It's been another eventful week in the non-league, so let's take a look at the major talking points:
Cambridge United remain unbeaten and six points clear of the chasing pack in the Skrill Premier, after ten points out of twelve in October extended their streak to sixteen games without defeat.
The U’s also kept four clean-sheets, in victories over Hereford, Grimsby and Salisbury and a goalless draw with Chester. With just six goals conceded all season, Richard Money’s side have comfortably the strongest defence in the division. Braintree (15 conceded) has the next strongest back line.
A brace from Kwesi Appiah saw Cambridge past the Whites in their latest league game. After coming on as an early substitute, replacing an injured Tom Elliott, the Crystal Palace loanee took advantage of a defensive mix-up between goalkeeper Will Puddy and defender James Clarke to prod home a 49th minute opener, before curling in a second just seven minutes later.
With five goals Appiah is the U’s second top scorer so far this season, only behind Adam Cunnington, whose six strikes do include two penalties.
Kidderminster Harriers are second and look the most likely to catch this year’s runaway leaders. They’ve won their last three matches, a run that included a 4-1 thrashing of struggling pre-season favourites Forest Green.
Southport (2-1) and Lincoln (4-1) were also dispatched as Harriers extended their unbeaten run to six matches.
But it’s Luton Town who are perhaps showing the best form of anyone at the moment; After struggling for much of the early part of the season, the Hatters are now unbeaten in eight matches – winning six – and scoring 25 goals. Their attack is now the most potent in the division, having netted 30 times in total. Andre Gray and Luke Guttridge have scored six apiece.
The surprise package of the season are undoubtedly Braintree Town, who as a part-time team playing in only their third season in the division, have already secured a points tally of 28, placing them fourth.
A run of four straight victories ended in early October when they suffered a 3-2 defeat to Welling, but they responded in style to draw with early season pacesetters Nuneaton 1-1, and defeat Chester 3-0.
Grimsby Town occupy the fifth and final playoff place at this stage, but they struggled in October – falling to back-to-back defeats against Cambridge and Salisbury, both by scores of 1-0.
However, they also responded well to a poor run, winning their final league game of the month, 3-1, against Forest Green – a result that cost Rovers manager Dave Hockaday his job.
Managerial & Coaching Changes
Hockaday departed after a run of seven defeats in eight games that left his side, much fancied for promotion in pre-season, just four points adrift of the bottom four. Another miserable statistic for fans of Forest Green Rovers: with 29 goals conceded, only bottom of the table Hyde have let in more goals this term.
Following a meeting with Chairman Dale Vince, Hockaday brought to an end his four-year tenure at the New Lawn by mutual consent.
He told the club's official website: "Football is a results driven business and recently results haven't been good enough.
"I feel I have left the club, both on and off the field, in the best shape it has ever been. I am proud of what I've achieved here and feel the time is right to move on.
"I wish everyone at the club the very best - Forest Green Rovers will always have a place in my heart."
Vince added: "I'd like to thank David, personally and on behalf of the whole club - for all he has done in his time here.
"A lot of the changes David has brought are not as readily visible as a score-line and are less immediate in their impact - but they are vital to the long term success of the club.
"David has been a key player in the transformation of FGR and I wish him all the very best in his next role."
Former England goalkeeper David James has also been introduced as a coach at Luton Town. James is in the process of earning his A-licence coaching qualifications and linked up with the Hatters in a bid to gain some more valuable experience.
James told the club's official website: "It’s all well and good filling out the logbook and writing in it that you've done 300 hours of coaching, but it doesn't feel right at the moment.
"I could go for an assessment tomorrow but I feel I need to learn more and that's what I'm here.
"This might be the Conference but there are some very good players here."
The 43-year-old admits he had always hopes to play for Luton Town, but having hung up his boots, he is happy to settle for a coaching role at Kenilworth Road.
He added: "The dream was to play here for Luton. It was the dream but perhaps that's a little bit beyond me now.
