GW 25 – Ones To Watch

Matt: I can scarcely believe that we’ve reached the end of this decade, but it’s undoubtedly been a memorable one in footballing terms. And here at TUG, we’re hoping to make the next 10 years even better! Firstly, let’s get 2020 off to a great start with our tips!

The second bonus round of this busy period, the ‘New Year Special’, once again sees the addition of the National League North & South fixtures and, just as i did on Boxing Day, i’ll be delving into them for sure. However, i’m heading into League Two to begin with, where fourth placed Bradford City face Morecambe at Valley Parade. The Bantams beat Mansfield Town 2-0 on home turf on Sunday, leaving them just one point and one place outside the automatic promotion spots, and their home form this season has been wholly reliable since a dodgy spell in the early stages of the campaign – they’ve scored in every league game since the 24th of August. What i will say about City is that they don’t tend to smash teams for 4 and 5, so perhaps they’re more of a solid lower multiplier pick, but being as they’re up against the team with the second worst away record in the division, conceding the most goals on the road in the process (25 and counting!) then you might also be forgiven for hoping/expecting a decent return from the Yorkshire based side. This is backed up by the fact that The Shrimps from Morecambe have conceded 9 goals in their past three away matches, including a 5-0 shelling at Crewe Alexandra a few weeks ago. More of the same here please!

In the National North & South Leagues, the New Year’s Day fixtures are a reverse of the Boxing Day clashes that produced no shortage of goalfests and were bigged up in this section by both Ally and myself. I’ll definitely be picking a few of these teams in my own selections, but being as i can only tip one more side here i’m plumping for Brackley Town. The Saints face Kettering Town, although in this particular case their Boxing Day match didn’t take place as Kettering’s Latimer Park ground was waterlogged. Brackley are currently top of the National League North form guide, having taken 13 points from a possible 15 in their last five outings and recent results include excellent wins over Kidderminster Harriers and Guiseley AFC, as well as a 6-0 thumping of Blyth Spartans. Word of warning though, they can be rather ‘hit and miss’ at home – having mauled both Bradford Park Avenue and Darlington (scoring 13 goals in total!), they’ve also failed to find the net against Chester and Spennymoor Town in the not too distant past, so this one could well go either way! It’s also worth noting that The Poppies from Kettering have kept clean sheets in three of the previous four games – including a highly creditable 0-0 draw against second placed York City. I’m banking on The Saints continuing their excellent recent form and sending their visitors back up the A43 having added to their ‘Goals Against’ column a few more times. Good luck, thanks for playing in 2019 and i’d like to wish each and every one of you a happy and prosperous new year.

Ally: Hopefully you all had a great Christmas, even if results on the pitch and in The Ultimate Goals didn’t always go as expected. My first pick of 2020 comes from English League Two, where third placed Crewe Alexandra face struggling Carlisle United. The Railwaymen currently occupy the last of the automatic promotion places and will see this game as an ideal opportunity to cement their place in the top three, especially given the shaky away form of their opponents. They registered just their third away win of the season on Sunday, but they also have defensive issues on the road, having just one clean sheet to their name all season. The hosts aren’t without issue too, as overall their record is better away than at their Gresty Road home, but recent results have been good and they have racked up 12 goals in their last 4 league and cup matches there, and I think the Cumbrians’ consistently leaky defence will prove their undoing once more here.

Next up I’m hoping the addition of the National League North and South for this bonus round will provide more rich pickings as they did on Boxing Day. One fixture that caught my eye is the North division tie between Altrincham and Curzon Ashton. You may think I’ve had a few too many drinks when I tell you Alty are only in 14th place, but they do have games in hand on all their rivals, and an excellent home record that has seen them unbeaten since the opening day with 6 wins and 2 draws which have seen 19 goals scored. The visitors Curzon meanwhile have the second worst away record in the league, however as a word of caution they doubled their away points tally on Saturday as they recorded their first win on the road with a surprise 1-0 victory at promotion chasing Chester. I’m hoping that was just a freak result and that Altrincham will be back amongst the goals as they build on their excellent form at Moss Lane. Good luck and Happy New Year to you all.