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Three is the magic number to go up
11:00am Tuesday 10th December 2013 in Sport By Steve Carley - Midlands Sports Journalist of the Year 2013, @stevecarleyWN
AS Kidderminster Harriers ruthlessly dispatched Newport County in the FA Cup, so we witnessed another reminder of why three should be promoted from the Skrill Premier.
The gap is constantly narrowing between League Two and non-league’s top-flight — and the weekend’s cup action should again throw this debate into the spotlight.
Harriers’ clinical finishing, with braces for Michael Gash and Callum Gittings putting them four goals ahead at one stage, deservedly downed the Welsh outfit 4-2 in the second round at Aggborough.
Yes, only last season Newport were promoted ahead of Steve Burr’s outfit via the play-offs but they have been unfazed by the higher level, sitting just one point below the top seven.
The Exiles may be eighth yet they are still on the verge of promotion to League One, certainly a bigger leap than that from the division below, because three teams go up automatically and four sides enter the play-offs.
Above Newport, three clubs with recent differing non-league journeys — Oxford United, Burton Albion and Fleetwood Town — also challenge for honours.
But just the champions are guaranteed to rise from the Skrill Premier with one more from four joining them after the play-offs. There should be two automatic places.
The likes of former League Cup winners Luton Town and former top-flight club Grimsby Town — to name just two — are marooned in non-league.
Smaller sides, such as Accrington Stanley, Dagenham and Redbridge, Morecambe and Torquay United, continue to ply their trade in League Two. They fully deserve to after earning that right but a look at the two league tables really tells you there should be more of a level playing field when it comes to promotion and relegation.
Part-time Conference outfits, such as Nuneaton Town and Braintree Town, boast the best of England’s semi-professionals. They should have more chance to step up as well.
Meanwhile, Grimsby joined Kidderminster in cup success, easing to a 2-0 win over higher-ranked strugglers Northampton Town. These were no fluke results.
The League Two Cobblers joined Bury (beaten by Cambridge United), Scunthorpe (Grimsby), Gillingham (Brackley), Swindon Town (Macclesfield Town) and Cheltenham Town (Tamworth) in being knocked out by non-league opposition this season.
Unfortunately, the third-round rewards, apart from the prize fund of £57,500 earned so far, were not as hoped — no Premier League big boys.
Harriers may be at home but League One high-fliers Peterborough United will prove tough opposition, while Grimsby can be marginally happier with a home draw against Championship side Huddersfield Town.
Macclesfield, who saw off Worcester City’s Skrill North rivals Brackley Town 3-2 in the second round, have a big clash with Sheffield Wednesday at Moss Rose.
Still, Kidderminster must hope they can upset Barry Fry once again.
The Peterborough director of football was manager of Midland giants Birmingham City when Harriers created their biggest cup shock, winning 2-1 at St Andrew’s in 1994.
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