Each month I’ve been doing a prediction of league standings, and today I bring you my view of February. First though, let’s look at home I got on last time out.
Below is my prediction and the actual standings as of last night. I wouldn’t have included Aldershot and Dagenham ‘s games yesterday in my predictions. One thing is constant: Lincoln City are still top of the league.
Despite our slip at Barrow, they’re the obvious losers in the January chase, I suspected they’d be seven points behind us instead of a mammoth twelve. The big ‘winners’ are Dagenham and Redbridge, and without a cup competition to focus on they’re increasingly looking like dangerous challengers in the title race. Who is coming up for the sides at the top though, and what does it mean for City?
Dagenham And Redbridge
Southport (A), Guisely (H), Bromley (H), Maidstone (H)
They’ve been on good form, and they still have to come to Sincil Bank which will doubtless give them hope of catching us in the title race. I know we have a game in hand, and therefore they need to keep the pressure on by winning games of football. Will they manage it?
Recently they grabbed a 4-0 win at North Ferriby, which was followed by a super 2-0 victory over Tranmere before yesterday’s last gasp win at home to Chester. They travel to Southport on Saturday 11th where they’ll bring home three points, before doing the same against Guiseley on 18th. By that point they’re going to be within touching distance of us, but I can see the inconsistency slipping in and there is scope for a draw at home to Bromley on Tuesday 21st. Our clash with them on the 25th will be moved until later in the season, so I suspect they’ll round up February with ten points from twelve by beating Maidstone at home. The fixture list looks very kind to the Daggers this month, but they’d best not get too comfy as March is set to be a shocker.
Oliver Hawkins – Crucial to Dagenham
Forest Green Rovers
Boreham Wood (H), Gateshead (A), Woking (H), Tranmere (A)
The significant financial losses announced by Forest Green didn’t go unnoticed by me this week, but I’ve tried to stop having stabs at out opponents and concentrate on the good things we are doing instead. Still, £2.5m down and still trailing the Mighty Imps? Must be enough to make Mr Vince choke on his falafel and tofu roast.
FGR are now out of all cup competitions as well, and they too have a big visit to Sincil Bank to negotiate if they’re to have any chance of stopping City. That comes in March though, first they have to get through a tricky February.
They were real losers in the January window with several key players moving on, and I suspect the defeat at Macclesfield yesterday might be a precursor to another dip in form. Since we beat them (somewhat fortuitously) in November they’ve been stumbling, and I suspect our meeting in March will be more a case of them rescuing some pride than running us all the way for the title.
They have a tough match on Saturday against Boreham Wood, a team once notoriously difficult to play at home, and that is followed by a trip to Gateshead the week after. The Wood have been in shocking form since early November, winning just three times in thirteen matches, but form is temporary. Neither match is going to be straightforward and I’m going to predict that FGR take four points from six. The betting man in me would have them beating Boreham Wood and drawing at Gateshead.
They then face Woking at home which should yield three points, before a massive trip to Tranmere on Tuesday 28th. By then I think Tranmere will have a bit of momentum behind them, and I expect them to put a nail in the FGR title dream by grabbing all three points.
I wonder if Andy Mangan will try his diving tricks again this month?
Sutton (H), Bromley (H), Eastleigh (A), Boreham Wood (H), Forest Green (H)
Tranmere have five games coming up in February, starting with a home tie against FA Cup heroes Sutton United. We know Sutton are no mugs from past experience, but you have to wonder if the cup games will eventually affect their league form, especially with a far smaller squad than ours. I’ll have the ‘Super White Army’ down to win that. The week after Bromley, on the fringes of the play-off race visit Prenton Park, and I can see that game being a draw. Bromley have won five of their last eight, including a 2-1 victory at Macclesfield that proves, on their day, they are a match for anyone.
Tranmere then have three games, away at Eastleigh before finishing with winnable home ties with Boreham Wood and FGR. I’ve already said I think they’ll snatch a win against Forest Green, and I think the faltering Boreham Wood will struggle as well. I can see another draw away at Eastleigh, they’ve spent big and their position of 14th is a reflection on the amount of managerial changes they’ve made, not the quality available to them. It’s interesting that aside from their clash with FGR, non of the top four sides are due to play each other this month. That leaves Tranmere finishing with twelve points from a possible fifteen, enough to keep them in the hunt.
Can this man keep up his goal-a-game ratio in National League competition?
Woking (H), North Ferriby (A), York (H)
Ah, the Mighty Imps. One might be forgiven for losing sight of the league chase, but cup runs aside this is the real bread and butter, It feels as if the league has been on the back burner a bit recently, we played four cup games and four league games in January. At present it looks like being three league and two cup in February too. Our three league games are all winnable, Woking at home should be a banker as should North Ferriby away. The one I would be concerned about is York City at home on February 28th. By then there is the potential that we could be knocked off the top of the league by virtue of playing less games. Gary Mills has toughened York up and got them playing much more direct, Jon Parkin and Vadaine Oliver in particular will provide a ‘Barrow’ style threat. If York have also sorted that abysmal defence I think we’ll draw that game, leaving us with seven from nine.
We are due to play Dagenham at home on February 25th, but I suspect we’ll see that game moved for the FA Trophy. We already have six games scheduled for March and April, with Sutton to rearrange as well. The games are certainly going to come thick and fast, and I suspect that we will be in a situation whereby we are looking up at someone on the summit, with games in hand that need winning.
I’m not being disrespectful to Dover, Barrow and Aldershot by not including them, but this is really looking at the chase for the title, not the play off spots. My final prediction looks like this:
I grossly over estimated the form of the other three sides chasing the title last moth, and hopefully I’ve done the same again. It looks set to be one of the closest run-ins in recent years, although all three of our challengers have been inconsistent over the past few weeks.
The two big clashes for City will be Forest Green and Dagenham, in particular that Dagenham clash set to be rearranged for next month. March could pose a significant issue for the Daggers though, as not only will they have to try and fit a match against us in, but they also face play-off chasing Aldershot, brutal Barrow and fellow title hopefuls FGR. There is still a lot of football to be played in our quest for a return to the Football League.
At this stage I still wouldn’t bet against Lincoln City.