Easter, depending on when in the calendar it falls, can be a pivotal weekend in a football season. Teams scrambling to stay up or go up get the opportunity to claim six points over the holiday period.
Take them all, and your target can be almost within reach.
Easter, however, is likely to decide very little this season in the Blue Square Bet Premier, with a clutch of teams still striving for a place in League 2 next August.
Several are seriously behind with their fixtures. The season ends on April the 27th, but at the time of writing Newport County, who occupy one of the play-off places, still have ten matches left. Appeals to extend the season have fallen on deaf ears, despite frequent postponements.
County only played one away game between January 12th and March the 2nd, and their own Rodney Parade ground, shared with the Newport Gwent Dragons rugby union team, has hardly been a billiard table for some weeks. Fatigue could become a serious issue in their bid to regain their football league status, as, it seems, it already is for Grimsby.
On the evidence of the FA Trophy final against Wrexham, the Mariners have, in marathon terms, hit the wall. A shoot out defeat will not have raised morale after four league defeats in a row, just when you want to be going through the gears in an upward direction.
Spluttering at this stage is not good news, especially when geographically you clock up more miles than many teams. Long coach journeys home can be sapping after a defeat – not that Kidderminster have experienced that feeling very much of late.
Their story is remarkable. They started the season with five straight defeats, and didn’t win a game until they beat Cambridge United on September the 25th. In 29 games since, they have won 22, drawn three and lost only four. They’ve taken 33 points from the last 36 available, and sit top of the table with no fixture backlog, all this despite selling one of their strikers in the January transfer window.
Jamile Matt had no sooner signed a new contract than League 2 Fleetwood met the release clause in it, and Harriers pocketed a tidy six figure fee. The impact has been minimal, as manager Steve Burr – who knew a thing or two about scoring goals in his playing days – has maintained a head of steam the others are finding it difficult to cope with.
On the coat tails of these former league clubs sit Forest Green Rovers, the Nailsworth team backed by green energy magnate Dale Vince. In this gruelling nine month test of stamina, they looked to have been dropped from the leading group, but as they have been gathering themselves for a final push with a fortnight’s break, those in front of them have faltered.
Surprisingly perhaps, they are the longest serving members of the Conference. On the night they reached the fifth tier of english football, a local radio commentator proclaimed “Nailsworth hasn’t seen a night like this since VE day”. It’s not impossible that the Stroud valleys may get the chance to party again.