By Matt Bishop
Despite the swirling winds and torrential rain of Storm Brian hammering England this weekend, the National League still managed to treat us to a feat of football and provide us with a host of talking points.
John Askey’s Macclesfield secured a brilliant result in East London, beating Leyton Orient 1-0 to extend their lead at the top and plunge the O’s into further worry.
Since being thrashed at home by Maidstone on September 16, the Silkmen haven’t tasted defeat, and Saturday’s narrow victory in the capital made it five wins on the bounce.
Macc showed a lot of character to beat Orient, after the game was delayed by 10 minutes because of the adverse weather conditions and goalkeeper Shwan Jalal was forced off injured.
The O’s had their chances, with David Mooney twice denied by Jalal’s replacement Sam Ramsbottom, but it was Macclesfield who took the lead through National League player of the month Scott Wilson, seconds before half-time.
In a league as tight as the National League, tight wins like this are just as important as thrashing teams three or four nil. The Silkmen know how to grind out wins and are clearly in this promotion race for the long haul.
Like Macc, Ebbsfleet are finding a way to win games, and it is mightily encouraging for Fleet fans.
After their euphoric return to the National League, Daryl McMahon’s men adjusted well to life in Non-League’s top-tier, but were drawing too many games as their unbeaten run arguably started to hamper them.
However, since that run ended against Aldershot, it appears the shackles may have been released, with narrow wins against the likes of Boreham Wood, Halifax and Barrow launching them up the table and providing extra confidence.
A month and a half ago, Ebbsfleet might not have beaten a side like Barrow, despite their poor form, after Bedsente Gomis cancelled out Aaron McLean’s opener with 15 minutes remaining – but they continued to be brave and were rewarded.
Two quickfire goals from Andy Drury and Jack Powell, so soon after Barrow’s equaliser, sealed a big win for McMahon’s men. If they continue to turn tight games into wins, who knows how far Fleet can go.
Ebbsfleet’s win means they are one of seven clubs who could force their way into the top seven after tomorrow night’s National League action.
Aldershot reignited their promotion push with a big win over stuttering Tranmere, but below them and pushing for a place in the play-offs are a host of clubs, including Boreham Wood, fresh from their hard-fought win at Chester.
In eighth are Dagenham & Redbridge, who suffered a late, late defeat to fellow high-fliers Wrexham, while Halifax were also frustrated by Torquay, drawing 1-1. Maidenhead, in ninth, earned a point against Dover, thanks to Jake Hyde’s injury-time equaliser, to stay within touching distance of the top.
Storm Brian forced the abandonment of Maidstone’s game at AFC Fylde, but they are still in the hunt for a play-off spot, while Hartlepool, all the way down in 14th, could be in the top-seven tomorrow night, despite drawing with Sutton.
This season is shaping up to be one of the most exciting National League campaigns in a long time, and the race for a place in the play-offs could go right down to the wire.
One side who you might expect to be in the mix for a play-off spot are Gateshead, but the Heed are really struggling after defeat at Eastleigh on Saturday.
The narrow 3-2 loss at the Silverlake Stadium extended Gateshead’s run to five games without a win in the league, and Steve Watson is surely now realising just how big a job he has on his hands in the North East.
The Heed squad is certainly good enough to be competing at the top end of the division, as shown last season, but when you’re at the bottom, things just don’t go your way, and confidence is looking so low.
Watson needs to get his side out of this losing rut quickly, and pick them up, or they could be in serious trouble soon with games coming thick and fast.
At the start of the season, you would have expected tomorrow night’s game at Leyton Orient to be a huge clash at the top. In reality, it’s a massively important game at the bottom. A first league win would be huge for the new Heed boss.
Tomorrow’s game is as big for Leyton Orient as it is for Gateshead, with the pair two of this season’s biggest underachievers.
After the turmoil of last season, in which Orient fell out of the Football League, it is understandable that fans are just happy they have a club, and rightly so.
However, the O’s also have a squad easily capable of challenging in this league, and their form is just not good enough. Steve Davis knows that, as do the players and fanbase, but how long will it be accepted for?
Saturday’s defeat to Macclesfield was Orient’s third in five games, with no league wins in that time. But, while it can be argued Davis’ side are still adapting to life in Non-League, Adam Virgo doesn’t accept that.
In his NLP column, the pundit said: “It does annoy me when I hear Leyton Orient saying: ‘We’ve got a brand new side.’ Well, hang on a minute, so have Dover, so have Woking… and Wrexham. You don’t hear them complaining.
“The ‘new side’ thing works for a while but you can’t keep using that as an excuse.
“They just can’t defend at the moment. George Elokobi and Josh Coulson are out and the goals they concede are defensively poor. Steve Davis has had a lot of injuries, in fairness, and they’ve had to blood some teenagers. I know they almost went out of business, but they’ve got some decent players in their squad.”
How do Orient turn this form around?
Tagged Askey, Ebbsfleet, Ebbsfleet United, Fleet, Gateshead, Heed, HeedArmy], John Askey, Leyton Orient, LOFC, Macc, Macclesfield, National League, NLP, Non-League, O's, Orient, Silkmen, Steve Watson, Watson