August 3, 2012 by mapperleystag1
Manager: Nicky Law
Last Season: 15th in Conference
Last season was a tale of two halves for the Derbyshire club, competing in the Conference for the first time in their history. The first half consisted of a leaky defence as well as severe disciplinary issues due to their over-eagerness, or put less charitably, their uncompromising tactics of deliberate intimidation and excessive physicality. This combination ensured that they remained deep in the relegation zone for the first half of the season. However, in the new year with the arrivals of experienced defenders Adam Quinn and Darren Kempson, Alfreton’s form drastically improved, with them being one of the form teams in the league and, therefore, comfortably avoiding relegation. Success for them in the upcoming season will rest upon maintaining a solid defence, with key players such as Anton Brown and Nathan Arnold remaining injury-free and influential.
Verdict: Mid-table obscurity- 13th
Manager: Dave Bayliss
Last Season: 13th in Conference
As always, Barrow’s success will be based on their home form, which for past seasons has kept them solidly in mid-table. Ensuring that teams experience an unwelcoming atmosphere and conditions at Holker Street should keep them safely away from relegation fears again. However, in order to improve on mid-table, their dismal away record needs improving and a new strike partner is required for Adam Boyes, now that Andy Cook has joined Grimsby.
Verdict: Mid-table obscurity- 14th
Manager: Alan Devonshire
Last Season: 12th in Conference
Braintree enjoyed a surprisingly successful campaign last season, having won promotion from Conference South the season before. Much of this was down to the expertise of Alan Devonshire and his vast experience of playing over 350 times for West Ham and winning eight international caps for England. However, it will be difficult for Braintree to replicate such a good season, especially since losing top scorer Ben Wright. This combined with a poorer second half of last season and lack of depth and experience in their squad suggests a difficult season ahead.
Verdict: Relegation- 22nd
Manager: Jez George
Last Season: 9th in Conference
For much of last season Cambridge were in the hunt for a playoff position. However, injuries in the new year led to a torrid run of results which ended any promotion aspirations. This season promises another push for the playoffs, with their strengths seemingly in defence and out wide with danger men Harrison Dunk and Robbie Willmott, who has returned to the club 18 months after being sold for £50 000 to Luton. Their downfall could stem from not having a recognised goal scorer compared with their rivals for promotion, something that may see them just miss out on the playoffs.
Verdict: Top half- 7th
Manager: Tony Burman
Last Season: 2nd in Conference South
Following promotion via the playoffs, this season will undoubtedly be a stern test for the Kent club, as the gap between the leagues is substantial due to the shift from semi-pro to predominantly professional football. Dartford’s home record will be vital in their quest for survival, as will utilising the experience of players such as Mark Arber. If they use home advantage to their benefit, they may survive… just.
Verdict: Safety, but not much more- 20th
Manager: Liam Daish
Last Season: 14th in Conference
Ebbsfleet exceeded expectations last season with a comfortable mid-table finish, which led to praise for manager Liam Daish. However, this season presents a greater challenge for the Fleet, with highly rated forward Michael West and 19 goal scorer Calum Willock joining Crewe and Dover respectively. Nevertheless, Ebbsfleet ought to have enough quality in their squad and goals in the form of the talented, if inconsistent duo of Nathan Elder and Moses Ashikodi to if not replicate last season, then at least remain in the division.
Verdict: Safety, but not much more- 18th
FOREST GREEN ROVERS
Manager: Dave Hockaday
Last Season: 10th in Conference
The summer has provided much excitement for the fans of Forest Green Rovers. The signings of proven goal scorers at this level, Magno Vieira from Fleetwood and Ben Wright from Braintree, as well as former Manchester United trainee and prolific scorer for Stalybridge in Conference North, Phil Marsh, appear to have addressed their deficiencies up front. Having retained the nucleus of their tight defence and with exciting midfield prospects Yan Klukowski, Kieron Forbes and James Norwood set to only improve in the future, Forest Green should improve considerably over last season’s solid performance. A playoff position should not be out of reach.
Verdict: Playoffs- 4th
Manager: Ian Bogie
Last Season: 8th in Conference
As with a number of teams last season, Gateshead harboured realistic hopes of a playoff position, only to see them dashed in the final few weeks of the season. Their performance was indebted to striker Jon Shaw whose 28 goals arguably masked some of the weaknesses in their squad, in comparison with other leading teams. With Shaw signing for promotion rivals Luton, goal scoring will need to be spread more evenly across the team, with strikers Liam Hatch and Yemi Odubade especially needing to improve their goal output. Nevertheless, Gateshead have enough quality with the likes of James Curtis, Ben Clark and Jamie Chandler to at least match last season’s effort, if not surpass it.
Verdict: Top half- 8th