AFC Fylde v Alfreton Town (National League North)
Despite their 1-1 draw with lowly AFC Telford United in midweek, it’s still been a positive start for James Rowe at AFC Fylde.
A tactical change while 1-0 down secured a point in midweek and it means they have now picked up seven points from the first nine available. They are now level on points with Kidderminster Harriers in what looks to be a battle for the final play-off semi-final position. The Coasters have been pretty strong at home this season, winning nine of their 15 matches at Mill Farm and they have lost just three matches against sides outside of the top nine overall.
Alfreton Town come into this game having lost two of their last eight but that paints a better picture than the reality. Their only victory in the last seven was away at AFC Telford United, a game they fell 2-0 behind in, and the run also includes draws with Farsley Celtic and Gloucester City. Billy Heath’s side have picked up one point from eight matches against the top seven and lost all three away matches. They have also lost five of their last nine away matches with three of their more positive results coming against two of the bottom five and a Boston United side whose manager would be sacked shortly after due to poor form.
I’m expecting a strong end to the season for Fylde and victory here is more than likely.
Boston United v Gateshead (National League North)
Gateshead will know that Saturday represents an awkward challenge as they aim to stay at least three points clear of second place Brackley Town. The Heed have won six of their last seven in the league and have the second-best away record in the division, averaging just short of two points-per-game.
However, they come up against a Boston United side that have won nine of their 16 home matches this season and are unbeaten under Paul Cox at the Jakemans Community Stadium. The Pilgrims have lost just two of their ten matches since Cox took the reins as manager, winning three and drawing two of their five home matches, to keep them in play-off contention. While they may have lost all six matches against sides in the top four, they have only played one of those games under their new manager and that was away. My selection is goals-based. Boston have scored in every match since Cox took over, have scored in every home match they have played this season and all but four matches this season overall. They’re not stellar defensively either, conceding in six of their last seven matches. Gateshead, meanwhile, lead the way for goals scored this season having scored in all but three matches (against sides in 4th and 5th) and have kept just three clean sheets in 16 away matches. Both teams have scored in four of their last five matches and five of their last seven away matches.
Bradford Park Avenue v Gloucester City (National League North)
Bradford Park Avenue’s rise from the depths of the division has been thanks to their impressive home record and I’m backing that to continue on Saturday.
Mark Bower’s side have won five of their last eight at home and even in defeat, they are finding the net – they have scored at least two goals in each of their last seven at Horsfall Stadium. Their confidence going into Saturday will be improved by their form against sides in the bottom half – Bradford have won all seven home matches against sides 12th or lower.
Gloucester City will be a test to that perfect record. The Tigers have improved dramatically since mid-November, losing just six of their last 19 matches and keeping eight clean sheets – impressive for a side that remain four points and three places above the drop zone. However, Gloucester have won just three of their nine away matches during this run with two of those coming against Farsley Celtic, bottom of the division, and Leamington, who were enduring a ten-game winless run at the time.
Gloucester are much-improved but the only sides denying Bradford currently are scoring three or more goals – Gloucester have scored more than two goals on one occasion this season. The odds aren’t reflecting Bradford’s form and I’m backing them to win or draw on Saturday.
Chorley v Blyth Spartans (National League North)
Chorley’s promotion ambitions have taken a hit recently with Jamie Vermiglio’s side losing three of their last five – they had previously lost one in 22 – including a first home loss since the opening day of the season.
However, they responded positively with a 2-1 victory against fellow play-off contenders Southport at the weekend. It means they have now won nine of their 14 home matches this season and that extends to nine wins in 11 against sides below them in the table. Impressively, they have scored two or more goals in nine home matches. The Magpies have also won seven of their 12 matches against sides in the bottom nine.
Blyth Spartans’ survival took a huge upturn having won five in eight between mid-November and January but their form has fallen off a cliff since. The Northeast outfit have now won just one of their last nine, a shock victory at Southport to end their previously unbeaten home record, losing the other eight. They have conceded at least twice in seven of their last eight matches, including defeats against fellow strugglers Chester and Guiseley in the last week. Their away form isn’t something to be inspired by either – Terry Mitchell’s side have picked up seven points from 15 away matches.
