As the National League rolls back into action, a clash between two sides with differing fortunes will take place on Saturday evening as York City play hosts to Halifax Town, live on TNT sports.
While York City’s 2022 return to National League football may have ended in a comfortable survival success, the aim to kick onto better and brighter goals has yet to appear in fruition for the Minstermen as they dangle a singular point above the drop zone after 17 matches of tier-five action, despite a summer spending spree.
With experienced manager Neal Ardley at the helm, many would be forgiven for expecting a better run of form from York at this stage of the season, but once again, mere survival, once a target to kick on from succeeding in yet now an unwelcome goal once more, seems to be the mission for the former Notts County manager in 2023.
While their goalscoring record is nothing to be ashamed of, scoring more or equal to every team up to 15th in the table, as well as 10th-placed Woking and their 6th-placed visitors Halifax, their crumbly defence appears to be the difference-maker in many of their games, conceding the joint-most goals in the entire league.
This is a stark contrast to last season for a club struggling to strike a balance, as they finished 19th in the National League at the finale of last season, despite having a better goals conceded record than everyone in the league up to 12th but a worse goals for record than all but Scunthorpe, Yeovil, Maidenhead, and Maidstone, who all finished below them, with three of those four clubs succumbing to relegation.
Where York struggle to find their perfect football cocktail, Halifax have started putting together a whole menu of delightful performances this season as they hunt for the first EFL season in new-club history (not including the history of the dissolved club they became a phoenix for 15 years ago).
While mid-table mediocrity appears to have been the common result in Halifax’s nine-year stay in England’s fifth tier, a fight against such average placement is the goal for Chris Millington and his men this season.
A long list of slim yet impressive wins wind up on their CV so far this season, with a goal record seeing them concede fewer goals than everyone else in the league yet score the fifth-least themselves.
Tough to break down and dangerous on the break, a smart strategy employed by Halifax has seen them rise to sixth in the league, four points clear of 9th-placed Eastleigh and 12 clear of their hosts on Friday evening.
With four goals in his last four games, bringing him up to eight strikes for the season, it’s tough to highlight anyone other than Afolabi Akinyemi for York City so far this season.
The 26-year-old leads the club scoring charts and finds himself up there with the league's best hitmen in 7th position on the league tally.
While York’s defence is far from their strong point, carving out chances and finding the net certainly seems to be, and Akinyemi has been a very strong tool to have in their arsenal to wage war against relegation this season.
Where York fail to keep the ball out of their own net, Halifax have been the best in the league so far this season in succeeding at just that, and 21-year-old centre-back Adam Senior has played a big part in that accolade.
With four goals so far this season, he’s been a real threat at the other end of the field in set-piece situations. Comfortable on either flank of a three or four at the back, Senior has been a colossus to face off against for many a National League attacker so far this season. With York being surprisingly adept in this department given their standing, it’ll be an interesting tale to watch these two areas butt heads.
Halifax 2-1 - 9.50
The league's best defence squaring off with one of its most underrated attacks in fine Saturday evening football leads an over 2.5 goals bet to present fine value at a price of 1.85.
Over 2.5 goals - 1.85
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