Lucy Waldon brings us the first round of matches of the New Year in the Conference.
Luton continued where they left off at the end of 2013 with a win over Barnet, who have now lost three games on the bounce. Conditions at Kenilworth Road were atrocious, but it was The Hatters who went ahead early – Andre Gray netting from 12-yards with just a couple of minutes played. Keeper Graham Stack went off injured for the Bees and his replacement Nick Jupp was soon picking the ball out of the back of the net, when the in-form Paul Benson made it two for the hosts. Barnet pulled one back midway through the second half through Jake Hyde, but they were unable to salvage anything from the game and remain in 9th place – while Luton cement their place at the top with Cambridge’s trip to Braintree called off due to a waterlogged pitch.
Macclesfield made it four victories in a row, heaping the misery on poor Hyde, who go into January without a win all season. The Tigers sit 15 points behind fellow relegation-threatened Dartford, but they went in at the break on Wednesday goalless. An own goal from Darcy O’Connor put the Silkmen in front after the hour, before a Scott Boden double saw the points secure. His first came four minutes after the opening goal as he guided the ball into the top corner, before converting from the penalty spot with 15 minutes remaining.
Fans at The Shay were treated to a highly entertaining New Year’s spectacle as Halifax and Gateshead played out a six goal thriller. The home side went in at the break with a two-nil lead, thanks to a Lee Gregory double. His two goals in three minutes early on had Halifax in the ascendancy. James Brown halved the deficit almost immediately after the restart, but the hosts’ two-goal cushion was restored half way through the second period – Simon Ainge heading home. Marcus Maddison pulled another back for the Tynesiders and they left it later to find a leveller, James Marwood equalising on 82 minutes. A point sees Halifax in the play-offs, while the Heed sit mid-table.
Alfreton reinforced their place in the play-offs with a victory over Wrexham – their second in six days. A single goal sealed maximum points, with John Akinde netting on the stroke of half time. Defeat sees Wrexham stay 15th, with a number of the teams below them out of action.
It was a point apiece in the Lincolnshire derby as Grimsby and Lincoln met again, having also played on Boxing Day. The Imps took the lead when Sean Newton’s free kick was turned in by Aswad Thomas, who put past his own keeper. However, the visitors were reduced to 10 men moments later, when Bohan Dixon picked up a second yellow card. Grimsby capitalised on their man advantage with Craig Disley levelling the scores, before they too had a man sent off: Lennell John-Lewis seeing yellow twice as both teams finished with 10 men and a share of the spoils.
It’s back to action on Saturday for most teams, with a handful of clubs in the third round of the FA Cup. Alfreton travel to Barnet, while 17th (Woking) meets 16th (Hereford) and Luton could increase their margin at the top with a win over Lincoln