Eyebrows were raised last week when the news broke that Steve Watson was swapping the relative comfort of the National League for a potential relegation dogfight in National North. But for the former Newcastle and Everton defender the opportunity to stamp his authority on matters at Bootham Crescent was just too good to turn down and he will know if he can steer the Minstermen away from danger this season – something that is highly attainable with the squad he has inherited – then next term the club’s ambitions will be more in line with his own.
But Watson couldn’t have asked for a tougher first league outing for his new side, with in-form Stockport County welcoming them to Edgeley Park off the back of four straight league wins as they have marched up to third in a title push with Bradford Park Avenue and Chorley.
Despite the chasm between the two clubs in terms of league positioning, Watson’s arrival will no doubt bring extra energy to the playing ranks and they’ll have the belief they can leave Greater Manchester with the goods, despite shipping 23 goals in eight league outings on the road this term.
A big crowd is expected at Edgeley as momentum gathers for the promotion push, and the Hatters have the firepower to sweep aside any side on their day. Gateshead, under Watson’s remit, were not known for settling for the draw so expect this to be full throttle with plenty of goal-mouth action.
When optimistic Aldershot Town first took a look at the fixture list on its release in June, the visit of Chesterfield on Saturday would have been seen as a potential promotion six-pointer.
As it is, following a disastrous first half of the season for the Shots, seeking a place in the play-offs for a third successive season, and Chesterfield, aiming for an immediate return to the Football League, it’s more of a relegation scrap than a top-of-the-table clash.
Gary Waddock’s Shots are without a win in nine league games but have had a welcome two-week break from the action to allow a growing list of players to recover from injury.
A depleted squad was boosted earlier by the arrival of winger John Goddard on a six-month deal from Stevenage and he goes straight into the reckoning to face a Chesterfield side one place and one point below them in the National League relegation zone.
New manager John Sheridan takes his first league game back in charge of the Spireites, looking to build on three successive league draws and last week’s FA Trophy victory over Bedford Town who, incidentally, knocked out Aldershot the previous round.
Sceptics will say there’s no such thing as a six-pointer in January but with pressure and frustration building in both camps, defeat could prove another hammer blow.
Many already have the National League South title race down to two horses, but Bath City can have a big say in that this weekend.
The Romans are aiming to close the gap on leaders Torquay United when they visit Twerton Park tomorrow and make a big statement regarding their own promotion bid.
Bath boss Jerry Gill has done a fine job since his was appointed in 2017, taking the club into the top ten last season before mounting an assault on the title in this campaign. He’s called for supporters to turn out in their numbers tomorrow for their biggest game of the season so far as his side gun for eight unbeaten in the league.
They’re seven points behind Torquay, having played a game extra, but if they were to inflict Gary Johnson’s first league defeat then who’s to say they won’t maintain their stride going into the final few months.
It’s a crucial weekend amongst the top nine teams with eight of them meeting one of their promotion rivals.