The Premier League and EFL have been suspended until at least April 3 to try to tackle the coronavirus. There has been a move across Europe and the world to stop mass gatherings.
But the UK government advice on Thursday was that there was a low probability of widescale infection at sporting events, with Cheltenham Festival going ahead as scheduled in the week and the Midlands Grand National taking place today in Uttoxeter.
Non-league football is also carrying on, with Leek Town, Stafford Rangers, Nantwich Town Newcastle Town, Alsager and Kidsgrove Athletic among the teams in action this afternoon.
Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said: “Of course there is a risk. [If] one individual is infected, you are releasing the virus from your body as you cough, sneeze or put fluids onto surfaces.
“But on average, one person infects two or three others. You therefore have a very low probability of infecting a large number of people in a stadium. Or a rather higher probability of infecting people very close to you.
“That means that most of the transmission tends to take place with friends and colleagues, in close environments – not in the big environments. It is true of course, that any cancellation of things can have some effect.
So where are our local non-league teams playing?
Jim Hannah has the preview of this weekend’s action.
BetVictor Division One South East
LEEK TOWN manager Neil Baker is hoping to have another defender in the camp ahead of the trip to Lincoln United.
Baker is keen to strengthen the defensive area after skipper Darren Chadwick picked up a calf strain, but managed to get through 90 minutes of Saturday’s 3-2 home win over Carlton Town.
Leek remain top of the BetVictor South East Division, but their lead has now been cut to two points following Stamford’s last-minute goal in a 2-1 win over Sutton Coldfield Town on Tuesday night.
Baker’s boys do have a game in hand now, but the pressure is cranked up once again in the race for the one automatic promotion place. While Leek will be looking to chalk up their 23rd league win of the season at Lincoln, Stamford have another home game against county rivals Spalding United.
“I’m working hard to get someone in before the weekend,” said Baker, who is also confident his players are ready for the physical and mental challenge over the last couple of months of the season.
“We had a really tough, physical game against Carlton at the weekend. There was not a lot of quality on show as we were not at our best, but we dug in at 2-2 and managed to find the winner,” said Baker. “We have been criticised in the past for not standing up to teams, but I’ve never seen it that way.
“My players have always been up for a battle and they showed that on Saturday.”
Baker knows the title race is not likely to be over by the end of the next set of fixtures this month, but insists the pressure is not just on his players.
“There is pressure on a lot of clubs coming into the business end of the season. We are under pressure to get back on a winning run, but there’s also a lot of pressure on the chasing pack, including Stamford who will fancy their chances now of pipping us to the title. There’s pressure on Belper, Stocksbridge and a few others to secure one of the four play-off places, so there is a lot riding on a lot of games from now until the end of the season.”
The manager reports no major injury concerns ahead of taking on a Lincoln side who are third-bottom, but have just appointed a new management team of Sam Wilkinson and Stuart Reddington, who have returned to the club following the resignation of Steve Housham.
KIDSGROVE ATHLETIC manager Ryan Austin has not given up on the play-offs, despite slipping eight points off the pace and down to 10th in the table.
Defeats to Sutton Coldfield Town (1-0) and Stamford (1-0) in their last two league games has left them with a lot to do, but Austin says with 12 games left, there are still plenty of points to play for.
“We’ve just got to keep going,” said the manager. “We’ve suffered a little blip as far as results are concerned, but I have been pleased with our last two performances,” said Austin who was referring to the Stamford and Stoke City games.
Austin was critical of his players after the defeat at Sutton Coldfield, but said there was an improvement in the Stamford game, which saw the Lincolnshire side win it with a 90th-minute goal.
And on Wednesday night, Grove lost 3-2 to a good young Stoke City side in the quarter-finals of the Staffs FA Cup.
Grove were 3-0 down to goals from Gabriel Kyeremateng (2) and Ethon Varian, but fought back to score through Oliver Jepson (75) and James Butler (87), but couldn’t force an equaliser.
“Certainly there were positives from both the Stamford and Stoke games. I thought we played well against a good, young Stoke side so hopefully we can take that into today’s game at Frickley, another team who still have hopes of making the play-offs,” said Austin.
NEWCASTLE TOWN return to action after a blank week when they welcome Belper Town to their Red Industries Stadium.
Castle were on an excellent three-game winning run until they ran into a good Ilkeston Town side last time out and lost 2-1 after Josh Glover had given Robin van der Laan’s team the lead.
BetVictor Premier Division
NANTWICH TOWN suffered a knock to their play-off hopes when they lost 1-0 at home to BetVictor Premier Division leaders South Shields on Tuesday night.
The defeat comes just a few weeks after winning 4-1 in the north east, three of the goals coming in the last 10 minutes.
However, a goal just after half-time from South Shields’ Bali Mumba settled the return fixture in favour of the leaders who are now nine points ahead of second-placed FC United of Manchester who have a game in hand.
For Nantwich, Tuesday night’s defeat saw them drop one place to fifth, still in the promotion spots, but Warrington Town moved above them following a 3-2 home win over Matlock Town, having trailed 2-0 up until the 76th minute when goals from Jordan Buckley, Mark Roberts and Tom Warren turned the game in their favour.
So another big game for the Dabbers today when they travel the short distance into Derbyshire for a meeting with Matlock, who have slipped into relegation trouble following Tuesday night’s loss at Warrington.
