Notts County vs Southend
The National League is incredible this year. We’re faced with the very real prospect that two sides are going to break 100 points, yet only one is going to go up automatically. Those two sides both feature in this treble and we’re starting with the leaders.
County are currently 5 points clear of Wrexham, having played 2 more games than the Welsh side. Notts County have lost just 1 league game all season, which was back in September. It’s an incredible run of form, more recently they’ve knocked off 6 league wins in a row.
The County ground is a further extension of their dominance. They’re unbeaten here this season, winning 11/15 games. They’ve scored 32 times at home and even more impressively, in a league full of goals, they’ve conceded just 7.
The reality is that a lot of the National League is now as strong as the league above but the 2 promotion spots are causing a bottleneck of very strong sides. This side is absolutely packed with players who could play in the divisions above.
Macauley Langstaff has banged in 30 goals in his 32 appearances this season, a real driving factor to their success. The impact of his strike partner Cedwyn Scott can’t be dismissed either but perhaps more so is the brilliance of Portuguese midfielder Ruben Rodrigues. He’s scored 13 and assisted 8 this season and is a cut above the majority of this league.
Southend are on a great run of form, there’s no doubting that. But, you’ve got to scratch beyond the surface – yes they’ve won 4 on the spin but they’ve played sides who sit 15th, 17th, 18th and 21st. They now face a side who are a huge 30 points ahead of them, these two remain streets apart regardless of the form table.
Southend are also far more potent at home, taking 31 of their 50 points on their own turf. That, combined with County’s strength at home, should easily see the home side over the line.
Wrexham vs Scunthorpe
Now, the other side in this crazy title race – Wrexham. Never a dull moment with the celebrity backed side, they scored in the 96th minute on Saturday to win 4-3 at Aldershot, after conceding an equaliser just a minute from time.
Away games can be a bit hairy, however at the Racecourse ground, nobody can lay a finger on Wrexham. 14 played here, 13 wins, 1 draw. They’ve scored an astonishing 49 goals and conceded just 13.
If you’re talking about star quality, this is the epitome of it for this level. Paul Mullin, Ollie Palmer and Ben Tozer all left League One sides to play for Wrexham. The investment of this calibre of players looks to be worth it too given their returns. Mullin made it 24 for the season with a brace on Saturday, one was a quite remarkable back heel finish.
Palmer has 14 this season and even when not scoring, he brings the physicality and hold up play they need to feed the likes of Mullin.
Scunthorpe sit 2nd bottom and have had a torrid season. Although their on field performances have been awful, they’re overshadowed by the ugly scenes off the pitch. The club are in financial ruin and are at risk of, well, no longer being a club.
They’ve won just 1 away game all season and are likely due a pummelling here.
Rochdale vs Stockport
It’s been far from a perfect season for Stockport who were earmarked as one of the front runners for the League Two title, largely down to the huge amounts of money that have been invested by the club. It’s a side that’s teeming with quality, Dave Challinor’s side have now won 4 matches in a row and lifted themselves in to the play-offs.
That’s much more like it for County, who compounded their superb recent run with a win over 2nd placed Stevanage on Saturday. Even in the absence of Paddy Madden, form hasn’t dipped and Kyle Wooten has been on a good goal scoring run.
It’s a far cry from how things are going for Rochdale. They’re bottom of the entire football league, winless in 7 (losing 6) and are now 6 points adrift of safety.
Spotland hasn’t been a happy hunting ground either, they’ve managed just 9 points here all season from the 48 that have been on offer.
They average just a 1.01 xG and with the strength of this Stockport side, they’ll be lucky to create many chances. The visitors look a handsome price to take the 3 points available and cement their play-off credentials.