Bromley v Oldham Athletic
The David Unsworth era starts for Oldham Athletic this weekend as they travel to Bromley but I’m not expecting a dream start.
The National League is a tough division to learn for novice managers – just because you have experienced life at a level above, it doesn’t mean you will make light work of non-league’s top tier. Unsworth’s task is made more difficult by the makeshift nature of his squad. Five of the side’s most experienced campaigners – captain Liam Hogan, Zaine Francis-Angol, Lois Maynard, Chris Porter and Hallam Hope – are missing and the defence last weekend featured three loanees with minimal professional experience. They have also struggled on the road, picking up two points from four matches and failing to pick up three points in their last three trips.
Unsworth’s first test is amongst the tougher tests in the National League. Bromley are stable, experienced, full of knowhow and have proven they can grind out victories and clean sheets (five in nine matches). Their home form has been excellent, winning four and drawing one at Hayes Lane, conceding just one goal. Andy Woodman also comes into this fixture with a full squad to choose from, able to field his strongest XI and bench against Maidstone United last time out. They have matched or beaten their opposition from a chance creation in every game this season.
I think Bromley’s experience and knowhow will prove too much for a patched-up Oldham side whose manager will be learning on the job.
Eastleigh v FC Halifax Town
I came into this season not knowing what to make of either of these teams. It’s fair to say one are impressing a lot more than the other.
The hosts come into this game without a victory in four. However, they remain unbeaten at home having beaten Wealdstone and Southend United and drawn with Dagenham and Redbridge, against whom they scored a last-minute equaliser, and Yeovil Town, who they were comfortably the better side against. Only six sides have recorded a better xPts so far this season, speaking to the consistency of Eastleigh’s performances. They have scored in every league match and are making good use of set-pieces, scoring from seven in their nine league matches. They come into this game with almost a full squad to choose from and a full week to rest those that have been on the comeback trail, including creators Ryan Hill and Jake Hesketh.
FC Halifax Town have had a tough, tough start to the campaign and their three-match unbeaten run was brutally ended last weekend at Aldershot Town in a 5-1 loss. It wasn’t all that surprising. Halifax have picked up eight points this season, their two victories coming against a poor Scunthorpe United side and Gateshead, who could scarcely have done more to gift the Shaymen two goals. They were second best against Maidenhead United in a 1-1 draw as well.
I’m not expecting the hosts to blow away their opposition but I believe the difference in quality, structure and confidence will pay off for the hosts.
Scunthorpe United v Dorking Wanderers
You’d think Marc White would be delighted with back-to-back wins having previously conceded 12 goals in three matches. Instead, he was refreshingly honest in admitting his side were second best and his goalkeeper and centre-back were his best players.
The Wanderers have endured a tough start, playing each of the current, and expected, top five in their opening nine matches. However, they have come away with four victories and sit in the top half. White’s side have picked up where they left off last season, their gung-ho style seeing over 2.5 goals scored in eight of their nine matches – and the 1-0 against Barnet saw both sides record over 1.5xG and 32 shots combined. They have only failed to score twice (they won a penalty in one of those matches with ten men) and their average xG against non-top-five outfits is 1.7.
Scunthorpe United have found life tough in the National League following relegation. They sacked Keith Hill six games into the season and appointed Academy Manager Tony Daws, who has overseen two draws in their last two matches. Their style of play and structure has been simplified and he has backed in improving a lightweight attack with loanees Aiden Marsh and Rob Apter now joined by Caolan Lavery. However, they haven’t addressed a midfield or attack that have conceded in every league match this season. They are sorely lacking pace and energy in key areas.
The Iron will want to make an impression on home turf having performed adequately against York City last time out while the visitors only know an attacking philosophy. There should be chances and both sides are looking a little more capable of taking them.
Wrexham v Torquay United
A case of backing arguably the best side in the division to put the worst performing side to the sword, and comfortably so.
Wrexham fans were left a little frustrated after a below-par performance at Southend United last weekend. However, the Welsh club have recorded the second best xG (2.08) in the National League to date and comfortably the best home xG (2.56). They are averaging 20.5 shots per game at home. Their impressive home record goes back a long way too. They have lost only once on home turf since Phil Parkinson took the reins and since beating Aldershot Town 4-1 in the final week of February 2022, the Red Dragons have played 15 league matches and scored 51 goals in front of their own fans – an average of 3.4 goals per game.
Torquay United, meanwhile, are probably the single-worst performing side in the division as far as the underlying numbers are concerned. They have the worst xGA in the division (2.24) and the worst xGA away from home (2.68). They have conceded at least 17 shots in every away match so far. Their two victories this season came during matches in which they had a combined 11 shots and conceded 59. They were also fortunate to earn a point on opening day against Oldham Athletic and lost the shot count 26-3 last weekend at Wealdstone. They were punished by Solihull Moors (4-1 loss) and are coming up against an even more ruthless attack this weekend.
The hosts shouldn’t just win this game, they should be making a statement.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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