FC Halifax Town v Bromley
Both FC Halifax Town and Bromley could make a big statement of intent on Tuesday with victory.
In the case of the hosts, they now have a two points-per-game record in the National League– only Stockport County are accruing more points per game on average. Victory would see them jump ahead of Wrexham and level with Chesterfield. Bromley, meanwhile, will leapfrog Notts County in the table and draw level with Solihull Moors and Grimsby Town in the play-off positions with three points.
I’m backing the hosts here. For starters, their home form has been excellent this campaign, winning 11 of their 14 matches at home and five of their last six at The Shay. Their only slip-ups have come against Maidenhead United, who have beaten four of the top five, and fellow promotion contenders Boreham Wood and Wrexham. Pete Wild’s side have picked up big victories against Stockport County, Grimsby Town, Notts County and Dagenham and Redbridge at home, have kept eight clean sheets and have only lost three of 13 matches against sides in the top ten.
The thing holding Bromley back from a title challenge has been their form against sides in the top half, particularly away from home. Andy Woodman’s side have won six of 18 matches against sides in the top 14 of the league table and just one of eight against sides in the top 12. Bromley are also yet to beat a side in the top five.
Southend United v Dagenham and Redbridge
The one curious element about the early part of Southend United’s unbeaten run was that they had mostly faced sides in the bottom half of the table – it was difficult to judge just how much they had improved.
In their last six, they have played Bromley, Solihull Moors and Grimsby Town at home, as well as Chesterfield away. They are still unbeaten. It’s now 13 without defeat and victory on Tuesday would take them level on points with Torquay United and two points behind their midweek opponents Dagenham and Redbridge, with all having played the same number of games. While many expected an upturn in results following Kevin Maher’s appointment, few would have expected things to turn in their favour this quickly. The Blues are unbeaten at home in seven, winning five and scoring in all seven.
Daryl McMahon’s Daggers still have faint hopes of a top seven finish but they will have to do it the hard way – they play eight of the top 12 in their final 13 matches and have six points to make up. They responded positively to a four-match winless run by beating Maidenhead United and Yeovil Town 3-0 but an FA Trophy quarter-final loss to York City on Saturday, a game they led until the 97th minute before losing on penalties, was another step backwards. The Daggers have lost six and won one of their eight away matches against sides 13th or higher, have conceded in all but one match against the same opposition home and away and are without key personnel – attacking midfielder Mo Sagaf started at right wing-back on Saturday.
Stockport County v Notts County
Stockport County are close to unstoppable at the moment. They have lost one of their last 19 league matches, winning 16, and have won 12 of their last 13. They are also in the FA Trophy semi-final after a 3-0 victory away at Needham Market at the weekend, a game in which many first-team players were rested. They have also kept clean sheets in nine of their last 12.
The most notable aspect of their long run has been the absence of games against the best sides in the division – Dave Challinor has only seen his Stockport side play four matches against top nine sides – they have won two and drawn two. They have won eight of their last nine at home, only slipping up against fellow title challengers Chesterfield.
Their chances of victory on Saturday are helped by two things. Firstly, Stockport have not played a three-game week since the end of January, giving Challinor time on the training ground and for his players to rest ahead of the business end of the season. Secondly, Tuesday’s opposition have endured a number of injury / illness issues recently.
Ian Burchnall was missing five regulars for the 3-3 draw with Solihull Moors and while Matty Palmer returned for their FA Trophy defeat against Wrexham on Friday, he was forced to rest a number of players. He is hopeful that Kyle Wootton and Jayden Richardson will be fit but Elisha Sam, National League Player of the Month for February, and captain Kyle Cameron remain absent. The Magpies have won just five of 15 games away from home this season and won just one against sides 13th or higher. They have kept just two clean sheets against the same opposition home and away all season.
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