Altrincham v Eastleigh
Altrincham are much improved since a nine-game winless start to the season, a top ten outfit since their first victory. They have won five and drawn two of their last 11 and four of their last six at home. Furthermore, they are getting the better of their opposition on a chance creation front, averaging two points per game over the last eight if you calculate points based on xG for and against per game. Phil Parkinson’s side did endure three consecutive defeats during this period but he has since been backed to improve his side, welcoming Stockport County forwards Elliot Newby and Connor Jennings to the club while injured duo Toby Mullarkey and Isaac Marriott have returned to shore up an otherwise leaky defensive unit. They have gone on to beat York City and pick up a point against a very strong Woking side.
Eastleigh’s season has been a positive one to date but they have fallen short on the road this term and that’s one of the reasons I’m backing them to be on the losing side here. They have played ten matches away from home, winning one, drawing two and losing seven. They are without a win in eight away from the Silverlake Stadium and have lost the last three and were missing centre-back Aaron Martin and striker Tristan Abrahams last weekend. Saturday’s visitors have scored more than once away from home just once this season while Altrincham have scored in all but two home matches.
Dorking Wanderers v York City
I’m backing Dorking Wanderers to continue their insane goals record when York City visit this weekend.
The hosts are the kings of the over 2.5 goals in the National League, seeing an impressive 84% of their matches finish with at least three or more goals scored. At home, that record extends to 90%, only falling short against a miserly Yeovil Town side. They have scored at least two goals in four of their last six matches and have conceded at least two in each of their last five and six of their last seven. White rested a number of players in the defeat against Southend to give other players minutes and made eight changes for their game last weekend. Their midweek fixture with FC Halifax Town was postponed so they are fit and ready to go for this one.
York City have been the complete opposite for much of this season, preferring to play on tight margins and make the most of their opportunities when they come. However, issues above the players have caused problems for the team, a public spat between chairman Glen Henderson and manager John Askey coming at the start of a poor run of form that has seen the latter lose his job, much to the bewilderment of fans. His assistant has since followed. They have lost their last two matches 2-1 and changes were made last time out with their interim manager trying to stem the tide amid a difficult situation.
Dorking will go “full press”, as White likes to say, for this one and I can see it becoming an open encounter as the visitors adjust to what is going on.
Torquay United v Gateshead
Another potential cracker this weekend between two sides looking to escape the relegation places.
The hosts endured an abysmal start to the season but have found their touch in front of goal recently, nets bulging at both ends – 32 goals have been scored in Torquay United’s last five home matches with all of those matches containing at least five goals. Johnson has been bold in his selection to try and turn their season around, finding systems that suit the pace of his wide men and it has worked, Dillon De Silva, Aaron Jarvis and Will Goodwin scoring a combined nine goals during those fixtures. However, they are also open defensively and their more open approach will test the legs of Mark Ellis and Dean Moxey, the left-side of the Torquay defence with a combined age of 70.
The reason that will be tested is because Gateshead are direct through the thirds and constantly have players running forward. They are not afraid to be on the front foot, Gateshead seeing both teams score in their last nine matches and their being over 2.5 goals in six of their last eight. That has partly come as a result of more changes to the starting XI, Mike Williamson making an average of 3.3 changes per game during the last six fixtures despite having made more than two changes for a game once all season prior to that. Williamson, a former Premier League centre-back who has reinstated himself to the XI recently, has seen his side keep one clean sheet all season.
Yeovil Town v FC Halifax Town
Ending on a less exciting note, Yeovil Town v FC Halifax Town.
Mark Cooper has not tried to kid the Yeovil Town supporters since arriving, admitting he faces a difficult task to take the club forward and that he wants to build solid foundations before looking for his side to attack the division. That is similar to the approach they have taken for much of the campaign – only two of their last 16 matches have finished with more than three goals total scored. They have the lowest xG in the division and despite being mid-table for their xG against, they have not conceded more than two goals in a league fixture. Since Cooper took over, Yeovil have had an average of 6.4 shots per game.
FC Halifax Town are unlikely to change that. Chris Millington endured a difficult opening to his tenure and has used defensive solidity to get his side back on track. They have seen under 2.5 goals scored in six of their last eight matches, one of those being away at Wrexham, and have kept four clean sheets in those eight. The Shaymen have the fourth lowest xG across the National League while also having the fifth best xG against, which perhaps tells the story of their season. A more settled team has been key to that – they have made one change or less to the starting XI in five of their last six games.
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