GW 35 – Ones to Watch

Ally: The International breaks usually afford us the opportunity to dip into the National League North and South divisions for a bit added variety, but unfortunately you-know-what has seen to that after the respective leagues were declared void for a second successive season.

To kick things off this weekend I’m going for the FA Trophy Semi Final featuring Notts County of the National League, and Hornchurch of the Isthmian League Premier Division. Notts have been a little inconsistent of late with just 3 wins from their previous 9 matches in all competitions, though they are still firmly in the play off places with games in hand on all their rivals. However this recent run was sufficient for the board to dispense with the services of manager Neal Ardley earlier this week after almost two and a half years at the helm. He was swiftly replaced within 24 hours by the largely unheralded Scot Ian Burchnall who has been managing in Sweden’s top flight with Ostersunds, where he took over from current Brighton manager Graham Potter. Saturday’s game presents the Magpies’ players with the ideal opportunity to impress the new boss against a side used to plying their trade two divisions further down in the seventh tier of the football league pyramid, and despite the indifferent form they have found the net in each of their last seven games. Hornchurch travel to Meadow Lane having not played a league game since early November 2020. When the season was halted they were firmly in mid table, and their only games since have been in the FA Trophy. While they’ve clearly been on a winning run to progress in the cup, they have conceded in all but one of their 7 matches, and only faced one National League side in that time where they saw off relegation threatened Kings Lynn on penalties. I’m expecting the combination of Notts’ superior quality and new manager bounce to propel them to another Wembley appearance.

I’m staying in the National League for my next tip, which sees Yeovil Town welcome struggling Barnet to Huish Park. The Glovers aren’t having the best season themselves, currently residing in the bottom half of the table and having played more games than the majority of the teams around them. However it was more the form, or rather complete lack of it by the visitors that has drawn my attention to this fixture. The Bees have only mustered a measly 13 points from their 27 games, just 3 ahead of Dover who declared they had quite literally run out of money in February and promptly furloughed all their players and staff with only 15 games on the board. Barnet have won just once on their travels all season in the league, in their first away match, and have only one clean sheet to their name too, conceding 35 goals in the 12 games away from The Hive. The hosts meanwhile boast a respectable home record on the goalscoring front at least, only failing to find the net twice in 16 games in all competitions, and Saturday represents an ideal opportunity to keep that run going against the worst away defence in the league. Good luck with your selections!