We start off, as always, at the top of the tree where Chesterfield continue their seemingly relentless march back to the Football League. Indeed, some bookmakers are already paying out on the Spireites returning automatically to the elite ninety-two and, with just one defeat at Southend United the only blemish on their November record, a now eleven point lead – that includes a game in hand – does very little to cast any doubt on the club’s title aspirations. They’ve already surpassed the points totals at the corresponding stage of last season as the promoted pair of Wrexham and Notts County, who both went on to break the Alliance/Conference/National League record tally for a single season.
The chasing pack though has a new leader, so to speak. Barnet’s FA Cup form has been fine but has it had an unfortunate side-effect on the bread and butter of a promotion push ? Four straight defeats has left a slight shadow hanging over an upcoming second round tie away to League Two side Newport County; their reward for knocking out Oldham Athletic in round one.
A slip taken full advantage of by Bromley, who have recovered from a slow start to the season by steadily climbing the table, almost unnoticed, to slip into second spot. Albeit only on goal difference.
Their sole loss in the past month came at the hands of another in-form team Aldershot Town. Not many appeared to fancy Tommy Widdrington’s men at the outset but the goals and form of Lorent Tolaj and Josh Stokes, who joined in the Summer from Isthmian Premier new boys AFC Sudbury sees them sitting in the play-off places.
They’re joined there by Gateshead, who’s three wins in the last four fixtures featured a six-nil thrashing of struggling Dorking Wanderers and an impressive victory over Barnet.
Solihull Moors, in spite of three straight defeats still occupy a top-seven spot, while Rochdale, following three successive wins are second on current form and eighth in the overall standings.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Woking’s miserable month saw them fail to pick up a point and Boss Darren Sarll collect his P45. An FA Cup exit at Isthmian South East high-fliers Ramsgate not helping his cause much either.
Ebbsfleet United, Oxford City and AFC Fylde continue to show how tough life at the top can be, in the bottom four. The Fleet’s up-and-down campaign illustrated perfectly by a four-nil tonking at home to City but November ending after a stunning 4-1 thrashing of Oldham.
The FA Cup saw an extraordinary humbling of Swindon Town, on their own patch, by Aldershot to the tune of seven-four, with the Shots even leading seven-nil until a late Robins rally. Despite an excellent league record, Gateshead couldn’t stop themselves becoming the most recent addition to the list of scalps achieved by renowned cup-fighters Yeovil Town.
York City may have needed a replay to knock out North Division Chester but can put their league hardships to one side when they face former winners Wigan Athletic, live on BBC 2, as round two gets underway on the first Friday (night) in December. While ITV’s cameras will be capturing all the action when Eastleigh – five-one conquerors of league rivals Boreham Wood – line-up against League One’s Reading, forty-eight hours later. Aldershot are also at home to League Two table-toppers Stockport County on the same day, aiming to leave the Hatters in tatters.
At the same time, Chesterfield’s fight on three fronts sees them take on Leyton Orient, of the same division. Not even then League One number one and unbeaten Portsmouth, at full-strength were able to put a spoke in their fellow Blues’ juggernaut in the previous round.
Alfreton Town are National North’s sole survivors, having seen off the challenge of South side Worthing, on a wet and windy day in Derbyshire. They too must go to Hair and Make-Up as they prepare to play at Saturday lunchtime, live on BBC One, in an intriguing tussle with Walsall.
Curzon Ashton and Hereford bravely bowed out via narrow exits at home to Barnet and Gillingham respectively, although Scarborough were left cursing the conceding of a stoppage time equaliser at the Flamingo Land Stadium to Forest Green Rovers, when they were humbled in Gloucestershire three days further on.
However, three wins in four sees Boro in tenth position but handily placed courtesy of a game in hand on those currently occupying the play-offs, in the league.
Tamworth answered three defeats in a row with three wins in a row to return to the top of the pile, where they are hotly pursued by Scunthorpe United thanks to four maximum point hauls in their last five runouts.
