GW 26 – Ones to Watch

Matt: Although we discovered earlier this week that two of our usual leagues, namely the Scottish Leagues One & Two, were extending the temporary halting of their seasons, we’re delighted to be able to welcome back the National North & South Leagues to the fold this coming weekend. We’ll have these two divisions available for the foreseeable future, to help maintain a healthy, competitive fixture list during these rather crazy times. And GW 26 is certainly going to be healthy and competitive, with 80+ fixtures in play (at the time of writing) across ten different leagues and cups.

Wasting no time in utilising these ‘bonus’ fixtures from leagues that aren’t regularly available, it’s the match between Dartford and Welling Utd that has immediately caught me eye – and probably some of yours too, given the respective league positions of the two teams! A quick glance at the National League South table reveals this is a top v bottom clash, so naturally there will be an expectation of a home win. Goals, however, might be slightly harder to come by for the home side than you’d imagine; despite a reasonably good record at Princes Park, Dartford have only scored 13 times in 12 games (in all competitions) there this season! No fixtures have been played in this division for the best part of three weeks, but prior to the short break The Darts had picked up 7 points from 9 in their most recent home matches, including an excellent 3-0 win over Tonbridge Angels, and that’s exactly the sort of scoreline many people will be anticipating here. Welling’s rock-bottom position will come as little surprise to those of you who follow the results in this league, for The Wings have just one solitary victory to their name so far in 2020/21! That 2-1 win against Hemel Hempstead came back in November, but aside from that draws have been as good as it gets for the Londoners – though they aren’t necessarily a soft touch at the back, having shipped less goals than half the teams in this league! Instead, Welling tend to concede in ones and twos on a fairly regular basis, though a 4-0 drubbing by Chelmsford City and a thrilling 4-4 draw at Slough Town prove they certainly have it in their locker to go to pieces defensively! Whether or not this happens on Saturday remains to be seen, but it’s hard to envisage Dartford not finding finding the net a time or two.

We also have the FA Trophy Fifth Round ties in play this coming weekend, so it would be rude not to delve into them! The fixture between another National League South side, Oxford City, and Southern League Premier Division Central (that’s a mouthful!) outfit Peterborough Sports stands out as one that could have potential on the goals front. Before the temporary halting of their season a few weeks ago City were in blistering goalscoring form, with a 4-2 win over Haringey Borough in the Fourth Round of this competition quickly followed by sensational 5-3 victory at Hemel Hempstead (yep, that’s Hemel on the wrong end of a result for the second time in this week’s tips section!) That sort of prowess in front of goal rarely goes unnoticed in TUG, but if The Hoops believe this will be a formality against their lesser-known opposition then they may be in for a shock, for Peterborough have progressed to this stage by both blowing away previous opponents and knocking out Oxford’s fellow NLS side Bath City in the Fourth Round. They’ve done it the hard way too, with three of the four victories that got them here coming courtesy of wins on the road; 5-1 at AFC Rushden & Diamonds and 4-0 at Hitchin Town, before that impressive 1-0 success at Bath. The Turbines haven’t competed in the SLPDC (less of a mouthful!) since way back in mid-October, so there’s very little to go on in terms of league form/position, making this more a hunch that with both teams clearly capable of banging the goals in, we could (and should) have no shortage of action in this encounter. With all that in mind, I’m backing City to keep up their impressive recent goalscoring form. Good luck to you all.