Lucy Waldon rounds up another exciting weekend of Conference football.
Table-toppers Luton fell to only their fourth defeat of the season as they travelled to Halifax. The victory for the Shaymen sees them occupy the final play-off spot. A goal in each half for the hosts settled it, with Marc Richards heading in the opener on 20 minutes. The division’s top scorer, Lee Gregory, made it two midway through the second period and while it was a rare defeat for John Still’s side, the Hatters are 13 points clear of nearest rivals Cambridge.
The Us failed to take advantage as they were held to a one-all draw by Barnet. Josh Lillies netted from the spot after the home side were awarded a penalty – Mark Byrne pulling at Delano Sam-Yorke’s shirt. But Connor Dymond, on loan from Premier League side Crystal Palace, levelled for the Bees with an edge-of-the-box effort on 70 minutes.
Completing the play-off places at this stage are Gateshead – who left it late against fellow contenders Braintree – and Alfreton, who dropped points against Nuneaton. In the North East, JJ O’Donnell’s sucker punch sent Braintree back to Essex with a point; the midfielder fired home in the final minutes to snatch victory. Alfreton went ahead against Nuneaton, also looking for a play-off finish, only to settle for a point apiece. James Armson’s strike six minutes from time cancelled out John Akinde’s earlier effort – his 13th goal of the season – at the Impact Arena.
There were mixed fortunes for teams battling for survival this weekend, as Hereford’s woes continued, but Aldershot and Dartford picked up vital wins. At Edgar Street, 10-man Grimsby managed to hold on and although they currently sit outside the play-off places, they have up to three games in hand over their rivals. Alex Rodman netted just after the hour mark, but moments later, Scott Kerr received his second yellow card of the game. The hosts couldn’t capitalise on their man advantage and now lie just a point above the dropzone. Aldershot continue to occupy a spot in the bottom four, despite recording victory over already relegated Hyde. Adam Mekki’s strike on the stroke of half time proved enough to separate the sides. Meanwhile, Dartford came from behind against Macclesfield to boost their chances of survival. The Silkmen took the lead towards the end of the first half through Paul Turnbull’s long-range volley. But the hosts levelled the other side of the break – Danny Harris heading in from a corner – and the turnaround was complete with 10 minutes remaining, Max Cornhill putting the Darts within two points of safety.
Also at the weekend, Woking were victorious over Wrexham, thereby leapfrogging them in the table. Scott Rendell broke the deadlock on 20 minutes, but the visitors quickly responded with Johnny Hunt equalising from Dean Keates’ free kick. Joe Jones won it for The Cards before hour mark, capitalising on a poor clearance by Wrexham keeper Andy Coughlin. Welling, too, earned maximum points, winning their first game in six in the process. The Wings were forced to play an hour with 10 men, with Jake Gallagher shown his marching orders. Despite this, they took the lead against Chester after the half time interval – Basile Karagiannis’ left-footed strike breaking the deadlock. The points were sealed late on when Ross Lafayette converted Josh Wakefield’s cross.
Salisbury and Kidderminster shared the points as both sides ended their encounter a man light. Kiddy took the lead in the first half through Callum Gittings but the real drama unfolded in the dying stages. After a handball in the penalty area, Kyle Storer was dismissed for the visitors, while Angus MacDonald received his marching orders in the melee that followed. Charlie Sheringham finally stepped up to take the resulting penalty, which the AFC Wimbledon loanee converted. Both teams finish the weekend as they started, in the top half of the table. The only other game saw Tamworth and Lincoln play out a goalless draw.
There are a handful of games this week with teams playing fixture catch-up, before a full programme resumes at the weekend.
Tuesday 1st April
Dartford v Luton
Macclesfield v Cambridge
Southport v Braintree
Woking v Forest Green Rovers
Wrexham v Grimsby
Thursday 3rd April
Halifax v Braintree