We’re already entering the second month of the season, and as it stands one of the pre-season favourites – Cambridge United – are still leading the way in the Skrill Premier, but they still have surprise package Nuneaton Town hot on their heels.
The U’s and Boro’ are the division’s only remaining unbeaten sides with the pair having both picked up five wins, two draws and 17 points from their opening seven fixtures. Both have picked up back-to-back victories since the August Bank Holiday weekend to establish their positions at the top of the table.
Cambridge responded well to dropping two points in a 0-0 draw to Luton Town as they defeated Tamworth 3-0. They had to bide their time before the breakthrough came, provided by Adam Cunnington’s penalty nine minutes before half-time, but they took control after the break as Luke Berry’s double secured a comfortable victory.
They found it harder going against Hyde, but Cunnington was on target again, this time three minutes before the interval, to secure a 1-0 win.
Nuneaton’s success is surely more of a surprise, having dodged relegation by just seven points last season. However, their wonderful start to the year will act as great encouragement to all the division’s other part-time teams.
They surprised Grimsby Town, one of last year’s playoff contenders, by a score of 2-1. Gavin Cowan and Andy Brown netted early goals for the visitors before the Mariners lost Aswad Thomas to a second yellow card. Despite the man disadvantage the home side pulled a goal back through substitute Andy Cook four minutes from time, but it proved no more than a consolation.
Another of last year’s playoff contenders Wrexham, who were also last season’s FA Trophy winners, were the next side to be stunned by Kevin Wilkin’s side as Nuneaton ran out 2-0 victor’s at the Liberty Way stadium – with late goals from Brown and Louis Moult securing victory.
The result continues a difficult season for the Dragons, who have now lost three consecutive games and sit just a point outside of the bottom four, leaving plenty to ponder for player-manager Andy Morrell.
Barnet had the opportunity to join Cambridge and Nuneaton at the top of the table, but remain third, three points behind the leaders, after slipping to defeat in their most recent fixture against Halifax Town.
Goals from Scott McManus and Lois Maynard put the home side into a two goal lead, before Curtis Weston pulled one back for Edgar Davids’ side.
Despite a great deal of late pressure, the Bees couldn’t force an equaliser, and the Shaymen jumped into fifth place.
It was the ideal response from Neil Aspin’s newly promoted side, who fell to defeat in their previous match away at Salisbury City. Elliott Frear put the Whites in front before Halifax lost both Kevin Holsgrove and Josh Wilson to straight red cards. Luke Riddick and Ben Wright added further goals for the hosts before Ryan Brett’s own goal provided the visitors with a late consolation.
Lincoln City are fourth and occupy the other playoff spot. They suffered defeat in their last match however – Salisbury making it back-to-back victories with a 1-0 win, Chris McPhee scoring the only goal.
Forest Green Rovers, Alfreton Town, Kidderminster Harriers and Southport all sit a point adrift of the top five, while Hereford United complete the top ten.
Rovers' inconsistent form continued as the bookie’s favourites for the title were held to their third draw of the season, this time against Braintree Town. James Norwood put the visitors ahead, but his sixth minute strike was cancelled out by Kenny Davis’ penalty.
FGR manager Dave Hockaday will no doubt be quick to point out the positives however, with his side now unbeaten in four matches and starting to look more like promotion candidates.
On the same day, last year’s runners-up Kidderminster halted a run of two straight defeats with a 2-1 victory over Welling United. A first-half double from James Dance put the Harriers in control, but substitute Loui Fazakerley’s strike nine minutes from time meant that the home side stayed in contention right up until the final whistle.
Alfreton also returned to winning ways in their last match, defeating Woking 3-1, but it was defeat for Southport, who were hammered 4-1 by Tamworth. Hereford were also beaten in their last match, losing 2-1 at the hands of a resurgent Gateshead.
Grimsby and Luton Town – two of the other pre-season favourites – sit in eleventh and thirteenth respectively at this still early stage, after the pair played out a goalless draw last Saturday. The result was the Hatters fourth tie of the year already, and the third that has not seen a goal.
At the bottom of the table, Aldershot Town have reached parity after cancelling out their ten point deduction, and now sit just four points from safety. Last weekend they defeated Macclesfield Town by a goal to nil, Mark Molesley netting the crucial strike mid-way through the second-half.
Macclesfield remain in deep trouble as they, along with Hyde, are the only two teams yet to register a win in the division so far this season.
The latter will feel hard done by. After securing respectable draws against Hereford and Wrexham (both 2-2), they fell to successive narrow defeats against Grimsby (1-0), Barnet (3-2) and Cambridge (1-0).
A run of draws – three in fact – was brought to an end for Macclesfield by Braintree (1-0), before they lost to the Shots by the same score.
Chester complete the relegation places, but have improved after starting the season with five successive defeats. They defeated Wrexham 2-0 to get off the mark for the year, thanks to early goals from Paul Linwood and Lewis Turner, before they held Dartford to a goalless draw last weekend.
It’s worth remembering that Kidderminster also lost their first five matches last season, and in fact only scored five points from their first ten games before finishing second. Could last year’s Blue Square North winners be set for a similar revival as they seek their fourth successive promotion?
In Skrill South, Eastleigh remain the early pace-setters having accumulated 13 points from their first six matches. Last Saturday they defeated second place Bromley by two goals to one in an early promotion candidate six pointer.
Weston-Super-Mare are in third place after defeating Boreham Wood 3-0, while Basingstoke Town remain fourth despite a surprise 1-0 defeat at Whitehawk. The duo, along with Bromley, all have 12 points from their first six matches – with four wins and two defeats.
Maidenhead United are fifth with eleven points, but if they win their game in hand they could jump to the top of the table. Eastbourne Borough are in a similar situation, a point further back in seventh place, but they too have a game in hand.
Farnborough have finally played their first match of the season after going someway to resolving their issues with league officials. Ironically they won the match, 1-0 against Dover Athletic, lifting themselves off the bottom of the table and into 20th place above Gosport Borough and Dorchester Town.
Surprise strugglers include Chelmsford City and Boreham Wood, in 18th and 19th place respectively, with the former likely to be especially disappointed after being thrashed 4-0 at Kingfield by Hayes & Yeading last weekend.
In Skrill North, Altringham lead the way with five wins, a draw, and 16 points out of a possible 18 from their first six matches. On Saturday they defeated Leamington 1-0.
Brackley’s 2-0 win over Guiseley keeps them two points adrift in second place, while Harrogate Town, Hednesford and North Ferriby United are all a point further back, completing the playoff places.
Gainsborough Trinity’s 3-1 defeat to Stockport County means they are still without so much as a point this season, and remain bottom of the league. They are joined in the bottom three by Oxford City and Worcester City, who both have two points.
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