Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.
It’s back to action after an unwanted break for Gary Mills’ side as we face Borehamwood at The Racecourse for the first time.
Our only previous meeting came last September and ended in a 1-0 win at their homely ground, Meadow Park. Connor Jennings settled the game as early as the twelfth minute with a looping header at the far post from a piercing Blaine Hudson ball into the box.
We could have scored more too, but were kept at bay by a fine performance by ex-Chelsea youth keeper James Russell. He pulled off a series of fine saves to deny us, with Dom Vose in particular frustrated by his excellent work, and he was nearly rewarded for keeping his side in the game when Joe Devera hit the post for the home team on his debut.
The performance wasn’t the prettiest, but Gary Mills proclaimed afterwards that all 1-0 wins are satisfying, and you could understand why because this was his first clean sheet on the road at Wrexham and his first in thirteen overall as Gateshead had struggled to avoid conceding away from home at the end of last season.
We go into tomorrow’s game on an unbeaten run of seven matches, our longest of the season. In fact, it’s our best unbeaten run since February 2015 when the 3-0 win at Torquay proved to be the final match in a sequence of eight without defeat under Kevin Wilkin.
However, five of those matches were part of our run to the final of the FA Trophy last season. To find the last time we’ve gone so long unbeaten in the league you have to go back to March 2013 when we went thirteen Conference games unbeaten under Andy Morrell.
With last Saturday’s match called off, I should remind you that if we reach the 49th minute with our clean sheet intact it’ll be the longest we’ve gone without conceding a goal since we dropped down to the National League eight years ago. Also, if we hold Borehamwood at bay until the final whistle we’ll have kept five clean sheets in a row for the first time in the Conference, and indeed for the first time in sixteen years.
Furthermore, another clean sheet tomorrow would mean we’d have kept the oppositions scoreless for three consecutive matches at The Racecourse for the first time since last March.
At the other end, we’ve been consistently hitting the net. If we score in each of our five remaining games at The Racecourse this season we’ll have registered in all but two of our home league games for the first time since the 1995-6 season. In fact the last time only one visitor to North Wales came away from a league match with a clean sheet was 1975-6 when we nearly equalled the club record by scoring in every home league match until Walsall beat us 3-0 in our penultimate home game.
There have been three seasons since we joined the Football League in 1921 that we’ve scored in each home league, all coinciding with the career of our all-time top scorer Tommy Bamford. In fact, between 1930 and 1933 we had a run of 59 home league matches in which we failed to score just once!