Fancy a Non League review for October? Of course you do. As always, SCOTT ROBSON is your man…
I will start on the banks of the Tweed and BERWICK RANGERS in the Lowland League.
Non league teams from around the country will have had a sigh of familiarity at some of the shit Rangers have had to put up with in the last month or so. First of all the club shop was broken into which caused thousands of pounds of damage to stock and buildings. The knock on effect of that and a budget to push for promotion being blown to smithereens by a poor start on the pitch, has seen Berwick forced to go into survival mode with various cuts across the board and key players like Buchanan (31 goals in 44 games), Travis and Ferguson have all left. Berwick exited the Scottish Cup 5-1 after a 9 hour round trip to Brora Rangers and they have been underwhelming so far in the league, midtable in 10th with four wins, draws and losses. Things can only get better.
In the NATIONAL LEAGUE, it’s been a superb month for GATESHEAD who have been sensational since we last did a review. A poor defeat to Altrincham and a tired loss at Bromley may have slightly checked progress but at one stage they went seven unbeaten and in that spell they scored 31 goals which was the highest in any of the top five divisions at the time. The Tynesiders have 25 points in 6th position. It’s worth noting it took them until January to get that many last season. Marcus Dinanga is on twelve goals but the whole team looks dangerous. HARTLEPOOL UNITED had a poor month which has opened up all the wounds from last season’s relegation again. They were in second before playing Oxford City and having a go at their plastic pitch before the game. They were embarrassed 5-2 and subsequently went on to a run of one win in six games. The worrying thing is the previous excellent home record has come to a halt with three defeats. They did win last time out against Eastleigh, who included ex mackem hero Chris Maguire, and fans’ favourite NIcky Featherstone has returned. Hartlepool sit 7th.
In NATIONAL LEAGUE NORTH, It’s SPENNYMOOR TOWN who are our team of the month after a run of three consecutive wins which has left them in second place and only kept off the top by goal difference. Moors have cut out the goals at one end and up front club record goalscorer Glen Taylor has six already, but ahead of him in the league scoring charts is Will Harris with eight. If those two keep that up, Spennymoor will go close. SOUTH SHIELDS are also in a great position, a place and three points below Moors. Despite a shock FA Cup defeat live on the BBC at Leek, Shields have been solid in the league, only losing away to Scunthorpe (just like NUFC did last time we were there) in the last four and only conceding twice in that time. They are also averaging over 2,200 at home. That’s people at the gate, not goals. BLYTH SPARTANS’ early season boon has evaporated somewhat. A crushing five goal defeat to lower league Worksop meant any FA Cup run is already over for this year and that result was their worst in the competition in 86 years. Ouch. it’s no wins since September 5th in the league, but a goalless draw away at Banbury after the cup debacle at least steadied things. Blyth lie in 11th which is still a lot better than DARLINGTON who are rock bottom. After Alun Armstrong left last month, they appointed ex-Hereford coach Josh Gowling as manager but he has, as yet, been unable to repair the shattered confidence of five wins this calendar year. Darlo lost 4-0 at leaders Tamworth last time out and previously went out of the FA Cup to Scarborough. Desperate times at Blackwell Meadows.
In the NORTHERN PREMIER LEAGUE PREMIER DIVISION, it’s been a massive struggle for MARSKE UNITED so far with the Seasiders rooted to the bottom with three points after eleven games played and already it looks like it’s going to have to take another trademark Marske escape act to get out of this one. MORPETH TOWN have won only two games more but have been altogether more solid in mid table without being at all spectacular. A decent cup run ended at Whitby before an FA Trophy exit to FC United so it’s all on the league now and more away wins are a must. In the EAST DIVISION, it’s as topsy turvy as ever with each North East side seemingly wanting to outdo each other with inconsistency just when they go on a run. HEBBURN TOWN are second and joint top but have been far from their best and look surprisingly vulnerable at the back, but you can’t sniff at the table and when they finally do click they could go close. DUNSTON are only a point behind but have suffered two defeats to teams in the bottom five which really should be beaten if they want to go up. Dunston still looked good going forward with Sado Djalo and Jack Maskell combining well and again they sit in a decent position. CONSETT hammered Hebburn 3-0 earlier in the month and at that point went second but after a shock six goal defeat in the FA Trophy, they have gone off the boil with three defeats from four. The Steelmen are sixth a point behind STOCKTON who seem to be starting to motor after a slow start. The pre-season favourites have won six from seven. NEWTON AYCLIFFE, who looked set to struggle, have rallied after three wins which included a win over Hebburn last week. The same can’t be said for ASHINGTON who are really struggling and lie only a point off the bottom, despite a 3-1 win over Dunston with nine men (for the second game in a row) lately. It’s five defeats from six and not many goals for a team struggling with the ruthlessness of this league.
In the NORTHERN LEAGUE FIRST DIVISION, SHILDON already look the team to beat as they attempt promotion at the first attempt. The railwaymen have Joe Posthill and Andrei Ardelean at the top of the goalscoring charts and Shildon have scored 41 in 12 games to lead the table by seven points. BISHOP AUCKLAND look the best equipped to push their neighbours, they will be three points behind if they win the games in hand but they lost their unbeaten record to HEATON STANNINGTON lately and the East End club are on a great run with five wins out of six. Stan drew 4-4 with neighbours BENFIELD (who lie tenth) on Friday when 700 turned out in monsoon conditions. WHITLEY BAY are second but already heavy defeats to title rivals show they won’t last the pace and newly promoted BIRTLEY are still doing well, with eight wins from 11 to sit in third. NORTH SHIELDS haven’t really clicked yet in sixth and neither have WHICKHAM in 14th but WEST ALLOTMENT look dangerous in eighth. TOW LAW and RCA both sacked managers and whoever takes over at both need miracle turnarounds.
In DIVISION TWO, NEWCASTLE BLUE STAR and BLYTH TOWN continue to push each other in the promotion race with BEDLINGTON TERRIERS sandwiching them in second place. Blue Star still look the ones to beat but Blyth have scored 50 goals already. The meetings between the two (firstly in December in Scotswood) will settle the sole promotion place. HORDEN CW are only a point behind and like Bedlington they both will push the other two, who have far higher budgets, right to the end. BRANDON bring up the rear and have already changed managers after just two wins from 16 games.
In the NORTHERN ALLIANCE PREMIER DIVISION, ALNWICK TOWN are the early pacesetters on 25 points but only two points separate them, WALLINGTON, CHEMFICA and BURRADON. Alnwick face Wallington this weekend. NORTH SHIELDS, HEATON STAN ‘A’ and WALLSEND BOYS CLUB SENIORS lead the other three divisions. If you’ve stuck at this all the way down, well done , but obviously now you’re wondering who Chemfica are. More on them, and everyone else, next time.