"Now I've got this opportunity to be involved, and it's by doing something I believe will not only be productive for the progression of my coaching but also, as John says, for the help of the team to push on and get the promotion that Luton deserves - and I'd love to be involved in that.
"I won't be stepping on anybody's toes. All I can do is keep passing on little bits of advice and experience onto those who want to listen."
Game of the Week
Once again the game of the week was involving Luton Town, who edged out Tamworth 4-3 at the Lamb Ground.
The hosts opened the scoring early through Duane Courtney, but the Hatters rallied to net four goals without reply, in a 23-minute period either side of half time.
Jonathan Smith grabbed the equaliser with an exquisite curling strike from 20-yards out, Andy Parry moved Luton ahead with another strike from long range, and Paul Benson grabbed a double – heading in Shaun Whalley’s cross for his first, before capitalising on good work from Andre Gray to grab his second.
But the Lambs fought valiantly, pulling a goal back through a penalty from Lateef Elford-Alliyu, and adding a third from Courtney – the captain who was a pre-season transfer target for Luton.
Salisbury City are currently outside of the top five on goal difference, and head a list of seven playoff chasers separated by just two points.
Nuneaton Town, who briefly led the division in September, have dropped to seventh after a run of seven games without a win. Barnet, Welling United, Gateshead, Halifax Town, and Alfreton Town complete the top half.
The bottom four has remained the same for some time now, with Woking, Chester, Aldershot Town and Hyde all below the safety line.
Hyde have lost their last twelve league games and are ten points adrift of the rest of the division. Perhaps most worryingly, they have conceded 42 goals – comfortably the worst in the league – and only scored 12, giving them the second weakest attack. They also missed out on a potential victory against Dartford in their last outing, leading 3-2 with 10 minutes remaining, only to lose 4-3.
Aldershot’s form has dropped in recent weeks with only one win in six games, and even if they were to have their ten point deduction returned it would only place them thirteenth.
Chester have only lost four of their last ten matches, but with only 11 goals scored they are really struggling to pick up results regularly. They only managed to find the net once in four October league games.
Woking remain the closest to safety, two points adrift of Tamworth, and put together a creditable four match unbeaten run that included a win against Nuneaton, and draws against Southport, Barnet and Halifax, before a 2-0 defeat to Wrexham ended their mini-run.
FA Cup Qualifying
The pick of the fourth round ties saw Needham Market from the Isthmian League Division One North host Skrill Premier leader's Cambridge United, and almost hold them to a draw, with the U’s edging the game 1-0.
Elsewhere, Macclesfield Town stuffed Vauxhall Motors 7-0, Kidderminster Harriers were held to a 1-1 draw by Bradford Park Avenue and will face a replay, Southport defeated lowly Marske United 6-2, Hereford United needed a stoppage time winner to defeat AFC Hornchurch 1-0, Ebbsfleet United and Dartford played out a 1-1 draw in a Kent derby, Aldershot Town were held by the same score-line at Shortwood United and Forest Green Rovers suffered a shock 1-0 loss at home to Bishops Stortford.
Finally, Daventry Town from the Southern Football League Division One Central will be the lowest ranked side in the first round, after a 6-1 win over Hartley Wintney. They face the possibility of a trip to the likes of Sheffield United or Wolverhampton Wanderers in the next round.
Elsewhere in Non-League
Eastleigh and Bromley remain atop the Skrill South with 26 and 25 points respectively from their opening twelve matches, although third placed Bishops Stortford can leapfrog both of the early pacesetters if they win their game in hand.
Sutton United and Hayes & Yeading complete the playoff places while Boreham Wood, Gosport Borough and Dorchester Town occupy the relegation zone.
Hednesford and Altringham Town lead the way with 26 points in Skrill North, although the former do have a game in hand.
Boston United, North Ferriby United and Brackley Town currently hold places three, four and five, while Worcester City, Oxford City and Workington Town are the bottom three.
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