Focus On The Battle To Avoid National League Relegation

9 months ago By Sam Elliott

For every title battle and every play-off push, there is of course the fight at the other end of any table.

It’s the area of the league where nobody wants to be, but there’s no point in closing your eyes to it - the big R by the side of your club’s name fills even the most hard-nosed supporters with fear!

It has been quite a while since the National League’s relegation zone housed anyone accept the current four sides which sit in it.

Can any of them pull off the great escape? Well let’s investigate.

Mark Yates said before Christmas that he was convinced his Solihull Moors side could not only pull themselves off the bottom, but secure safety. It wasn’t looking good at the time.

But back-to-back wins over Barrow and Maidenhead means the Moors are motoring. They’ve gone from 24th to 21st inside a few days - and their next goal is clawing their way over that dreaded dotted line.

The gap between fourth-from-bottom and 20th currently stands at seven points. Moors take on leaders Macclesfield away next, followed by a home game with Woking. Then it’s Dagenham.

The new side at the bottom, and not helped by the postponement of their New Year’s Day game with Eastleigh, is Torquay United.

Even with a match in hand they know ten points is a big total to make up, but Gary Owers has certainly improved things since coming in. January is huge for the Gulls but it’s not easy, with Wrexham and Macclesfield away and home games with Bromley and the re-arranged match with Eastleigh. They know they need to perform.

Chester manager Marcus Bignot accepted quite early that his side would never pull clear of trouble, and so it’s proved.

But just one win since October - a narrow home success over struggling Solihull Moors - has painted a rather dark picture. The Blues will be returning to the National League North unless they can start picking up results.

Bignot’s team face a crucial few days in their season as the away games stack up. First Ebbsfleet this weekend, and then on to AFC Fylde on Tuesday. The boss knows they need to get going and quickly. If they go into February in form, a month where they have three home games in the first three weeks, then they’ll give themselves a fighting chance.

Guiseley have again shown plenty of character over the Christmas period, and that’s given Paul Cox hope that they’ll still be a National League club next season.

Cruelly denied a win over Aldershot late on, they then went to Chester and won 2-0. Ashley Palmer’s equaliser three minutes into time added on secured what could be a crucial point in the reverse fixture against the Blues on New Year’s Day.

Cox has his targets. If they can get a good haul of points from trips to Eastleigh and AFC Fylde then it sets up a massive match at home to his former club Barrow on January 20.

The Bluebirds, despite big improvement, haven’t been able to burst clear and new manager Ady Pennock knows they have a hard month with Tranmere and Sutton to come plus the big game with Guiseley - but their point at Wrexham was certainly encouraging. Now to repair that home form.

Leyton Orient had hoped to pull clear of problems, but just one point from a possible six has left them still cautious after Christmas.

Above the O’s, Eastleigh have quality players but know they will be sucked in if Andy Hessenthaler’s team don’t perform against Guiseley and Torquay United in their next two games.

Just above them are Gateshead and also FC Halifax, the National League North play-off winners.

Both sets of fans will hope they have enough to remain in the league but can Hartlepool United be certain?

The newcomers are 15th but with only one win since October and confidence in need of a lift, Pools boss Craig Harrison knows getting victory soon is critical to the final four months.

January is difficult, with Wrexham and a trip to Dagenham next. Then comes Eastleigh at the end of the month. By that time both hope to be clear of trouble.

Where next?

AFC Fylde Take Former Nuneaton Midfielder On Loan Midfielder Callum Chettle has joined AFC Fylde on loan from SkyBet League One side Peterborough United until the end of the current campaign.
Keeper Evans Joins Wigan Team-Mate On Loan At Sutton Young goalkeeper Owen Evans has moved to Sutton United on an initial month`s loan from SkyBet League One leaders Wigan Athletic.

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