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Why Are There So Many Goals In The National League?

By Jeff Brazier

Is there any explanation for why there were so many goals in the 5th tier last weekend? Not that we’re complaining, but 50 in 11 matches is just under 5 per game! I’m taking a closer look to see if it’s something we can expect more of or just a happy coincidence for the teams that won and the fans that got plenty of action.

Is It Due To Defensive Errors?

The coach in me was instantly curious to examine the defending seeing as most managers will usually recognise how each goal conceded could have been avoided, but there are some goals, like Chesterfield’s George Carline’s effort from the edge of the box and Alex Hunt’s outstanding free kick to win it for Grimsby Town, that are the most notable exceptions.

On reviewing all of the games there weren’t as many obvious defensive mistakes as I’d expected. Penalties aside (we’ll get to those in a minute), The Pierce Bird Eastleigh own goal has to go down as an unfortunate error of judgement and there was a conspicuous error between Dagenham defenders Elliott Johnson and Callum Reynolds that let Josh Umerah in for the opener in that game.

While there were goals everywhere and you could say anyone who concedes 3 or 4 in a game has clearly defended badly, there were two particular games that exuded defensive fragility and I’d have to say the main culprits on the day were Grimsby and Torquay, although both clubs still finished the game as winners!

What About Refereeing?

Whatever happens in the Premier League will always filter down and I can only judge from the game I was watching between Yeovil and Halifax, but it would appear we are attempting to let the game flow a little more even though I still think refs can be too easily conned. We don’t hear about the free kicks that led to the attack that produced the goal, but we definitely know about the pens.

Giving away a penalty can only be a defensive error or an act of desperation unless of course it is the referee’s mistake, but of the 6 we saw at the weekend I didn’t see any that you’d disagree with. Only one was missed, or saved as was the case, for Solihull’s Joe Sbarra although followed up by Andy Dallas.

Barnet will be disappointed. Not only did they manage to give away a 3-1 lead but also gave Grimsby two penalties, both for handball. Josh Doherty got sent off again and it led to the easiest brace John McAtee is likely to score. The goals against tally will always be high if Barnet continue to be this generous to their opponents.

A More Attack Minded Approach?

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We could scour the highlights of each game and question the marking and positioning but let’s not detract from the many spirited comebacks like Wrexham’s gutsy display at Roots Hall or at the very least attempted comebacks like Alan Devonshire’s Maidenhead who fought back from 4-0 to lose 4-3.

I always wondered how much of a difference fans being back in the grounds would have on the type of football National League teams would attempt to play and you’d be mad not to think that managers philosophies haven’t been re-shaped by the energy and emotion inside the grounds right now.

Two managers who didn’t get the memo at the weekend were Luke Garrard and Simon Rusk with both playing out a 0-0 draw. To be honest. It’s a great point for both given the start that Boreham Wood have made – still yet to concede. We might have seen 51 goals if it wasn’t for an athletic save from Nathan Ashmore to deny Alex Reid. One of the biggest mysteries at present is how Stockport with all of their attacking threat have only managed 2 goals in their first 4 games but you just know that it won’t be long before they start finding the net.

Late Goals?

We know concentration dwindles when tiredness kicks in, hence why late goals are particularly common, but were there more this week than usual? From the 85th minute onwards there were 5 climatic goals, the majestic Brett McGavin free kick that earned Kings Lynn a point, the Michael Cheek 96th minute equaliser for Bromley against Chesterfield, the 92nd minute Ryan Colclough penalty that won it for Altrincham v Dover, the 90th minute consolation rebound for Andy Dallas for Solihull and that exceptional 92nd minute Alex Hunt winner for Grimsby.

Maybe it was a one off? Maybe it was because of the encouragement from the supporters? Or maybe we have so much attacking quality at the level its inevitable big numbers will follow? We have 4 strikers who are 4 in 4: Joe Quigley, Kyle Wootton, Michael Cheek and Joe Sbarra. We then have 6 players who are on 3: Josh Walker, Billy Waters, Kabongo Tshimanga, Corie Andrews, Paul McCallum and John McAtee. The likes of Mullins, Rooney & Hyde won’t be far behind. Here’s to a season full of action if last weekend was anything to go by.

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