Outside the Box: Guernsey's players will have to channel their energies

 

Newport County, featured here last week, may be the highest-placed club in the non-League pyramid complaining about fixture congestion after a crop of postponements, but they are hardly alone.

In their quest to return to the Football League, Newport are on a run of 11 games in 29 days, which sounds quite relaxing compared to some.

Consider Guernsey in the Combined Counties League, who as of last weekend had 11 games in hand on fellow contenders Epsom & Ewell and face playing 23 times in 43 days before the end of the season. Finding the dates has proved a headache for the secretary, Mark Le Tissier, brother of club president Matt, and over the next two weekends they play three times on successive days.

Bridgwater Town in the Evo-Stik Southern Division have had 20 postponements through bad weather alone in what the club call "this crazy season", and have had to rely on sponsors bringing forward payments to help with cash flow.

Wales and Scotland have been particularly badly hit; Turriff United in the Highland League have 10 games in hand but for once our old friends Fort William, with their frequently waterlogged pitch, are not much worse off than anyone else – just worse, with one win and 22 defeats from 25 matches ensuring their habitual place at the foot of the table.

Not so Beasant memories

As we approach the 25th anniversary of Wimbledon's extraordinary FA Cup triumph over Liverpool in the 1988 final, John Aldridge has been voted Liverpool's best penalty-taker of all time on the club's website. He scored 17 of the 18 he took for them.

The one he didn't convert was, of course, saved by Dave Beasant that sunny day at Wembley, thus giving Wimbledon the greatest day in their history and helping deny Liverpool what would have been only the second League and Cup Double in theirs.

Not so rare bit of success

Talking of penalties at Wembley, passion paid off in the end for Wrexham, who won the FA Trophy final against Grimsby Town in a shoot-out after taking lessons in singing the Welsh national anthem; not easy as only their goalkeeper Chris Maxwell is actually Welsh.

"Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau" ("Land of My Fathers") may yet be heard again at Wembley this season as both Wrexham and Newport are in the Blue Square Bet play-off places ahead of the final on 5 May; a date and venue set in stone, which is why the Conference have said they cannot extend the league season.

Signed shirts of the times

Times are hard and it appears that like Oldham Athletic, whose players were told before the recent FA Cup tie against Everton not to give away any of their kit, even Championship clubs are feeling the pinch. An Ipswich Town supporter who collects his team's shirts and gets them autographed says he was approached by a steward after one game and told to hand back two shirts given by players to him and his eight-year-old son.

Achieving the benchmark

Which players break into an automatic walk towards the touchline as soon as their team are about to make a substitution? The English National Football Archive and SoccerData.com have come up with the three current players who have been "hooked" most often.

In third place is the much-travelled Scott McGleish, with 219 weary walks off; second is Jon Macken (230), formerly at Manchester City and now with Stockport County; and the winner is Robbie Blake of Doncaster Rovers, with 237 in 507 games. All three are in their late 30s and all, significantly, are forwards.

s.tongue@independent.co.uk; twitter.com/@stevetongue

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