After last seasons Wrexham-Notts County-fuelled rollercoaster ride, few would have expected the Vanarama National League to cough up yet another intriguing season packed with suspense. Chance would be a fine thing.
With just ten points separating 4th from 1 th , the playoff hunt is still wide open, with plenty in England’s fifth tier remaining hopeful of a chance at the EFL. Two of those being Gateshead and Halifax, who will butt heads this weekend.
Not many will have predicted form like this for Gateshead coming into the season. Promoted to the fifth tier thanks to the goalscoring exploits of now-Notts strikers Macauley Langstaff and Cedwyn Scott, their first season back was one to be happy with for fans of the club, as the Northumberland side finished in a happy mid-table position.
Rollover to this campaign, however, and Gateshead find themselves as one of the front runners for playoff qualification, occupying a steady fifth place in the table as they look to taste the Football League. Fine results have followed them on their way there, being undefeated in their last five games in all competitions, notching four wins on their way, including a 6-0 thumping of DorkingWanderers and an impressive success over fellow promotion candidates Solihull Moors.
Shifting over to their opponents will see the foundations set for a potentially glorious 90minutes of lower league action, as Halifax have been impressive in the achievement of their aims this season as well.Sitting four spots and four points below their weekend hosts, Halifax have made up solid ground in the opening third of the season to project them onto high hopes, as their 9th placed occupancy alleviates fears over another mid-table mediocrity.
Their form in recent games, however, has stagnated somewhat, especially in direct comparison to that of Gateshead, as Halifax have won just one game in their last five in the league, picking up two losses and two draws in the recent run as well. Away days have not proved to be their strong point either, with their last two away day accomplishments coming two months ago, with Halifax failing to secure maximum points on the road since
Last season for Gateshead was one of comfortability and happiness for concerned supporters. A first promotion to step one of the non-league pyramid preceded a comfortable survival campaign, with Gateshead finishing in 14th position, 11 points clear of the danger zone.Whilst the departures of goal threats Langstaff and Scott to eventual playoff winners Notts County were massive blows to the side, they weathered the uncertainty well to secure their fifth-tier status for another season, in which they have opened the doors to plenty of promise for things to come.
Scoring more goals than all but one in the league up to sixth position, a leaky defence was the catalyst to their chances of anything higher, conceding more goals, surprisingly, than Yeovil, a team who were relegated.
For Halifax, the familiar feeling of wishing for more in their bid to escape the National League yet settling for mid-table was set in.
Stuck in the fifth-tier since 2017, Halifax have never really been considered for relegation, yet have only managed to land inside the playoffs on two occasions in six years. Finishing eleventh last season, their hopes and aspirations of escaping non-league stretch on, but with an encouraging league position befitting them this season, hope may once again be beginning to rise up in the north this season. If they can break their recent duck, that is.
Marcus Dinanga is leading the way for Gateshead this season, notching 12 league goals for the promotion hopefuls this season. The Burton academy product finds himself third in the league’s overall scoring charts, and is always one to keep a keen eye on with his pace and tenacity.
For Halifax, defender Adam Senior has been amongst the goals almost as much as he has been with defensive contributions .Senior has been leading the way for his side from the back this season, but will be disappointed that others in the first line of the side are not meeting his standard.
Gateshead 2-0 @ 7.50
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