Leamington v Guiseley (National League North)
It’s been a frustrating year for Paul Holleran and Leamington but they have responded positively to ending a ten-match winless run through winter that saw them drop away from play-off contention.
They have now lost two of their last eight, both understandable given the home form of Kidderminster Harriers and Bradford Park Avenue at the point of playing them. It’s home where Leamington have felt most comfortable this season, winning eight and drawing four of their 16 matches, including three of their last four. They have won three and drawn two of the six home matches played against sides below them in the league table.
Guiseley, like most sides at the bottom of the table, have endured real struggles on the road this season, earning just seven points from 13 matches on the road. Their two victories came against Chester (17th) and AFC Telford United (21st) meaning they have picked up one point from ten matches away from home against the sides outside of the relegation battle.
The Lions have lost their last five away matches, have scored just nine goals away from home all season and conceded at least twice in eight of the ten away matches played against sides outside of the relegation battle. Leamington have scored in 11 of their 16 home matches and seven of their last nine overall. The statistics more than favour the hosts in this one.
Bath City v Hemel Hempstead (National League South)
Bath City are in a perilous position.
The Romans come into their game on Saturday without a win in nine and one win in 12. It’s possible that Gill may point to having played five of the top seven in recent weeks but they have drawn three key fixtures (at home v Slough Town and Braintree Town and away at Welling United) and their home form doesn’t make for favourable reading either – three of their five wins at home have come against sides in the bottom six.
Hemel Hempstead are enjoying mid-table mediocrity and their season has been quite typical of a side struggling to break into the top half – they are getting the better of the sides around and below them and struggling against those at the top. Hemel have lost just two of 15 matches played against sides 10th or lower in the league table and have won seven of ten away matches against sides 7th or lower. Their record against the sides lowest in the division is impressive too, winning four of five against sides in the bottom three and three of four away matches against the bottom five. Hemel may have only picked up four points from their last five away matches but the three defeats came against sides currently 1st, 4th and 6th in the league table. They are very strong against the sides below them and with Bath in such poor form, I’m more than happy to back the side surprisingly deemed outsiders.
Billericay Town v Oxford City (National League South)
Billericay look to be turning their somewhat strange run of form into a positive as they bid to complete a semi-miraculous run at survival.
The Essex outfit have lost just four of their last 15 league matches but have won just four. Leading into last weekend, they had lost three of four matches and appeared to be taking a backwards step. Then they stunned Hungerford Town away from home and followed that up with victory at home against 7th place St.Albans City. They face another big test on Saturday, taking on third place Oxford City, a side that have won six of their previous ten and have lost just once against sides outside of the top six – the reverse fixture against Saturday’s opponents.
Goals are the bet here. Billericay’s recent wins were 4-1 and 2-1 and they have seen three or more goals scored in each of their last three and five of the last seven. Both teams have scored in eight of their last 11 league matches. Oxford City, meanwhile, have kept one clean sheet in their last five, seen both teams score in four of their last five and three or more goals in six of their last nine. They have scored in every away match this season against sides below them in the table.
Billericay have seemingly decided that they need to win football matches to survive and that is seeing an increase in goals scored.
Welling United v Chelmsford City (National League South)
It’s that time of the season when you begin to use the phrase “six-pointer” and this is definitely a relegation six-pointer.
Welling United now sit one point and a position above the sole relegation place and they reacted by sacking one-time England manager Peter Taylor at the weekend, quickly replacing him with ex-Northern Ireland international Warren Feeney. The Wings have also moved on captain Olu Durojaiye and Kristian Campbell, both of whom have been regulars this season.
Chelmsford City thought they had left relegation fears behind after a run of one defeat in 12 but five defeats on the spin, admittedly all against sides currently in the top 10, has seen them slip back down the table. They now sit five points and four places above the drop zone. I think this could be a lively encounter with both sides having seen a fair few goals in their games recently. Welling United have scored and conceded in each of their last six and eight of their last nine. They have scored in 17 of 19 matches against sides 9th or lower. Chelmsford City, meanwhile, have seen 80% of their away matches end with both sides having scored. Both teams have scored in six of their last seven away matches and five of their last eight matches in total.
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