Vanarama Make Their Team Of The Weekend Picks!

By Sam Elliott

As we tick into February, the pressure is beginning to crank up in the National League – and that much was evident on Matchday 32.

Chesterfield’s lead at the summit is up to 19 points after Bromley lost while third-placed Barnet conceded in the 100th minute to drop points at home to Wealdstone.

Fellow promotion hopefuls Solihull Moors, Oldham Athletic and Rochdale also suffered setbacks.

Every week, title sponsors Vanarama provide their Team of the Week and use this column to justify their selections.

Vanarama National League

Nathan Ashmore had a day to forget a week ago as Boreham Wood were run over 3-0 at home by Dorking Wanderers.

But the experienced Wood No.1 was back to his best on Saturday as 10-man Luke Garrard’s men beat struggling Woking 1-0 at Kingfield. Ashmore stopped all four of the shots he faced, worth an expected goals (xG) value of 1.15.

Gateshead recorded back-to-back victories for the first time since November by winning 1-0 at Southend United.

Veteran defender Louis Storey was successful in all 14 of his defensive actions, as well as racking up nine interceptions – enough to rank ninth among all central defenders on Matchday 32.

Next to him, Cian Harries helped lay the foundations of Aldershot Town’s 2-1 triumph at FC Halifax Town.

No centre-back in the National division attempted (22) or completed (18) more long passes. The Shots stopper also ranked fifth for completed ball recoveries with an impressive 22.

It would be reductive to pin Hartlepool United’s upturn in form solely at the door of Luke Waterfall. However, the former Grimsby Town skipper has a perfect record from two games and shone in Saturday’s 2-1 win at promotion-chasing Bromley.

Waterfall was successful in 10/11 defensive actions and racked up seven interceptions for Kevin Phillips’ side.

It’s consecutive wins for Altrincham who clinched a potentially vital 1-0 win at Solihull Moors on Saturday.

Alex Newby got the goal but it was Justin Amaluzor who provided the assist. No winger in the National League attempted more shots (4) or assisted more shots (3) than Amaluzor.

On the opposite side, Liam Mandeville is arguably the unsung hero of Chesterfield’s remarkable title charge. But no one could overlook his part in Saturday’s 3-1 victory at Eastleigh.

Mandeville received more passes (66) than any other winger, attempted (82) and completed (72) more passes than anyone else. Of those, a league-leading five were in the final third, while 10 attempted crosses (1st) and four completed (1st) topped the charts.

Ebbsfleet United started life without Dennis Kutrieb by collecting a credible point at home to Oldham Athletic in front of the TNT Sports cameras.

Former Latic Ousseynou Cissé was the pick for the hosts. No central midfielder won more loose ball duels (5) than the 32-year-old, who also completed 35/38 passes for the Fleet.

Phil Brown’s Houdini act continued on Saturday with a fourth win from as many games as Kidderminster Harriers boss. Trailing 2-0 against Oxford City, Jack Lambert stepped up to the plate with a goal and assist to inspire a come-from-behind win.

Lambert led all National League central midfielders for dribbles attempted (9), attacking duels (18) and crosses (5).

Jon Ustabasi evidently enjoys facing Dorking. The AFC Fylde man last scored against the Wanderers on November 25 and bagged a brace in Saturday’s 3-1 win at Meadowbank.

The former Chorley attacker attempted (10) and completed (6) more dribbles than any other striker. Meanwhile, his brace came from an xG value of just 0.43, suggesting some clinical finishing was required!

With eight goals in his last eight games, Dagenham & Redbridge talisman Inih Effiong is red-hot right now. And two of those came in Saturday’s 2-1 success at Rochdale.

Effiong put up an xG of 0.87 and with penalties worth 0.75 (i.e. 75% likelihood of going in), his ninth-minute opener owed much to Effiong’s instinctive finishing from an acute angle.

Completing the XI is Gateshead marksman Marcus Dinanga who got the winner against Southend at Roots Hall.

Only three players recorded a higher xG (1.18) than Dinanga on Saturday, who was second for overall attempts with four.

Vanarama National League North

It’s just one defeat in 10 for Boston United who were 3-0 winners at Southport on Matchday 32, climbing into the National League North playoff places.

Right-back Jai Rowe was a force at both ends and opened the scoring after 31 minutes. No right-back in the division took more shots (5) or completed more dribbles (3). But Rowe also ranked second for aerial duels won 96) and fourth for interceptions (7) among his peers.

In midfield, Sam Osborne helped himself to a double as Buxton made it back-to-back away wins, 3-0 at Curzon Ashton.

No one in Osborne’s position took more shots (4) or had more penalty-area touches (7). But the 25-year-old worked tirelessly out of possession, too, succeeding with a league-leading 15/18 defensive actions for a wide midfielder, as well as making six interceptions.

Jason Cowley was the hero as five-star Hereford brushed Blyth Spartans aside 5-2.

The Bulls striker scored a hat-trick from a league-high seven shots, while also recording a higher xG (1.44) than any other striker in National League North. It’s now 11 goals from 19 starts for the 28-year-old.

Vanarama National League South

It’s three wins in four for in-form Braintree Town who put Dover Athletic to the sword 3-0 on Saturday.

Ben Tompkins has a colossus for the Iron this season and it was the 18-year-old centre-back who got the second before half time. No centre-back in the South could match his two shots or six loose ball duels won.

Ewan Clark was Bath City’s match winner as the Romans clinched consecutive 1-0 wins, this time over Eastbourne Borough at Twerton Park.

No one in Clark’s position managed more dribbles attempted (14), completed (7), progressive runs (5), or attacking duels attempted (26) or won (13).

St Albans City are getting used to life without David Noble after he stepped up to take over at Wealdstone.

Interim coaching duo Jon Meakes and Harry Wheeler certainly staked their claim with a 4-0 win at Torquay United on Saturday.

Restored to the starting XI, Giorgio Rasulo bagged a brace while striker Shaun Jeffers – often left out by Noble – got the other two to make it six unbeaten for the Saints.

Where next?

No Pools Party Yet For Phillips Despite Sensational Start Kevin Phillips says the standard has now been set after his fantastic start to life at Hartlepool United continued.
All The Goals From Another Action Packed Afternoon Chesterfield are now 19 points clear at the top of the National League as some big results were earned down the bottom.