GW 12 – Ones to Watch

Matt: Looks like there was no shortage of weird and (not so) wonderful scores last weekend, judging by the state of the Global League! That’s what ‘International Weeks’ consistently bring to TUG, so i can’t say i’m in the least bit surprised. And with FA Cup matches both sides of the border in play this coming weekend, who knows what could happen!

Despite something of a lack of information and general knowledge about many of the non league and amateur sides involved in these cup fixtures, it’s almost impossible not to delve into them given that some are up against well established and well equipped teams from the professional leagues. One such example is the tie between Notts County and Belper Town at Meadow Lane, where County will be desperate to avoid an upset and ensure a straightforward qualification to the FA Cup First Round proper. The Magpies have had a turbulent recent past to say the least, culminating in relegation from the Football League in May and they also endured a tough start to life in the National League, but 13 points from the last 15 on offer has seen them shoot up the table to the verges of the play off spots. They’ve scored twice in every one of those five games, consistency that doesn’t go unnoticed in TUG! The Nailers from Belper are also in good form, indeed they are unbeaten in the league this season and a streak of 17 games without defeat in any competition was only brought to a halt last weekend – a 3-0 defeat at home to Stamford ending their FA Trophy interest. Town will be hoping they don’t crash out of another competition straight off the back of that, but Notts will surely start as strong favourites in this Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire battle.

It seems only right to take a similar approach to the Scottish Cup games, so tip number two will be from one of the fixtures on offer in that competition – and rather like the FA Cup it looks like we’re spoilt for choice! The match i’m going to plump for is Cowdenbeath v Broxburn Athletic, which has the added bonus of giving me another opportunity to wheel out possibly my favourite nickname in UK football! The home side are known by their followers as ‘The Blue Brazil’ and a run of six wins on the bounce suggests they’ve been playing with a little bit of that Brazilian flair! That recent good form has seen them move into second place in the table, hot on the heels of Cove Rangers. Momentum is key as they say, so on that basis i’d be surprised if Beath didn’t put out a full strength team against their part-time visitors from West Lothian. The Burn play in the East of Scotland League and they have already turned heads in this season’s Scottish Cup by eliminating East Stirling – themselves a league team only 18 months ago – in the previous round. They’ve also conceded the least number of goals in their respective league so far this season so defensively they look fairly solid, but this will be a big step up and a real challenge against a League Two side who are in outstanding form. Good luck to you all.

Ally: After what turned out to be a tough couple of weeks for the majority of players, the addition of England and Scotland’s premier cup competitions to this weekend’s roster at least appears to offer the prospect of goals, which have been in short supply of late!

The first game to catch my attention this week is the Scottish Cup tie that pits League Two side Stirling Albion against Highland League outfit Strathspey Thistle. This may look a slightly odd choice when I tell you that Stirling sit bottom of the league with just one win to their name all season, but the visitors arrive at Forthbank with an appalling away record. The Highland League seems to cover a pretty broad spectrum of quality in terms of its teams, and Strathspey are somehow hovering around mid table despite having lost every single away match in 2019! This season has seen them ship 19 goals in their 5 away league matches, the biggest defeat being a 7-1 thrashing at Forres Mechanics, while they have come close to securing a point on a couple of occasions losing by a single goal margin. Given that Stirling are generally used to playing against far better opposition, I’m backing them to banish their league form and progress to the next round.

I’m going to the English FA Cup for my second tip, where Maidstone United face Kings Langley. The hosts currently sit just outside the play off positions in the National League South, while the visitors are comfortably in mid table in the Southern League Central Division in the 8th tier of the football league, two divisions further down the pyramid. Maidstone are on a 3 match home winning streak, scoring 10 goals in the process, and have scored in 6 of their 7 games at the Gallagher Stadium. Kings on the other hand may have had one eye on this fixture going on their recent league results, as they’ve lost their last 2 away league games and conceded in each of the last 5 matches on the road, and so I fancy The Stones to make home advantage count here. Good luck with your selections.