NON-LEAGUE nut Callum Jones (@Goaldust) returns with his weekend NAP from the National Leagues.
Bromley v Gateshead | Saturday 15:00
It’s been a reassuringly bonkers start to the National League season, which should not surprise us at all.
I genuinely think it could be one of the most difficult leagues around. There are so many factors at play that it’s totally unfair to expect a team to succeed just because they have a better standard of player at their disposal. It just doesn’t work like that here.
So naturally, we shouldn’t have been too shocked to see such a confident punt as Lincoln get turned over in their own back yard by Sutton United last weekend.
Granted, losing a man to a controversial sending off in the first-half is never going to get you places, but the Imps apparently had their chances and just didn’t have the quality to finish the job.
But never one to remain disheartened, we go again this weekend, and try to fathom where the money should go in another wretchedly difficult coupon.
Tranmere have the only 100% record remaining in the league, and should beat Maidstone at Prenton Park. Macclesfield and Dagenham have both started well, but face tricky trips to Sutton and Woking respectively, so we’ll steer clear of those two and focus on another side sitting pretty on nine points from four games.
I’m going to go all Harry Hindsight for a second, and tell you I very nearly put Gateshead up for a top-five league finish (course I was). They were perennial play-off challengers a few years ago, and have just fallen into a bit of a hole in the last couple of years – this league can do that to you.
But Gateshead have steadied the ship, and now have local legend Neil Aspin at the helm, which is only a good thing.
I got to know Neil quite well during his time at Halifax Town (as well as anyone can get to know that steely exterior that is!) He’s the ultimate professional, and will take absolute no shit from anyone – two reasons as to why I believe he’s one of the best managers around at this level.
What he was able to achieve at the part-time club in taking them to the National League play-offs in their debut season was nothing short of extraordinary, and I can only think the decision to part company with the former Leeds defender was that his lofty ambitions that could not be matched by the club’s.
It’s proven a match made in heaven with his hometown club Gateshead, and just yesterday, Aspin and his long-time assistant Lee Nogan signed contract extension to keep the two at the International Stadium until at least 2018.
They did a fantastic job of stabilising the club last season, and now look primed to mount a serious charge for promotion.
They’ve started the season superbly well, and have scored 12 goals in their first four games. Indeed, they were only an injury time goal away from pinching a point at Forest Green last Saturday, so It’s been a superb start from the North East side.
By contrast, Bromley have started this season horrifically. Their barren run has actually carried over from the end of last season, as they managed only one win in their last nine fixtures on their way to a fairly respectable 14th place finish.
They’ve since lost three of their first four games of this campaign, although they did stage a comeback from 2-0 down at Aldershot on Tuesday night to clinch their first point of the 2016/17 season.
Their squad is made up with a number of journeymen, such as the likes of former Cambridge striker Adam Cunnington, but they do lack some genuine quality in the squad, at least in my opinion, and I think that could prove their undoing.
Saturday’s visitors Gateshead smashed six past recently relegated York City in midweek, and I think you’d have to be a brave man to oppose them at ‘The Courage Stadium’ (genuinely no pun intended) on Saturday.
Aspin makes his teams so difficult to break down, and you’d have to fancy them to score at least a couple in this one.
I think the 11/10 about an away victory is well worth backing, while the 19/10 on the Asian Handicap about Gateshead -1 could prove a gift – we’re paid out if the visitors win by two or more goals, while we get our stake back if the margin of victory is only the one goal.
Bromley v Gateshead – Gateshead to win (11/10 William Hill)
Bromley v Gateshead – Gateshead -1 Asian Handicap (19/10 Unibet)