CONFERENCE PREMIER PREVIEW 2012-13 PART 3

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August 11, 2012 by mapperleystag1

NEWPORT COUNTY

Manager: Justin Edinburgh

Last Season: 19th in Conference

After a disappointing effort last season which saw the club for long periods looking as if they might be playing in the Conference South this year, Newport will be hoping for a much more successful campaign. In Justin Edinburgh, they have a young, hungry manager who has gained extensive experience of this league during his time at Rushden & Diamonds. Improved performances under his management in the second half of last season will be seen as the basis for a better finish in this campaign. Added to this, the signings of Michael Flynn and Aaron O’Connor in particular should result in a more prosperous campaign for the Welsh club.

Verdict: Top half- 10th

NUNEATON TOWN

Manager: Kevin Wilkin

Last Season: 5th in Conference North

Along with Hyde, who also won promotion from the Conference North last term, this season promises to present much stiffer challenges for Nuneaton. On paper, the quality and depth to their squad appears inadequate to compete with the majority of clubs in this league. This, combined with the lack of proven Conference-standard ability signings, will ensure that Nuneaton struggle in their fight against relegation.

Verdict: Relegation: 23rd

SOUTHPORT

Manager: Liam Watson

Last Season: 7th in Conference

After being awarded a reprieve from relegation due to the demise of Rushden & Diamonds, and consequently being one of the favourites for relegation again, Southport were the surprise package of the Conference last season, only faltering in the last few months to finish 7th, the disappointment of missing out on a playoff position which they had held for much of the season mitigated by such a positive performance in the league. However, it will be difficult for Southport to repeat this impressive finish this year for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is unlikely that clubs will be as under-prepared for the physical bombardment that Southport offered last season, a tactic that caught many teams by surprise and one that was difficult to deal with. Moreover, the loss of key personnel will be hard to replace, namely Andy Owens and Godfrey Poku who have both joined Mansfield. If these factors are taken into account, a mid-table finish for the Lancashire side seems to be a realistic assessment.

Verdict: Mid-table obscurity- 16th

STOCKPORT COUNTY

Manager: Jim Gannon

Last Season: 16th in Conference

As with so many former league clubs, Stockport struggled to adapt to the demands of the top-tier of non-league football last season, only guaranteeing their survival with a run of 8 wins out of 15 at the end of the campaign, after a disastrous start which saw Dietmar Hamann resign due to poor results which were blamed on a failed takeover. Current manager Jim Gannon is a Stockport legend, having both played for the club nearly 400 times as well as having a successful four year stay as manager, which saw him both steer the club away from the League Two relegation zone and win promotion to League One, via the playoffs. Consequently, it is difficult to see Stockport experiencing such a shambolic season this time around, although the relative inexperience of the squad will prevent them from sustaining a playoff push.

Verdict: Top half- 11th

TAMWORTH

Manager: Marcus Law

Last Season: 18th in Conference

After a challenging second half of last season which saw Tamworth slip closer and closer to the relegation zone, manager Marcus Law has been active in the transfer window. Signings such as Marcus Kelly, Lloyd Kerry and Peter Till should provide a much needed injection of quality into the side. Nevertheless, it is difficult to look beyond another difficult season for the Staffordshire club. Although a mid-table finish is possible, a more appropriate aim would be to ensure another season of Conference football, a target which should be just about achievable with the squad at their disposal.

Verdict: Safety, but not much more- 19th

AFC TELFORD UNITED

Manager: Andy Sinton

Last Season: 20th in Conference

Last season was a constant struggle for Telford against relegation, with safety only ensured in the penultimate game. This season promises to be as difficult for the Shropshire club, with their main problem from last season, the lack of goals, insufficiently addressed, despite the signing of Kieron St Aimie from Tamworth. Telford’s home form will undoubtedly be critical to their chances of survival- their significantly greater support in comparison with their relegation-threatened counterparts could prove decisive. Even so, they still have to be considered one of the favourites for relegation.

Verdict: Relegation- 21st

WOKING

Manager: Garry Hill

Last Season: 1st in Conference South

After cruising to the Conference South title last season with an impressive 97 points, Woking appear best placed amongst other promotion winners to adapt to the higher league. Their prior experience of this league should also prove beneficial throughout the season as they aim to beat the drop. Moreover, the experience of the football league that players such as Kevin Betsy, Adam Newton, Brett Johnson and Lee Sawyer have should be invaluable in this campaign. These factors, combined with the goal threat that Giuseppe Sole poses will see Woking comfortably stay away from any real threat of relegation

Verdict: Mid-table obscurity- 15th

WREXHAM

Manager: Andy Morrell

Last Season: 2nd in Conference

Despite achieving a record 98 points last season, Wrexham narrowly missed out on automatic promotion to Fleetwood, and were defeated by Luton in the playoff semi-finals. The heartbreak and disappointment from failing to win promotion last year could have a negative impact on this campaign, as the pressure to replicate the previous season’s form may become too great and be unrealistic. Furthermore, Wrexham have been weakened in the summer with the departures of Nat Knight-Percival, Mathias Pogba and Jake Speight. As a consequence, the strength and depth to their squad is not as impressive as it could be. Therefore, Wrexham might struggle to even make the playoffs this season, although with the quality of players such as Neil Ashton, Dean Keates and Glen Little to name but a few at their disposal, a top five finish is well within their capabilities.

Verdict: Playoffs- 5th

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