Six games into the 2013/14 campaign and three teams are tied at the top with only goal difference separating them – and all without a defeat thus far. Meanwhile, at the bottom, Chester picked up their first win (and points) of the campaign with a decisive victory over nearby rivals Wrexham.
The table makes grim reading for Wrexham fans, even at this early stage. Singled out as potential favourites for promotion, the Dragons have won only one game so far, drawing two. Their latest defeat came at home to Chester who finally kick-started their campaign as they adjust to life in the Conference Premier. Paul Linwood put the visitors ahead inside five minutes, heading home from six yards out. With only 20 minutes on the clock, Lewis Turner secured the points and although Chester had Ashley Williams sent off in the closing stages, Wrexham couldn’t capitalise.
Barnet and Hyde played out a five-goal thriller at The Hive and victory for the Bees keeps the pressure on Cambridge, the current leaders. Keanu Marsh-Brown’s early effort handed the hosts an advantage, before Mark Byrne was quickest to profit from a rebound to make it two. Hyde came out fighting in the second, immediately pulling a goal back through Liam Tomsett’s long-range effort. Tomsett went on to level for the Tigers – another spectacular drive from distance. But substitute Harry Crawford stole the points six minutes from time, his edge-of-the-box strike meaning the Bees remain unbeaten.
Also at the top, wins for both Cambridge and Nuneaton ensure they remain early pace-setters. Ex-Tamworth striker Adam Cunnington came back to haunt his former club, scoring first to give Cambridge a half time lead. A second half double from Luke Berry – his first coming via a tap-in, his second a glancing header from Harrison Dunk’s cross – gave the Us a comprehensive victory. Nuneaton too, continued their good form, earning maximum points over Grimsby. Boro opened the scoring midway through the first period – Gavin Cowan heading in from James Arnison’s corner. Minutes later the visitors’ lead was doubled – another header, this time from Andy Brown. Although Grimsby were reduced to 10 men when Aswad Thomas received a straight red, there was still time for them to pull a goal back, with Andy Cook reducing the arrears late on.
Aldershot remain rooted to the bottom of the table, still in negative figures following their points deduction. The Shots were on the end of a narrow defeat on Saturday, losing out to Southport. The only goal of the game came on 27 minutes and after plenty of dominance, the Port were rewarded. Osayamen Osawe’s header – his first goal for the club – secured them maximum points.
Also towards the top, Forest Green Rovers eased to victory against Alfreton. James Norwood netting twice gave the hosts an early advantage and it was game over before the first half was out, when Danny Wright added a third with his low drive. Dan Bradley’s strike from 18-yards towards the end of the game was little more than a consolation for Alfreton.
There were also narrow wins this weekend for Lincoln and Hereford, over Dartford and Welling, respectively. At Princes Park, Lincoln went in at the break with a two-goal advantage over their hosts. They took the lead through Ben Tomlinson’s close-range header, with Andrew Boyce adding a second. The Darts pulled one back before the hour mark, but defeat sees them drop a place to 16th, while the Imps are on the up and rise to 4th. It was a similar story at Edgar Street with Hereford going two goals up before their opponents, Welling, reduced the deficit. After a goalless first half, the deadlock was broken after visiting keeper Lee Butcher fumbled a cross, allowing Chris Sharp to get on the score sheet. In the fourth of six added minutes, Ross Lafayette headed in to narrow the gap, but it was too little too late.
Saturday was a day to forget for FC Halifax, who were not only on the end of a 3-1 defeat but also finished their game against Salisbury with 9 men. The home side went ahead after 20 minutes through Elliot Frear’s effort and things continued to get worse for The Shaymen. First, Kevin Cosgrove was shown a straight red for violent conduct, before fellow forward, Josh Wilson also received his marching orders for an off-the-ball incident. Salisbury made full use of their two-man advantage, doubling their lead through Luke Ruddock’s 18-yard strike and making it 3-0 via Ben Wright with 10 minutes remaining. A Ryan Brett own goal gave Halifax fans something to cheer about, but as it stands Salisbury move up to 15th.
Luton recorded their first win in four matches, courtesy of a Jake Howell double – both goals coming from the spot late on in the game. After a goalless first half, the deadlock was finally broken in the 70th minute. When Paul Benson (on a season-long loan from Swindon) was felled in the box by Kidderminster keeper Danny Lewis, it was down to Howell to convert the resulting spot kick. He duly put it away before adding his – and the Hatters’ – second. This time Josh Gowling was the culprit, hauling down Andre Gray. Both Luton and the Harriers sit on 9 points and lie in 11th and 12thplaces, respectively.
Braintree bounced back from Monday’s disappointing home defeat to Barnet with a slender win over Macclesfield; Macc remain in the bottom four. Liam Enver-Marum grabbed the game’s only goal after the break.
At the wrong end of the table, there was a first win for Gateshead, who beat Woking. James Brown’s effort took a deflection on the way in on 20 minutes and he turned provider for the Tynesiders’ second – teeing up Jamie Chandler to smash home from close range. Woking pulled one back in added time – Liam Hatch was adjudged to have handled and Gavin Williams slotted in the resulting penalty.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s games, two former Football League sides face each other with Aldershot and Macclesfield meeting at The Rec. The top three will be looking to maintain their good starts: Cambridge travel to Hyde, Barnet are away to Halifax and Nuneaton host Wrexham. In the evening kick-off (5:30pm), Luton entertain Grimsby.