Although most football pundits say that you cannot get a good judge of a league until at least ten games into the season, we’ve gone a little earlier than usual to assess the early leaders of the pack and pinpoint the surprise packages that have turned their 2019/20 form on its head in 2020/21 so far.
We’ve highlighted a trio of teams that will be more than pleased with their work so far this term, with one team in particular bouncing back from potential relegation in last year’s abandoned season to pick up ten points from their opening five games.
Matlock Town were looking at a bitter relegation struggle in 2019/20 at the time of the season’s abandonment. The Gladiators were third bottom with just 29 points, some 40 less than the league leaders South Shields. It’s therefore remarkable to see Matlock defeat South Shields 1-0 in their own back yard, a victory which was all about “passion” and an “unbelievable will to win” according to boss Paul Phillips.
A mark of Matlock’s resurgence this season is that the Derbyshire club were recently priced as short as 21/20 for their midweek trip to Grantham Town. If you are someone that enjoys betting on in-form teams in non-league football, Timeform has got a comprehensive list of bookies dishing out free bets to new sign-ups to help you take advantage of the best odds on Matlock right now.
Witton Albion were another side entrenched in the lower reaches of the Northern Premier League in 2019/20. After 31 games played, they had just 39 points and were struggling for firepower. Wind the clock forward six months and Albion find themselves in second place behind Warrington, with 12 points from their opening six games, averaging almost two goals a game.
Albion brought Gainsborough Trinity’s unbeaten home record to a grinding halt with a comfortable 3-1 away victory. Carl Macauley’s side came from behind to eventually run out comfortable winners.
Mickleover Sports were in a similar situation to Witton Albion at the early end of the 2019/20 campaign. However, they too have started 2020/21 with a bang, racking up nine points from their opening five games. Their latest win was a straightforward 3-0 away win at Ashton United, who were only two points below Mickleover last season.
Mickleover also inflicted Warrington’s only defeat of the league campaign in early October, defeating Town 3-2 in Derbyshire, underlining their vast improvement on last term.
Slow starts for South Shields and FC United of Manchester
It was heartbreak for South Shields in 2019/20, who missed out on promotion from Step 3 following the abandonment of the season on health and safety grounds. The Wearside club were 12 points clear at the summit of the Northern Premier League at the time of the season’s cancellation and despite legal protestations their appeals were thrown out. There appears to be something of a hangover from last season’s disappointment for South Shields, having mustered only eight points from their opening six games. This included two home defeats, which were unthinkable during their dominant run last term.
It’s a similar story for FC United of Manchester, who were second in 2019/20 and desperately trying to hang onto the coat tails of South Shields. Although they remain unbeaten so far this term, they have drawn three and won just one of their opening four fixtures.
Fortunately, Warrington Town have been able to take full advantage of these sluggish starts and sit proudly at the top of the table, averaging two-and-a-half points per game at present. Here’s hoping Paul Carden’s men can keep up the good work through the winter months!