For readers that asked about the last ever opportunity to receive the newsletter at a reduced rate, there are just five hours left to take advantage of the offer. The two selections are posted below, as you will see, no one line selections but 400-900 word previews ......
BLUE SQUARE SOUTH
GATESHEAD - BLYTH SPARTANS
This would normally be a big North East derby and something for the supporters to really look forward to. However, for Blyth, the match is hardly mentioned on their website and is seen as little more than an inconvenience, as the whole club and town are preoccupied with the visit of Premier League Blackburn Rovers on Monday, for what is the biggest match in their recent history. So much so, that many supporters have decided not to make the short journey to Gateshead, for what would normally be the first date in their diary. You can understand why, as Spartans have been dire in the league all season and only seem able to raise their game in cup ties.
The reverse fixture took place just six days ago, with Gateshead great value for a 1-0 win, they were rarely troubled by their hosts and even Blyth fans admitted that their biggest rivals "looked to have a second gear", if it had been needed.
This is a key game for the home side, who are currently in fifth place in the BSN, the final playoff spot and they travel to meet a direct rival in two days time. They are in great form and have won six of their last seven, scoring an eyecatching 21 goals, they pose a big threat going forward and only the top two in the table, have scored more goals.
Blyth have managed to win just four league starts and it is fair to say that their form has suffered because of the FA Cup success, most of these players will probably never get a chance again, to play a top flight side in front of a prime time television audience, it is a dream come true. Any that are picked to face Gateshead and many will be rested, will be wary of injury and imo, they will sacrifice this game and worry about their league status after Monday. The hosts are at full strength and should run out comfortable winners.6.5 points Gateshead -1.25 goals 2.03 ball asian line. WON 3-0
BLUE SQUARE PREMIERSHIP
OXFORD UNITED - SALISBURY CITY
We were firmly with Oxford at the weekend and new boss Chris Wilder delighted the 5,000 + crowd at the Kassam stadium, with the U's running in five goals past Ebbsfleet. That is a massive attendance for a mid table "conference" side and a true indication of how much potential United have.
Wilder will be loathe to let that momentum slip and will have his troops well and truly prepared, to do battle tomorrow.
What I really liked about the big win, was that it came in their first start without 17yo "star" Sam Deering, who has suffered a season ending injury and also,that all four strikers scored, including one who came off the bench.
So, Oxford, who create an awful lot of chances and put a huge number of crosses into the box. Have all their front men firing and competing for starting places, which is going to serve them very well in the coming weeks.
United have dominated a lot of games this season and not got their just reward. However, their form at the Kassam, where another big crowd will be sucked in, probably most nursing a New Year's Day hangover, appears to have gone "under the radar". They are unbeaten in nine home starts, winning seven, including defeats of high flying Cambridge United and runaway league leaders Burton Albion.
They meet nothing of that calibre today, when Salisbury come to visit, in a return of the Boxing Day fixture, when Wilder, in his debut in charge, got his early tactics completely wrong. You can read more about this in my preview of the Ebbsfleet game, don't be lazy, take a look at the Sunday email !
Oxford did everything but find an equaliser that day , they lost some momentum with the horrendous tackle on Deering, but still had several clear cut chances to score, late in the game. The home players are absolutely determined to put this one right, my only concern is that they do not try to get any personal revenge on the "culprit", however, my worry about this, is offset by the fact that the player concerened is very young and is just as likely to go to pieces in front of the huge crowd, who are already planning their songs of abuse and much worse !
Several of the U's squad have been warned that their jobs are on the line. It is likely that all of these are on salaries that they could not expect elsewhere in the BSP, so, there is additional motivation for them to impress the new boss. One of the players concerened, Lewis Haldane, has made something of an apology to fans in the local newspaper and I do not think that the fact that he is coming off his two best performances of the season, is pure coincidence.
Oxford switched to a very offensive line up for the Ebbsfleet game, making the most of their very speedy front players, to stretch the visiting defence. Surely we will see a very similar attacking formation against Salisbury and this should develope into a comfortable home win.
The visitors have not won an away league game since August, that is a run of eight games, the last six of which they have lost, also failing to score in six, conceding two or more in the last five, ten in the last three alone. They have big financial troubles, which have forced them to field a very young side, many of the senior players being sent out on loan in order to trim the wage bill, which means the core of the squad is under 22 and made up from last year's reserve team. The problem with youngsters, is that confidence is everything and once that is lost, they will struggle to perform, especially when going behind in games. I believe that United will win and see very little downside with this bet, in what is a huge game for the biggest team in non-league football.
9 points Oxford United -1 ball 2.01 asian line. WON 2-0