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Non-League: Round-up

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Title Race: Cambridge United responded well to their first defeat of the Skrill Premier season against Southport at the start of November, winning two and drawing one of their three remaining league games that month.

Both Aldershot Town (4-0) and Woking (2-0) were both comfortably dispatched as the U’s kept their 100% home record intact, but their less than perfect away record took another hit as they gave up a two goal lead to draw 2-2 with Barnet.

Richard Money’s side have now won just three of their ten away games this season, drawing six and losing one. However, they still remain four points clear of nearest challengers Luton Town with a game in hand.

And there’s been more good news for Cambridge recently, with top scorer Kwesi Appiah, who has eight league goals so far this term, confirming that he has extended his loan spell from Premier League Crystal Palace, ensuring that he will remain at the club for the “foreseeable future.”

Play-off Places: Luton Town remain far from consistent, having failed to win more than two consecutive matches since mid-September but, crucially, they have put together an unbeaten run of 13 games to leave themselves comfortably inside the division’s top five.

Like Luton, after some early struggles the league’s pre-season favourites have worked their way to the top of the standings – with Kidderminster Harriers and Grimsby Town looking the only other realistic title challengers outside of the top two.

Mariners’ boss Paul Hurst was been named the ‘Manager of the Month’ for November, with his side winning all three of their league games, including victories at Woking and Tamworth on the road before a home success over Barnet. But fans will remember the month for an incredible FA Cup victory over local rivals Scunthorpe United. Hurst’s side produced a goalless draw at home in the first-round tie, before going to Glanford Park in the replay and winning 2-1.

The playoff places are completed by Nuneaton Town who ended a nine game winless streak with a 2-1 victory over Welling United. Further successes followed against Chester (1-0) and Alfreton (3-0) as Kevin Wilkin’s side moved two points clear of the latter, who currently sit sixth.

Having taken 23 points from their first nine matches, the Boro’s next nine fixtures bore just four points, and they will no doubt hope their latest winning streak is more than just a brief revival of their early season form that saw them briefly top the table.

Play-off Chasers: If Alfreton Town could carry their home form into their travels they would be a lot better off than their current sixth place spot. Having taken 28 points out of a possible 33 at North Street, including a victory over Kidderminster and a draw with Cambridge, they’ve managed just six points from ten away games – losing eight. Only Chester has come away from a trip to the Reds with three points.

Barnet are three points adrift of the top five. The Bees main issue has been failing to convert draws into wins. They’ve tied nine matches this season, including five of their last ten games. However, only Grimsby has managed to beat Edgar Davids’ side since mid-September.

They head a list of six teams separated by just three points. Despite losing three of their last five games, Salisbury City are still within touching distance of the playoff places, having also defeated Macclesfield Town and Gateshead in that time.

Braintree Town have slipped a little in recent weeks, having lost on three of their last four outings to fall four points adrift of the top five. A 1-0 win over Halifax was in fact their only success in their last five league games, with defeats to Aldershot, Alfreton and Luton following a goalless draw with Tamworth.

Perhaps the team in the best form out of the playoff chasers is Gateshead, who have put some early season struggles well and truly behind them with a run of six wins in eight games. Only Luton, who managed a 0-0 draw, and Wrexham, who defeated the Tynesiders in a 3-2 thriller, has come away with anything from a game against Gary Mills’ side since late September.

Halifax and Forest Green Rovers complete the top twelve. The former was let down by a surprise defeat to struggling Hereford last time out, while the latter has finally found some form – winning four of their last five games to start to pay back those who tipped them as promotion favourites. But with already a 15 point deficit on league leaders Cambridge, there is a long way to go for FGR.

Relegation battle: Dartford have lost their last six games to fall to second bottom in the league table. With Hyde, still without a win this season, looking all but doomed 17 points adrift of safety, the Darts are effectively at the foot of a pack of six teams separated by just three points.

Third bottom Chester are picking up points, having only lost twice in their last nine outings, but those fixtures have also only produced two wins – against Alfreton and Hyde. They are level on points with Aldershot, who have put their shock FA Cup exit at the hands of minnows Shortwood United behind them by winning consecutive league games for the first time since early September. Southport were dispatched 5-1, with Brett Williams netting a hat-trick, before Matt Paterson’s 90th minute header earned the Shots’ a 2-1 win over Braintree.

Tamworth and Woking sit a point outside the bottom four, although neither the Lambs nor the Cards have won more than two of their last eight league games. Southport are also on the verge of dropping into trouble, having lost their last four matches.

FA Trophy: Bradford Park Avenue produced the biggest shock of the first round of the FA Trophy as they defeated Kidderminster Harriers 2-1. Several other Skrill Premier sides fell to lower league opposition as North Ferriby United beat Hyde, Southport fell to Boston United and Chester lost out to Barrow, all by the same scoreline.

The second round draw has thrown up several intriguing ties. Luton Town will host holders Wrexham if they can overcome Staines Town in a replay, last year’s runners-up Grimsby Town will travel to Barnet if they can belatedly see of Coalville at the second attempt, while minnows St Albans City will host Cambridge United.

Elsewhere in Non-League: Bromley are now a point clear at the top of Skrill South with a game in hand. The surprise frontrunners have won their last four league games, and have stolen a march on second place Eastleigh, who were beaten 2-1 by Tonbridge Angels.

Ebbsfleet United are third having won six of their last seven games, while fourth place Bishop’s Stortford, who have won four and draw won of their last five, are also closing in on the top pair. Bath City complete the top five, after a run of seven games without defeat, but Basingstoke Town can leapfrog them into the playoff places if they win their game in hand.

In an intriguing Skrill North table, the top five teams: Hednesford Town, Altringham, Brackley Town, North Ferriby United and Boston United all have 32 points, while sixth place AFC Telford and seventh place Solihull Moors are only one and two points adrift respectively.

At the bottom Barrow, who were relegated from the Skrill Premier last season, have slipped into the bottom three and are under real threat of a second successive relegation, having only won two league games all season.

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