The Vanarama National League North resumes in full force this Saturday afternoon, with a full programme of 11 fixtures coming our way in a league as astonishing at times as it is close.
Billy Heath’s FC Halifax Town side kick things off at The Shay against Boston United on Saturday at 3pm. The Shaymen are unbeaten in their last seven outings and face a 15th placed Boston side who are looking to rely on their away form, having lost three home matches in the last month. Halifax can rise to third with victories in their games in hand against their playoff rivals.
Alfreton Town are looking to launch themselves clear of the relegation zone, welcoming heavily troubled Stalybridge to the East Midlands. The two sides, in 17th and 21st respectively, have remarkably identical result records in their last five matches, having both lost their last two and without a win in four. Stalybridge must pick up all three points to restore their fighting chance in the division.
Another side not out of the woods by any means are Bradford Park Avenue. Once upon a time bottom of the league, PA have embarked on a solid run, and have won their last three matches. They face a mid-table Gloucester City side whose form has been a real mixed bag. Eight defeats in nine were followed by four straight wins, though their form has run out since PA have hit form. This should be a closely run fixture.
Curzon Ashton return to the Tameside Stadium and can further separate themselves from relegation threat with a good result against Brackley. John Flanagan’s Curzon have won their last two, with cup run specialists Brackley having games in hand in 10th and have recently beaten Kidderminster 2-0 on their return to league action.
Harrogate Town’s dismal form over the early winter months has been made a distant memory, now having only lost one of their last nine. A 3-2 win at Darlington sees Town return as playoff outsiders. Their challenge does not come any tougher this weekend, though, facing high-flying AFC Fylde, who have got back to normal service following last month’s 5-0 humiliation by Salford City. Top marksman Danny Rowe will be looking to build on his gargantuan 38 league goals going into March.
Nuneaton Town’s recent form has been poor of late. They welcome Gainsborough to Warwickshire on the back of a binary run of matches. Having won eight successive games in all competitions, Nuneaton then proceeded to lose five in a row before beating Boston 3-1 in their last runout. Visitors Gainsborough are still in trouble. Without a win in February and still treading dangerous water, they will be looking to capitalised on Nuneaton’s form with a second win in six.
Stockport and Chorley meet in a Manchester derby at Edgeley Park this weekend. County have built some solid consistency, only losing two of their last 20 in all competitions including last game’s 2-0 defeat to Kidderminster. Chorley’s previously astute away form has fallen off the pace slightly, not winning on the road since January 7th at Brackley. The fellow promotion chasers will however be looking for their third straight win.
Another top-half clash sees Tamworth host Salford at the Lamb Ground. The Staffordshire side have lost their last two and will be hoping their past tendencies of falling apart do not haunt them against a strong, free-scoring Salford side. The visitors have won eight in their last 10, one shortcoming being their 4-2 defeat at The Shay. They will look to keep up some pressure at least on Fylde at the summit.
AFC Telford have only won one of their last five and have been shy of goals before the arrival of veteran Lee Hughes. Chances seldom come better however than a home clash with bottom side Altrincham, who have only just picked up their first win of 2017 against Worcester City. Basement boys Alty could go as many as 20 points adrift this weekend but will be looking to earn at least a point from their trip.
FC United have been involved in a couple of bittersweet comebacks recently. Three games ago they squandered a 3-0 lead against Chorley, before coming from two down at the break to win 3-2 at Gloucester in their last outing. The side in 13th face 3rd placed Kidderminster, who have drifted off the coat-tails of Fylde by losing three of their last five. Their flame can be rekindled with a win in Manchester.
Worcester City could be in severe trouble. Losing their top scorer Lee Hughes to Telford has been bad enough, and now the West Country side are in the worst recent form in the division. Without a win in 14 in all competitions stretching back before the turn of the year, Worcester have slipped into the relegation zone, two points adrift. This makes their game against playoff-chasing Darlington a huge one. Darlo have dropped out of the playoff places after just one win in their last five, but Saturday is also a big opportunity for the men from the North East to elevate themselves back into contention.
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