Somewhere Beyond The League: Conference North and South Preview

August 18, 2012 in Features, Non-League

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This weekend sees the final step of the Non-League ladder kick off their season as the Blue Square Bet North and South open their doors. These two leagues are the step below the Blue Square Premier, the top flight of non-league football. It’s the Non-League Championship, if you will, split into two different leagues, for the northern teams and the southern teams. Four teams get promoted, two from each leagues and three go down from each division into the Level 7 leagues, as previewed two weeks ago. It is definitely as competitive as the Championship, with a lot of teams vying to go up and stay in these divisions.

Conference North

This league has suprised many over the past few seasons, with many unfancied sides winning over the past few seasons. But this year sees two clear favourites for promotion, with Chester and FC Halifax Town the two front runners to get up to the Premier this season. It’s hard to choose between the two, as Chester are the newly promoted side, and it often takes teams a season to get used to the league before they can truly reach their potential. They’ve made some great signings in pre-season and will push Halifax all the way, but I feel the experience of Neil Aspin’s side should see them come out on top, especially with the profilic Gareth Seddon leading the line.

Alongside these two, look to see Gainsborough Trinity challenge for the top spot also - great performers under manager Steve Housham since taking over from Brian Little, as well as Guiseley, who are constantly improving. Altrincham have re-signed Damien Reeves, as well as some great players from Hyde United, so they could nab a play-off place, and so could Bishops Stortford. At the bottom of the table, expect Vauxhall Motors and Solihull Moors to struggle, alongside Hinckley United and Gloucester City.


Conference South

In the Southern half, Eastleigh are firm favourites to be champions come next May after they splashed the cash on players that could easily perform in the Premier already. If you could put a bet on Eastleigh getting a play-off spot in the Premier 2013/2014 season, I’d put a cheeky tenner on it now. A very tasty side.

Former Reading striker Nicky Forster will be expecting at least a play-off place for his Dover Athletic side, who have no right to be happy with two consecutive 7th place finishes. They will be pushing Eastleigh hard for that automatic spot, but I think they’ll have to settle with a play-off place. Welling United have improved year-on-year, finishing 9th, then 6th, then 3rd in the last three seasons. Their young manager Jamie Day has done a great job keeping their players’ heads up following their defeat to Dartford in the play-off final. They should cement another play-off spot and will expect to do right this time around.

Chelmsford City have done the exact opposite of The Wings, dropping places in the last three seasons, and haven’t adapted to the league becoming stronger. They should be there or thereabouts in the play-off spots, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t get anywhere near this season - I think they might disappoint. The much-improved Havant and Waterlooville should secure a play-off spot, alongside relegated Premier side Hayes & Yeading, under the very impressive Nas Bashir.  Truro City and Maidenhead United should be favourites for relegation, alongside Bromley. They could go one of two ways, either push for promotion or struggle and sadly - I think its the latter.


So, now the previews are all out done, it’s time to talk about what this blog will do throughout the coming season. I will be profiling a different team each week, detailing their history, form and key players - giving a good overview of some of the teams in the Non-League programme. Alongside this, I will be adopting a team from each level (Premier, North and South, Level 7 and below) and detailing their journey through the non-league. Finally, I will be giving a brief overview in non-league each week, detailing the key stories and results from top to bottom. It will be a match-week programme for Non-League. But, let’s get down to business - which teams will I be adopting this season? Who will become ‘Matty’s Chosen Ones’?

Conference Premier - Dartford








There’s something about the new boys to the Premier that I like. I think they could spring a shock this season and maybe spring a play-off charge. Tony Burman is a fine manager at this level, so I’ve got faith in this team to do well.


Conference North/South - Vauxhall Motors







Since my Conference Premier side is Southern, I’ll go Northern here and pick strugglers Vauxhall Motors. Why? Well, they’ve always been one of my favourite teams on Football Manager (one time Emmanuel Petit went to manage them, scenes), so when I’ve got the opportunity to follow them, why pass it up? Hopefully they’ll do better than I’ve given them credit for.


Level 7 Leagues and Lower: Ryman League Division One South - Romford









With this one, I’m going to stick close to home and go for Romford in the Ryman League Division One South. Twenty minutes from my hometown of Dagenham and former FA Cup Quarter Finalists (In 1881, they lost 15-0 to Darwen), they finished in mid-table last season and will hope to impress and they look forward to moving into their new stadium.


So there you have it, the blog kicks off proper next week and remember, if you love football, there’s always somewhere beyond the League.