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Fan Zone 11/01/2024



THIS  WEEK’S  COLUMN  TAKES  A  LOOK  AT   THE  TOP  TEAMS  IN  THE  SOUTH


TROUBLE  AT  TAUNTON,  FANS  SET  UP  A  SUPPORTERS’  TRUST


ANOTHER  SUB  STANDARD  DISPLAY  AS  UNITED  DROP  MORE  POINTS



As football moves into the new year nearly every National League South side (except Taunton Town) has reached and just passed the half-way point of the season. So, let’s look at how the top of the table is looking.

Yeovil, who went through a disastrous campaign last year in the National League had a major re-set in the close season as they were taken over by a new owner and now they lead the table thirteen points clear, looking odds on favourite for the title and a massive 18 points ahead of Torquay. To date they have only been beaten three times, none at home and are full-time. They had a comfortable 3-1 league win at Plainmoor back in November although United won the FA Trophy tie.

Chasing them in second are part-time Hampton & Richmond also under new owners and a manager, Mel Gwinnett, about to celebrate his first year in charge. They have only lost six games and have a striker signed from Plymouth Parkway. Average home attendance 1,128 and they beat Torquay 3-1.

Behind them come Chelmsford City, part-time, who have also only lost six times. Since becoming ‘City’ in 1938 they have consistently been one of non-league’s top teams. Average home attendance 771. They beat Torquay 2-0.

In fifth come part-time Worthing 3-0 winners at Plainmoor with their average home attendance being 1,289. Formed in 1886 they are currently managed by Adam Hinshelwood, well respected in non-league. They have lost nine times so far.

Torquay’s FA Cup conquerers Maidstone, after defeating League 1 Stevenage on Saturday have a 4th Round away tie with Ipswich Town to look forward to. They were in 5th place before Tuesdayand have turned their fortunes around under manager George Elokobi after finishing bottom last season in the National League. After Tuesday’s win they are up to third. Average home attendance 1,867. They beat United 1-0 at Plainmoor.

Bath City occupy sixth after falling to a 2-0 loss at Yeovil on Saturday and they have now lost eight matches. Torquay beat them 1-0  in November. Average home crowd 1,561.

In the final play-off place sit Aveley who beat Torquay 2-1 back in September, Their average home attendance 458.

So, as things stand at the moment two of these sides are going to win promotion, well, Yeovil and one other. But the difference between the quality of the National League and National North/South can be seen by the four teams sitting in the four relegation places in the top division.

From last season’s South promoted teams Ebbsfleet are 21st, Oxford City 22nd and the two who went up from the North, AFC Fylde are 23rd with Kidderminster last. Whoever goes up will need a decent playing budget and astute management.


*****


Spare a thought for our Somerset neighbours Taunton Town who are going through a major crisis on and off the pitch. A series of home postponements have culminated in a cash flow problem and this has led to seven first team players leaving the club in the past fortnight. In recent days the chairman and remaining players have released statements each blaming each other, with the manager, Rob Dray, stuck in the middle.

And ex-Gull Louie Slough, who when released joined Dorchester, has recently moved to join Taunton making his debut on Saturday against appropriately Slough Town.

A group of Taunton fans have now set up a supporters’ trust.


*****


There were a lot of disappointed people after Saturday’s 2-2 draw - Torquay’s first for 29 games since the opening day 2-2 at Dover - including the manager, players and the majority of the 2,061 at Plainmoor; visitors Eastbourne Borough, under new boss, ex-Gull Adam Murray, managed to number 14 in that crowd. Eastbourne, who had been on a terrible run, despite being full-time, sacked their manager on Monday, appointing Murray on Thursday prising him from Cheltenham where he was assistant manager. He certainly had an instant impact with the visiting directors celebrating wildly.

From a goal down, after a wretched first half non-performance, man of the match and in the Non-League Paper’s Team of the Day, Dillon de Silva almost single-handled won the match for Torquay. A quite brilliant solo goal plus a fine assist for Jenkins-Davies should have been sufficient. Should the visitors late equaliser have been ruled out? Some say yes, others are not sure. What is clear is that the video footage is inconclusive and the records will show it was a goal.


*****


Non-League Crowd Watch: Southend 6,772, Yeovil 5,032, Scunthorpe 4,672, Macclesfield 3,245 and in Tier 7 in the Southern League Premier Central Halesowen v Stourbridge 3,150.


*****


This year’s FA Cup 3rd Round traditionally played by the majority on Saturdays started on Thursday and ended on Monday. Changing the format has, for many, spoilt the history of the competition.

One element though continues and that is the feats of non-league clubs causing shocks. Pride of place goes to Maidstone, followed by Eastleigh getting a replay with Newport, while Aldershot went down 4-1 at West Brom but a big moment for Ollie Bray for the Shots’ goal. Only recently he was playing for Willand.Torquay Women were due to resume fixtures on Sunday but the match was called off. Meanwhile, the Under-18s closed the gap on leaders Bridgwater, following a 2-0 victory over Mangotsfield with goals from Liam Poole and Jacob Wellington.

Saturday sees the Gulls travel to Hereford FC in the FA Trophy. Safe travels to the Yellow Army.  Maybe some of the injured will reappear for this but key striker Aaron Jarvis is another 4-5 weeks away yet.



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