GW 23 – Ones to Watch

Matt: Welcome to our traditional ‘Boxing Day Bonus’, hopefully you’ll have a little bit of extra festive cheer as a result of your scores on this entertaining day of footballing action. With the addition of those ‘rascals’ from the National North & South Leagues, where weird and wonderful scorelines seem to be par for the course, we could have a thoroughly action-packed afternoon of football on our hands.

There’s no shortage of possibilities in our more prominent and popular leagues, not least the Premier League. But last weekend should have once again proved that having the Prem as your ‘go to’ option can be a dangerous tactic – Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and Bournemouth all caused minus scores would you believe! Whilst i’m quite certain some of those teams will be heavily backed on Boxing Day once more, we like to try and find slightly more ‘leftfield’ picks in this section. So for me, i’ll grab the opportunity to venture into the lesser-known National North & South divisions. In the North, i like the look of Gateshead in their fixture against Blyth Spartans, despite this being a local derby which i generally tend to avoid. I’m basing this tip solely on the Tyneside outfit’s home form, because they’re pretty awful on their travels! However, in the more familiar surroundings of the Gateshead International Stadium, ‘The Heed’ are much more reliable, having scored in every game since August – including notable 5-0 and 6-0 scorelines in the FA Cup preliminary rounds. Given that Spartans have only kept two clean sheets in a total of 26 games this season, both of which were against fellow strugglers Curzon Ashton, the home side should be more than capable of doing the business here – especially when you consider Blyth have conceded 18 goals in their previous five matches, the worst result of which saw them hammered 6-0 by Brackley Town.

Moving into the National League South, the fixture between Oxford City and Hungerford Town has caught my eye. This match has all the potential to be an absolute goal-fest; City’s last four games have produced a whopping total of 22 goals, while Town’s last two have produced 10 – consecutive 4-1 defeats against Chelmsford City and Dulwich Hamlet! I’m hoping for more Boxing Day fun & games here, with both sides committed to outscoring the other as opposed to keeping it tight at the back! Having said that, this is by no means a ‘safe’ pick, as the visitors from Berkshire have recently shocked Braintree Town and Concord Rangers, both on the cusp of the play-off positions, by winning away there 3-0 and 2-0 respectively. With any luck ‘The Crusaders’ have well and truly gotten that clean sheet feeling out of their system following their two thrashings over the past fortnight, whilst ‘The Hoops’ from Oxford have had a two week break since their last outing – a 3-3 draw at home to St Albans City. The same result at Marsh Lane on Thursday afternoon would suit me just nicely!

Good luck and may i take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a very merry Christmas.

Ally: I’m going to take the opportunity in the season of good will to dip into the National League North and South, and hope that those teams are feeling festive on the goalscoring front. First up are National League North leaders King’s Lynn Town, who welcome play off chasing Boston United to The Walks Stadium. King’s Lynn are comfortably the division’s leading scorers with 46 so far from their 20 games, and at home they have racked up 29 goals in just 11 matches. They have only failed to score at home once this season, in an FA Trophy game. Visitors Boston currently occupy 8th place, and recently managed a very respectable 0-0 draw at League One side Rochdale in the FA Cup so they are a force to be reckoned with. However they do have a tendency to concede in their league games on the road, so I’m expecting the Linnets to maintain their position at the top of the table.

Next up is a team that have stung me in the past, but I’m hoping that the Christmas spirit is still in the Essex air come Boxing Day for the clash between National League South sides Chelmsford and Braintree. This is very much a derby, which should set alarm bells ringing, but the hosts have been in good goalscoring form at Melbourne Stadium, having scored in every game this season, with 12 in their last 5 matches there. Braintree make the short journey having had a couple of hidings of late on the road, with a 6-2 loss at Welling and a 5-1 defeat at Tonbridge – both bottom half sides. The form charts at least suggest goals, and the last two league meetings between the sides both finished 2-2 so hopefully we’ll see more goals on Thursday. Good luck and Merry Christmas!