Gateshead v Solihull Moors
I’m backing Solihull Moors to make it three wins on the trot this weekend as they travel north to Gateshead.
Despite an indifferent start to the campaign in terms of performances, Solihull Moors have found some solidity and structure in recent weeks, the returns of experienced trio Ryan Boot, Alex Gudger and Kyle Storer helping restore some much-needed balance in defensive areas. They also welcomed back striker Alex Reid, their most natural option to lead the line while right-back James Clarke, who missed his first game since joining the club last December in midweek due to suspension, will also return. Their FA Cup victory over Barford Town has been followed by 3-0 and 2-0 victories over Eastleigh, at home, and Maidenhead United, away, respectively – only the second and third time this season they have gotten ahead in a match and not conceded an equaliser, evidence of their improved game management.
It’s been difficult for Gateshead so far this term. Their budget is amongst the lowest in the division and Mike Williamson has been hard hit by injuries, currently without his leading centre-back, defensive midfielder and the striker that started the campaign for him. He has had to chop and change, making nine changes in his last two matches with youngsters Jevon Mills and Ethan Pye started alongside each other at centre-back in midweek. In fact, Williamson even had to name himself in the XI for the first time recently. They have not scored more than one goal in any of their last eight matches and have kept one clean sheet this season.
Notts County v Torquay United
A selection based on the best team in the division taking on the worst team in the division on their home turf.
Luke Williams has taken Notts County to a level they have not seen since their relegation to non-league, sitting top of the division with 36 from their opening 15 matches – 2.4 points per game. The Magpies come into this game with the best xG for and against across the division and have won ten of their last 11 matches. They have scored two or more in 11 matches this season and in all but two of their home matches – those coming against Solihull Moors and Wrexham, games against potential title challengers and they dominated both matches. Three or more goals have been scored in 11 of their matches.
Gary Johnson’s Torquay United were challenging Notts County for promotion a couple of seasons ago but the outlook is different now with a much-changed squad falling well short of previous levels. The Gulls sit bottom of the league table having lost nine of their 15 league matches and picked up six points from their last 13. It’s deserved too – Torquay have the worst xG for and against in the National League. They lost defensive leader Dean Moxey to injury and striker Aaron Jarvis to suspension in midweek ensuring they come into the game without three of their first-choice back four and only one striker. They have named just four substitutes in their last two matches.
Stuart Maynard, Wealdstone manager, said that to beat Notts County, you need everybody fit because your players have to do the running of two men to keep up. Torquay couldn’t be further away from that right now.
Wrexham v Altrincham
I’m backing Phil Parkinson’s Wrexham to keep up their insane home form when they face off against Phil Parkinson’s Altrincham this weekend.
Wrexham have a perfect home record to date. They have scored at least two goals in each of those seven home matches, accruing a total of 30 goals at The Racecourse. It’s not a fluke either – the Red Dragons have the best xG for record at home. And if that wasn’t daunting enough for Altrincham, Jacob Mendy has been back in training recently while Jordan Davies returned to the scoresheet in midweek – the Welsh wizard potentially earning himself a return to the XI for this one – he’s one of the stars of the division looking to recapture form after an injury-hit beginning to the season.
It’s tough for Altrincham who come into this game having won four of their last six. However, those results came against sides very likely to finish outside of the top seven – only one is above 16th in the league table. They have lost all three matches played against the rest of the current top four, conceding ten goals. Their record on the road is poor, picking up just six points from the 24 on offer and their defensive record isn’t great, keeping just two clean sheets and conceding two or more in over half of their league matches as well as five of eight on the road. To boost the potential for goals in this game, Altrincham have scored in each of their last 12 league matches and eight of their last ten matches have seen at least three goals scored.
York City v Southend United
It’s 9th vs 8th on Saturday and I’m expecting a tight affair as York City host Southend United.
The hosts, managed by ex-National League title winner John Askey, have had a solid if inconsistent start to their first campaign back in the non-league’s top tier, picking up back-to-back victories just once while never losing or drawing more than one game in succession. Southend United, meanwhile, have risen up the table after a tricky opening, swapping a start of two wins and four defeats in eight matches for four wins and three draws in an unbeaten run of seven.
Both sides are defined by the tight margins their games are played on. York City and Southend United have seen 11 of their league fixtures and over 50% of their home / away matches finish with less than three goals. Both sides have conceded less than two goals in all but three of their league matches. Saturday’s hosts have failed to score more than once in each of their last five and while the visitors have won each of their last two matches 3-0, it came against two of the worst defensive sides in the division and their previous five matches ended 0-0, 1-0 (x2) and 1-1 (x2). Southend are also yet to concede a goal from a set-piece.
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