Vanarama Make Their Team Of The Weekend Picks!

By Sam Elliott

Is there a title race in the Vanarama National League? For the third successive week, leaders Chesterfield dropped points, going 2-0 up at home to Rochdale before settling for a point.

On Tuesday, the Spireites travel to Barnet who moved into second place with a much-needed win over York City.

At the other end of the table, resurgent Ebbsfleet United and Kidderminster Harriers both won, while Eastleigh made it two from two under new boss Kelvin Davis.

Each week, title sponsors Vanarama provide their Team of the Week for the three divisions and use this column to justify their selections...

Vanarama National League

Few things in football are as satisfying as a hard-fought away win and FC Halifax Town managed just that on Saturday – 1-0 at Dagenham & Redbridge.

Goalkeeper Sam Johnson made more saves (7) than any other keeper in the National division. The seven shots he faced put him behind only Jordi van Stappershoef (Aldershot Town) and Tom Watson (Oxford City).

Maidenhead United pulled off one of the results of the weekend by winning 3-1 at playoff hopefuls Altrincham. Remy Clerima was successful in more defensive actions (25) than any other central defender on Saturday.

The Frenchman recorded more interceptions (11) than anyone else in his position and won more defensive duels (14). Oh, and he got the Mapgies’ third to seal a memorable away day!

It was a special day for Southend United’s Ollie Kensdale who made his 100th appearance for the Shrimpers and marked it in style.

The 23-year-old's first goal of the season put Kevin Maher’s side 2-1 up against 10-man Aldershot Town and they eventually ran out 4-1 winners to make it back-to-back victories.

Another goalscoring centre-back on the day was Kidderminster Harriers’ Reiss McNally. Phil Brown’s side quickly put consecutive games without a win behind them to triumph 2-1 at Oldham Athletic.

Not only was McNally on target for Harriers, but he was also successful in 9/12 defensive actions at Boundary Park.

Whisper it quietly, but Solihull Moors have put together a nice five-game unbeaten run in all competitions and won 2-1 against Hartlepool United on Saturday. Pools had been unbeaten under new boss Kevin Phillips.

Callum Maycock was one of the Moors scorers and was eighth among all central midfielders for passes received (52), as well as winning all seven defensive duels attempted.

Next to him, Nigel Atangana supplied an assist as Eastleigh ensured Davis got the perfect start at home in front of the TNT Sports cameras, beating Bromley 2-0.

Only AFC Fylde’s Ethan Mitchell completed more ball recoveries than his 19 but, in possession, the veteran midfielder supplied two shot assists (3rd).

D’Mani Mellor was on target as Rochdale came from two behind to pick up a spirited draw at Chesterfield.

He completed 13/17 passes and ranked first among all wide midfielders with an expected goals (xG) value of 0.72.

It’s now five unbeaten for new Ebbsfleet United boss Danny Searle following a thumping 4-1 win at Dorking Wanderers, inspired by Rakish Bingham’s brace.

Those goals – to make it four in his last four – came from just two penalty-area touches and an xG value of just 0.32!

Barnet leapfrogged Bromley into second with Callum Stead notching both in a 2-0 win over York City. No striker on Matchday 36 received the ball more often (22 times) or made more progressive runs (4).

If bears hibernate through winter, Marcus Dinanga is awake once more. Gateshead’s own grizzly scored a hat-trick in their 4-0 win over Oxford City to make it seven in his last nine in all competitions.

Unsurprisingly, nobody took more penalty-area touches (10) or recorded a higher xG (1.57).

Kabongo Tshimanga left Boreham Wood in 2021 but it’s like he’s never been away. A brace in the 4-0 win over AFC Fylde made it three in five since his loan return.

Six touches in the box put him behind only Dinanga, while the Peterborough United loanee won three of nine loose ball duels for his side.

Vanarama National League North

Two wins in a week have given Darlington a much-needed boost in the relegation battle.

Andrew Nelson was the match-winner as Darlo came from behind to beat Buxton 2-1 with a pair of late goals.

Nelson completed all four of the dribbles he attempted – behind only teammate Curtis Main among National League North strikers – and ranked second for touches in the opposition box (4).

It’s consecutive wins for Peterborough Sports who had braces from Josh McCammon and Dan Jarvis to thank for their 4-0 win over Rushall Olympic.

Jarvis took more shots than any attacking midfielder in the North but also won more loose ball duels (3) and interceptions (6) than anyone in his position.

Will Evans kept Scunthorpe United’s title hopes alive with a winner in the fifth minute of stoppage time against Alfreton Town. Prior to Saturday, the Iron were winless in four.

Defensively, no one in Evans’ position could better him for aerial duels attempt (23) or won (20).

Vanarama National League South

Few teams have enjoyed a better 2024 than Braintree Town who have won six straight.

It may have been striker Aaron Blair who got the winner at Worthing, but Baris Altintop was imperious.

He ranked third among all right-backs in the South for defensive duels attempted (15) and fourth for duels won.

On a matchday dominated by 1-1 draws (four in total), Slough Town left it late to win 2-1 at Tonbridge Angels and make it five unbeaten.

David Ogbonna was the Rebels’ hero, bagging a stoppage-time winner after assisting Matt Lench’s opener. He was second for touches in the box by a wide midfielder (6) and nobody could top his seven defensive duels won.

Bath City’s five-game win streak ended with a 1-1 draw at Havant & Waterlooville, courtesy of Dan Hayfield who won four of five defensive duels and completed 30/35 attempted passes.

Where next?

York City Fire Ardley As Minstermen Make A Dug-Out Change York City have made the decision to part company with Neal Ardley as they continue to struggle in the National League.
It’s Not A Day To Remember For The Teams At The Top! The season’s biggest crowd mostly left disappointed in a tough day for the teams at the top in all three divisions.

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