Just like that, 2022 is over and with that comes the month of December. It’s time for The Vanarama National League monthly round-up and my goodness, we once again had action, drama and a brand-new streaming service to watch it all unfold.
Notts County has regained the top spot this month, with another unbeaten run. The Magpies have 57 points from 24 games and a four-point gap to second (albeit they have played a game extra). They started their month with a 1-4 win away to Scunthorpe United, despite going a goal down. Just a week later, they had to show resilience as when facing Maidenhead United, they let slip a 1-3 advantage to 3-3 with 20 minutes to play. Thankfully, a goal from the ever-so-reliable Macaulay Langstaff was enough late on to win 3-4 and take all the points on offer. This was their first six points of the season after beating Maidenhead on the opening day of the season. Next up was Notts’ first home game of the month and the opponents were Langstaff and Cedwyn Scott’s former side Gateshead. A goal in each half was enough as the hosts took a comfortable 2-0 win to add to their December collection.
Isuzu FA Trophy action came around for the first time this season and County was paired up against Vanarama National League North side Chorley. Despite going a goal down, they turned it around in the first half to win the game 2-1 and progress to the Fourth Round, where they will now face fellow league side Maidstone United at home. Finally, the first of the two Christmas back-to-back fixtures (that every team has) came around and The Magpies beat Oldham Athletic 4-1. There were three goals in the first nine minutes to make the score 2-1, but two goals just before half-time allowed the hosts to ease through the next 45 minutes and see out 2022 with a 15-game unbeaten run (their best since 2010) and they are now 15 points better off at this stage then they were last season.
Wrexham matched a club record dating back to the 1904-05 season as they have now won all 15 games in a row, at home, across all competitions so far this season. They are second with 53 points from 23 games. They started their month away to York City, live on BT Sports and thought they had won it when Thomas O’Connor scored in the 88th minute. However, York equalised 90+2, to snatch a late point. The Welsh side put that behind them though and followed up with a 0-2 win away to Eastleigh. In the FA Trophy, they came from behind to beat Scunthorpe United 3-1 and set up a tie away to Altrincham. In their final game of an up-and-down 2022, they dismantled Solihull Moors 5-0 with Paul Mullin grabbing the headlines yet again, for his third hat-trick of the season in all competitions.
Chesterfield has had better months as they dropped the pace on the two above them. They sit third with 46 points from 22 games. If they were to win their two games in hand, then they would still have a great chance of slowly creeping up on the top spotters. The Spireites got off to a bad start when they conceded late on to lose 1-0 to FC Halifax Town. They bounced back though the following week, with a 3-1 victory against Dorking Wanderers. Two goals in the final six minutes of normal time, helped them get over the line and back to winning ways. The most disappointing game of the month came when they were knocked out at the first hurdle in the FA Trophy to step seven side Coalville Town, after losing 1-3. Coalville has now beaten both Notts County and Chesterfield in cup competitions this season. They did finish the year off though on a high, as they managed to turn around a one-goal deficit and beat Scunthorpe United 1-2 on the road, thanks to a brace from Joe Quigley.
Woking has maintained their brilliant start, despite their long unbeaten run coming to an end. The club still sits fourth and has a 10-point gap to eighth place. They’ve taken 43 points from 23 games played and will go into the new year 12 points better off than at this stage last year. December got underway with a hard-fought win against Maidstone United, as The Cards managed to overturn the visitor’s half-time lead and go on to win 3-1. Woking also managed to bring in highly-rated midfielder Charlie O’Connell on loan from Peterborough United. He is a player who has had strong links to major European clubs in the past 12 months or so. In their next game, their eight-game unbeaten run in the league came to an end at the hands of ten-man York City, as the Yorkshire side put two past The Cards for the second time this season and take six points away from both games. They then followed this up with another 0-2 defeat, this time to Eastleigh in the FA Trophy, but were missing many key players through an illness that hit the camp just 48 hours previous to kick-off. Woking’s final game of the month was the big one, the derby against fierce rivals Aldershot Town and with their last two results not going in their favour, it appeared as though disaster would strike again at Christmas against The Shots, as it so often does. However, if it wasn’t already clear that Darren Sarll has changed the mindset and mentality of the club in his early tenure at the club, then this game definitely sealed it. The Cards came out on top to win 1-2 and seal their first league victory against Aldershot since 2016 and their first away win since 2015 respectively. The 1,041 travelling Woking supporters were sent into euphoria and believe more than ever that playoffs are a real possibility this season. They will be imagining it even more if Woking can repeat Boxing Day’s heroics and win the reverse fixture on New Year’s Day. It cannot be underestimated how big of a win that was.
