His new side haven’t hit anywhere near their stride, their average xG of 0.84 the lowest in the division and their xGA of 2.18 amongst the highest. They have conceded over 20 shots in their last two matches. Key defender Ross Marshall was sent off against Bromley and will miss the visit of Boreham Wood with 20-year-old Ollie Tomlinson likely to make his full debut and Johnson has just one fit striker at his disposal, admitting that loanees Thomas Hughes and Nelson Iseguan have joined to learn but aren’t ready to make a big impact just yet.
Boreham Wood were the surprise losers in midweek, being undone by a struggling Aldershot Town side at home. However, the numbers suggest they were the better side, having 18 shots to seven, eight corners to one, just short of two-thirds possession and an 2.06xG. Luke Garrard has plenty of options at his disposal with Lee Ndlovu, back after suspension, and former Wales international George Williams among those to come off the bench on Tuesday. I’m expecting their vast experience and power to pay off here against a relatively youthful and new Torquay side.
York City v Eastleigh
Like over a third of the division, York City and Eastleigh have won one, drawn one and lost one of their opening three matches.
Saturday’s hosts picked up their points in a 2-0 victory against Woking on opening day and a 1-1 draw at Solihull Moors in midweek with a 2-1 loss at Maidstone United in between. John Askey has made a number of signings but has quickly settled on a preferred shape and, for the most part, XI. That has paid off with his side dominant on opening day and recovering well after a difficult opening in Solihull, finishing the better side. They a hard-working outfit, strong in central areas and with an excellent outlet in Maziar Kouyhar, who is already off the mark for the season.
Eastleigh were beaten on opening day at Wrexham before seeing off Wealdstone and earning a point against Dagenham and Redbridge on home turf late on. Lee Bradbury is talking positively about his players but their performances haven’t been entirely brilliant, conceding 1.77 and 1.81xG against underperforming Wrexham and Daggers sides and their chance creation per shot is the lowest in the division. Furthermore, they were without captain Aaron Martin and leading striker Danny Whitehall on Tuesday while key midfielders Jake Hesketh, Ryan Hill, Ousseynou Cisse and Nigel Atangana are still working their way back to fitness. And it will take a bit of work to rectify one of the worst away records in last season’s National League.
The hosts are in good spirits and I’m backing them to come away victorious in front of a buoyant home crowd on Saturday.
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