Something For The Weekend: National League North

By Steve Whitney

It`s a slightly reduced fixture list in the Vanarama National League North on Saturday due to the Buildbase FA Trophy, but there are still some intriguing matches involving either end of the table.

Salford City v Bradford Park Avenue

No doubt the `Class of `92` would have loved a crack at winning the Trophy at Wembley, but an Aaron Williams hat-trick saw the Ammies knocked by league rivals Brackley Town in the Third Qualifying Round.

However, their number one priority is promotion to the top level of non-League football and on Saturday they host a Bradford Park Avenue side who are currently sitting just outside the play-off places.

The Ammies have already beaten Avenue on their patch back in October and will be looking to complete the `double` and stretch their lead at the top of the table to eight points, with second-placed Harrogate Town playing in the Trophy.

Darlington FC v Blyth Spartans

It`s a crucial north-east derby for both teams and for different reasons.

The Quakers are in desperate need of points to pull away from the drop zone, while Spartans are looking to cement their place in the top seven.

Few at the start of the season would have predicted these teams would have been in this position come February.

Darlington finished fifth last season but were barred from competing in the play-offs due to failing ground size regulations, while Blyth had returned to the National League North as champions of the Evo-Stik League Premier.

But the loss of manager Martin Gray to rivals York City in October has seen the Quakers struggle to recover and Blyth have maintained their momentum under Alun Armstrong.

However, the visitors to Blackwell Meadows have suffered back-to-back defeats, while Tommy Wright`s side have shown signs of recovery with a win and two draws in their last three matches.

Southport v AFC Telford United

The Merseyrail Community Stadium hosts another early season `six-pointer` as Kevin Davies` Port side host second-bottom AFC Telford.

The Bucks go into the game five points adrift of their hosts but do possess three games in hand on them and most of the others around them in the table.

Former Bolton Wanderers favourite Davies has made several changes in personnel in recent weeks and successive wins against Leamington and Stockport County promised better times.

However, it was back to square one with a comprehensive 3-0 defeat at Kidderminster Harriers last weekend.

Rob Edwards` side go north in search of their first win of 2018 and have lost their last four after doing well over Christmas.

If the Bucks are to hang on to their place in the National League North, they need to pick up results now.

Where next?

Watson: System Shows We Can Compete Gateshead boss Steve Watson says his side's draw with Wrexham showed the progress they are making.
Bromley Are Letting Their Goals Do All The Talking Now! Bromley manager Neil Smith is delighted with his side’s attacking mentality - he just wants the goals to keep flowing!

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