Barnet moved up a place to fifth, despite only playing two league games during December. They have 39 points from 22 games so far this campaign. They played three home games and won all of them, starting with a 2-0 win against local rivals Wealdstone. Goals from Harry Pritchard and Nicke Kabamba helped them over the line in that one. Next up was FA Trophy action and a 90th-minute winner from Daniel Powell helped The Bees come out on top against step seven side Plymouth Parkway. They will travel to Solihull Moors in the next round. Finally, in a different local London game, another last-minute winner, this time Ryan De Havilland, helped them overcome Boreham Wood 2-1. De Havilland fired in from outside the box, in a game that was televised live on BT Sports. This game saw three red cards and a 90+5 winner.
Southend United are another side that just played two league games in December. They have 34 points from 23 games. They started out with a 2-2 draw against Altrincham despite leading the match twice. They did win their FA Trophy game though, as a 2-0 victory against Boreham Wood set them up for a Fourth Round fixture at home to Vanarama National League North’s current leaders Darlington. There was no Boxing Day delight, as The Shrimpers fell to a 0-1 defeat against Bromley to finish off a disappointing 2022. They must stay positive though as they are still in for a real chance of grabbing a playoff spot in April.
Solihull Moors still sit in seventh, with 33 points from 22 games. They actually started the month on a highflyer, when they beat Oldham Athletic by two goals to one. Two postponements later though and they found themselves without a game in over two weeks. This was no issue as a 2-0 victory over Vanarama National League North’s bottom side AFC Telford United saw them progress into the next round of the FA Trophy, where they’ll take on Barnet as mentioned. Finally, they had that afternoon to forget in North Wales and will hope to seek some revenge come New Year’s day in the reversed fixture.
Now at the other end of the table, we have the teams who are currently trying to fight off the idea of relegation next season.
Gateshead had a 50/50 month with two wins and two defeats across all competitions. They sit 21st with 20 points from 23 games. They came into December with some slightly better form but couldn’t replicate it against Aldershot Town, as they lost 0-2. Next up was that 2-0 defeat to league leaders Notts County but that was followed up with a triumphant 5-1 result against Vanarama National League North side Gloucester City. That result, no matter the opposition, proves that there are goals in this team, they just need to work on their final third play, as well as their defence. They will welcome Oldham Athletic to the Gateshead International Stadium in the next round. They finished off both the month and the year with what could arguably be one of their best results of the year, as they beat an inform York City side 0-3 on the road. Two converted penalties from Danny Elliott helped his side closer to victory before Owen Bailey finished off what was a magical and hopeful evening in North Yorkshire.
Oldham Athletic had somewhat of a better month but still find themselves in the bottom four. They also have 20 points but from 22 games played. The month started with that 2-1 defeat to Solihull Moors and was followed up by more heartbreak as they looked set to take a point away against Boreham Wood, before conceding 90+4 to lose 2-1 again. Ben Tollitt’s late goal wasn’t enough in the end for The Latics. Next up was a massive relegation fighter against similar strugglers Torquay United.
This game saw Oldham lead on three separate occasions and eventually come out 3-2 winners, thanks to Timmy Abraham’s (Roma star Tammy’s young brother) strike 15 minutes from time. Oldham’s FA Trophy campaign got underway and penalties were needed to separate the two sides. After a goalless 0-0 draw, The Latics made it through, 3-2 from spot kicks. They will be facing Gateshead away from home. To finish off the month, they had that appalling 4-1 defeat to Notts County but will host them again on New Year’s Day.
Torquay United had a better month and moved off the bottom spot but sit 23rd with only 19 points. They started with a brilliant 0-1 victory away to Dagenham & Redbridge, thanks to a first-half goal by Will Goodwin. Next up was that disappointing defeat to Oldham but they were back in business when they knocked Vanarama National League South side Chippenham Town out of the FA Trophy. The Gulls came from two goals down to win 3-2 and face Taunton Town in the next round. They rounded up the month with a 1-1 draw against ‘local-ish’ rivals Yeovil Town but will be without defender Dylan Crowe in the reversed fixture, as he was sent off for a second booking offence late on.
Scunthorpe United ended 2022 with one competitive away victory during the year and that was in the Lincolnshire Senior Cup all the way back in February. They sit in 24th and last place, with just 16 points from 24 games. They had yet another month to forget, as it’s now ten games without a win in all competitions. They started the month with that 1-4 humbling defeat to Notts County but did manage to take a point from the next game, in a 0-0 draw away to Yeovil Town. They were then knocked out of the FA Trophy by Wrexham and finished the year with that 1-2 defeat against Chesterfield. If things don’t change soon, then the club will be looking at back-to-back relegations.
National League TV went live as the brand-new streaming service was launched for the 24 Non-League Premier sides.
In other news, the Daily Mail reported that the EFL are ready to offer a third promotion place to the National League. They said, “Any changes to the EFL’s promotion and relegation system would need approval from a simple majority vote of the clubs and will not be implemented until next season at the earliest.” This would be huge for the league if successful as it’s about time this was put in place.