High-fly­ers fail to hit the heights as bot­tom sides rule

The Non-League Football Paper - - FRONT PAGE - By Matt Bad­cock

EASTLEIGH led the way by beat­ing high-fly­ing Mac­cles­field Town on yet an­other crazy day in the Na­tional League.

Mark Yeates scored twice to fire his side to three points against sec­ond-placed Macc – al­though, strangely enough, other re­sults saw the Spit­fires slip a place in the ta­ble.

Of all the sides who started the day in the top half of the ta­ble, only Maid­stone United man­aged to win af­ter Alex Fin­ney’s 95th-minute strike against Ch­ester.

For the rest it was a draw or a de­feat with Dover Ath­letic still top­ping the pile fol­low­ing their 0-0 draw at Gateshead.

Hartle­pool United inched their way into the top 12, and are only a point out­side the play-offs, af­ter a 2-0 win against Torquay United.

Ady Pen­nock’s reign at Bar­row got off to a win­ning start as they beat Alder­shot Town 3-1 thanks to Adi Yus­suf ’s hat-trick, while Guise­ley edged past Wok­ing in a five-goal thriller.

APOINT on their trav­els at a windswept North East was enough to keep Dover at the top of the Na­tional League.

The Kent out­fit have been im­pres­sive on the road in the league los­ing only once, but this could eas­ily have been their sec­ond.

Heed mid­field dy­namo Luke Han­nant, the best player on the pitch, struck the Whites bar in each half, the lat­ter in the 89th minute.

The only win­ner on the day, how­ever, were the con­di­tions, and Gateshead used the wind be­hind them much bet­ter than Dover did in the sec­ond.

For new man­ager Steve Wat­son’s home­com­ing af­ter al­most two decades from his na­tive Ty­ne­side it was a case of what might have been.

The for­mer New­cas­tle, Ever­ton and As­ton Villa star has re­vived the Heed’s for­tunes, but was frus­trated they didn’t break down the sec­ond best de­fence in the di­vi­sion.

“We were the only side likely to break the dead­lock, but we didn’t work their keeper enough,” said Wat­son.

“We were the team that was try­ing to play foot­ball, cre­ate chances and open Dover up, but the con­di­tions were very dif­fi­cult and the ball wasn’t on the floor very of­ten.

“There were plenty of pos­i­tives, not least an­other clean sheet. We knew what was com­ing, but I was sur­prised at the amount of balls that were loaded into our box.

“With a bit bet­ter fin­ish­ing we could have got the three points. We had six or seven chances in the first half but didn’t get them on target.

“It was tough to im­pose our style of foot­ball in the strong wind, but credit to the play­ers for an­other clean sheet af­ter the win at Ori­ent.

Gateshead bossed the first half with the strong wind be­hind them, three shots off target in the open­ing seven min­utes.

The Heed had con­tin­ued where they left off at Ley­ton Ori­ent in mid­week, Han­nant con­tin­u­ously prob­ing. The mid­fielder side-footed over the bar early on and was then des­per­ately un­lucky not to score at the mid­way point of the half.

Su­perbly con­trol­ling Paddy McLaugh­lin’s dink into the box an in­stinc­tive 16-yard vol­ley crashed against the bar.

Whites keeper Mitch Walker was beaten, just as he had been when McLaugh­lin’s edge of the box strike flew past the post.

Jor­dan Bur­row fired over the bar twice as Dover bat­tled against the el­e­ments and Gateshead con­tin­ued to push.

Whites de­fended doggedly, Mitch Pin­nock and Ryan Bird with rare half chances, Dover un­able to cap­i­talise on the wind ad­van­tage af­ter the break.

The dan­ger­ous Han­nant twice sent balls across the face of goal, Bird’s shot de­flected wide, be­fore Han­nant headed JJ O’Don­nell’s late cross against the bar.

“The wind had a ma­jor af­fect on the game,” said Dover as­sis­tant man­ager Jake Le­berl. “And we were pleased to go in at half­time with the game goal­less.

“With the wind be­hind us we ex­pected to put Gateshead un­der pres­sure. It didn’t work out that way but any point away is a good one.

“We were good de­fen­sively again and we’re now un­beaten in eight away games in the league, so we have to be happy with that.”

PIC­TURE: Shut­terPress

OOPS I DID IT AGAIN! Eastleigh’s Mark Yeates en­joys his two-goal salvo in their 2-1 win over Mac­cles­field Town

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