Grantham Town picked up a point from a 1-1 draw at Whitby Town on Tuesday night to move above the Gladiators, who are now third-bottom of the table.
Nantwich will have Cameron Gregory in goal for a third game while Greg Hall serves the last of his three-game ban after being sent off in the recent game against FC United of Manchester.
Gregory has joined on loan from Shrewsbury Town, having most recently spent time loan at Kidderminster Harriers, as well as temporary switches to Halesowen and Chippenham Town.
Having come through the youth setup at Shrewsbury, Gregory has been in and around the first team for some time, having signed a professional deal with the club prior to the 2018/19 season.
Games are running out fast for STAFFORD RANGERS are they try to hold on to their Premier Division status.
A 2-2 draw at home to Gainsborough Trinity on Tuesday night leaves them five points adrift at the bottom of the table and seven from guaranteed safety.
Rangers looked to be heading for defeat when trailing 2-1 going into the 90th-minute, but they were awarded a penalty which Jake Charles converted.
This afternoon the visitors to Marston Road are second-bottom Atherton Collieries who have struggled to cope with life in the Premier Division following their promotion as West Division champions at the end of last season.
Collieries are only five points above Rangers in the race to avoid the drop, but they have games in hand on all the teams around them.
Rangers have games coming up against teams around them, but their final three games are at home to Nantwich Town and Bamber Bridge and then finish with a trip to current leaders South Shields as their survival fight continues.
NORTH WEST COUNTIES LEAGUE
STONE OLD ALLEYNIANS continue their promotion push with a home game against Wythenshawe Amateurs in Division One South.
The Yarnfield-based outfit are in the final promotion spot, but only three points ahead of Abbey Hey as the race to the Premier Division really hots up.
Vauxhall Motors and FC Oswestry Town are pulling away in first and second spot and they are living up to their pre-season tag as promotion favourites, leaving the likes of Stone, Wythenshawe Town, Abbey Hey and West Didsbury & Chorlton to fight for the other two spots.
Wayne Brotherton’s Stone were 4-1 winners over bottom club St Martins last time out, thanks to goals from Matt Thomas, Will Bailey, Jack Tomlinson and Will Byers.
ECCLESHALL manager Kyle Adams was disappointed with his team’s latest defeat, their fourth on the bounce. The Eagles had taken the lead at home to New Mills through Luke Lewis at the start of the second half, but lost the game 2-1, the winner coming from the penalty spot in the 90th minute.
Adams said: “It’s a difficult one to take with the manner and timing in which the winner came obviously. We didn’t play well by any means but managed to get ourselves in front with a very well taken goal from Luke. We have to show a bit of composure from there though, in terms of managing things but unfortunately a bit of poor defending from a set-piece has allowed them to level things pretty quickly.”
This afternoon Eccleshall are off to Maine Road.
ABBEY HULTON UNITED are unbeaten in three ahead of their trip to Cheadle Heath Nomads.
Abbey had taken the lead at home to Cammell Laird last weekend, thanks to a goal from Kieran Lazenby, but the Lairds went home with a point when Tom Parry equalised in the second half.
ALSAGER TOWN will hope to do what Abbey didn’t and that’s beat Cammell Laird.
The Bullets are sitting third-bottom of the table and just two points above the relegation zone, so a win would be very welcome indeed for manager Stuart Tulloch.
Alsager lost to local rivals Sandbach United last Friday night in front of a very healthy crowd of 455.
New signing Steve Jones made his debut and fired the Bullets ahead in the 19th minute from the penalty spot. However, Will Saxon, Valdermar Schousboe and Dan Bartle scored to turn the game in Sandbach’s favour.
In the Premier Division, HANLEY TOWN welcome Squires Gate to Potteries Park hoping for a change in fortune. A run of five defeats and a draw in their last six games has seen them slip to the foot of the table.
CONGLETON TOWN have lost their last two games ahead of their home match against Rylands.
A crowd of almost 500 turned up for last Sunday’s Groundhop game against Northwich Victoria, which the Vics won 4-2 to leave the Bears down in 13th spot.
In the Midland League, BROCTON and UTTOXETER TOWN are both in action as they attempt to secure their promotions to the Premier Division for next season.
The Badgers were in action on Thursday night at home to Ashby Ivanhoe, a 2-0 win, and today they are on their travels to take on second-bottom Nuneaton Griff.
UTTOXETER TOWN held a minute’s applause before their game at home to leaders Leicester Road on Wednesday night, as they continued their promotion drive. Players and staff from both teams were paying their respects following the death of Uttoxeter’s manager Dean Arnold.
However, the only goal of the game was scored by Leicester Road when Matt Langham netted from the penalty spot in the 28th minute against the run of play.
Uttoxeter remain in fourth place ahead of their trip to Paget Rangers.
ROCESTER are without a game as their fixture backlog continues.
The Romans are next in action on Tuesday night when they welcome Studley to the Hillsfield for one of their rearranged matches.
And they will have new signing Souleymane Soumare in their squad after he signed for the club this week. He has joined from Staffs County Senior League champions Silverdale Athletic, but has also played at Eastwood Hanley, manager Paul Wright’s former club.
STAFFORD TOWN are also without a game and are next in action the following Saturday when they travel to take on NKF Burbage.