Cup commitments have failed to derail Curzon Ashton and Chorley’s unbeaten month featured an extraordinary eight-nil demolition of Darlington, to cement their place amongst the front seven teams. Three points only went once to Spennymoor Town, now sitting below the Lancastrians on simply goal difference, while South Shields, in third, had a mixed November and consequently trail the leading Lambs by five (points.)
Staying in the North East, Darlo’s woes sees them sit above bottom duo Gloucester City and Bishop’s Stortford by a mere two points but more significantly, eight and ten points adrift of safety.
Relegation zone ‘top dogs’ King’s Lynn Town, peering above the precipice, trail Rushall Olympic and Blyth Spartans by two points too and won at Dales Lane to help close that gap at the home of RO, in a largely tight bottom half of the table. Could that prove to be worth more come the final reckoning ?
Surprise scores in the FA Trophy resulted in Step Three Billericay Town toppling Tamworth, FA Cup heroes Alfreton vanquished at the hands of upwardly mobile Macclesfield and Rushall, King’s Lynn, Boston United, Banbury United, Chester and Farsley Celtic all falling victim to sides from a division below.
An extra rung further down the pyramid, City of Liverpool marked the end of Buxton’s Wembley dreams for another year. They now welcome National League Hartlepool United.
Dagenham & Redbridge provide the opposition for Peterborough Sports, who must travel to Essex while it’s a trip to the toughest for Southport – four-nil winners over divisional foes South Shields – as Chesterfield await in the fourth round.
In the South, Yeovil Town suffered what might be considered a crisis; drawing at Chippenham Town and getting hammered four-one at lowly Welling United. Although, they do still enjoy a six-point gap over the rest with the added bonus of a match in hand.
As if that wasn’t enough, an FA Cup date and a ‘Welcome to Wrexham’ adds a bit more spice to watchers on ITV X tomorrow afternoon (3rd Dec.)
Mel Gwinnett’s Hampton & Richmond Borough head the current form guide, as they gatecrashed the play-off party and Jay Saunders has also turned around the fortunes of Tonbridge Angels, joining a trio of teams straddling the dotted line, alongside ourselves and Braintree Town, completing the top four in-form clubs.
Cup commitments may have come to an end in Lincolnshire for Slough Town but an eventually emphatic replay departure from the FA Cup at Grimsby Town hasn’t dampened their spirits too much; three wins out of four enough to elevate them out of the drop zone.
I doubt many would have thought, back in August, that a huge fourteen point chasm would be separating the full-timers of Eastbourne Borough and Havant & Waterlooville. Even fewer believing the latter would be looking up at the former from the basement of National League South.
Indeed, EB have Truro City a miniscule one point but more significantly boasting five games in hand breathing down their necks, along with ex-Manager Danny Bloor matching that with Welling, points wise having played three less than the men of Priory Lane.
No stone has been left unturned during Maidstone United’s continual rise up the rankings, refusing to allow a blip at St Albans City to upset the apple cart. Exemplified by them claiming squatter’s rights in second both in the form table and it’s league counterpart. Wembley’s Arch remains on the horizon by way of a tasty tie-up with League Two promotion hopefuls Barrow, guaranteeing a packed out Gallagher Stadium today (2nd Dec.)
FA Trophy glory evades Braintree for another year, thanks to an unexpected loss in Gloucester, coupled with St Albans’ pockets being picked by the North’s basement dwellers Bishop’s Stortford.
Hemel Hempstead Town’s hopes were ended by Northern Premier League Midlanders Walsall Wood after a penalty shootout. An identical method that also claimed us (at Frome Town) and Tonbridge at local(ish) rivals Hythe Town of the Isthmian South East. Greater accuracy helped Chippenham come out on the right side of them against Southern Premier South Basingstoke, in a clash of the two towns.
(Ooh) Sometimes, as Pop duo Erasure once said, it can seem as if the world is conspiring against you and that emotion was felt by Eastbourne Borough (at Hendon,) Truro (at Hungerford Town) and Havant & Waterlooville (at AFC Totton), in a series of Trophy traumas.
Although, as the equally popular pop/dance beat combo D:Ream once uttered “Things Can Only Get Better.”