Season Preview 2018/19 - Part One

KH JOURNALISM  - Digger Dagger Match day

                               Vanarama National League Season Preview 2018/19                                           

AFC Fylde                      PREDICTED FINISH: 5th

Last season was a success for newly promoted AFC Fylde as they finished 7th. Eventually losing 2-1 to Boreham Wood in the Elimination round of the Play-offs. However, the significance of the feat was undermined due to many people's knowledge of the club's financial backing. The club and its owners have a clear vision to gain league status by 2022, this is reminded on the sleeve of the club's jersey. This ambition was set by the owners when they took charge of the club in 2007,when the club was formerly known as Kirkham & Wesham in the North West Counties League. Looking ahead to the new campaign, in June, David Challinor signed a new two year deal - extending his stay at the club to ten years. He outlined that the club's ambition hasn't changed for the forthcoming season, however he mentioned 50 points is the short term aim. Once they have reached that goal, he believes for his side the play-offs would be seen as a solid season.

ONE TO WATCH:  Danny Rowe

 He won the National League Player of the year award
last season and the equivalent in the National League 
North  the season before. He is a prolific striker who
brings lots of goals to the team.

Aldershot                         PREDICTED FINISH:6th

After a good 2017/18 campaign The Shots will be looking to do more of the same this time round, if not go one better and gain promotion. They lost on penalties to Ebbsfleet in the Eliminator round of the Play-offs last season after finishing 5th. Aldershot were in and around the top 7 for the majority of the season. Also,  before Macclesfield eventually ran away with the title, The Shots were in contention at times. The new campaign offers new opportunities for Gary Waddock's men, the manager didn't set a target for his players in terms of positioning. But, he says he is happy with the current state of the team, after having to have a rebuild at the back due to many of the first choice defenders departing in the summer. He wants to get a real taste of where his team are at in their opening match against Barnet on Saturday 4th August.

ONE TO WATCH: Luke Howell

Howell joined from Dagenham in the summer after having 
a strong end to his last season with the club. He offers a good
deal of experience and quality to the midfield.

Barnet                              PREDICTED FINISH: 2nd

A new look Barnet will bid to regain football league status at the first attempt after being relegated from League Two in what was a dismal season for The Bees. This season they are under new management with ex-daggers boss John Still at the helm, looking to guide them to promotion in his third spell at the club. Five players have followed in his footsteps including; shot-stopper Mark  Cousins, defensive starlet Craig Robson and midfield battler Andre Boucaud. Alongside Charlee Adams and Daniel Sparkes, this came as his previous club were struggling financially. They are one of the top six sides the bookies have tipped for promotion and John Still, when asked if his aim was to bounce back said " Yes, of course you have got to aim as high as you can." He however went on to say that people looking from the outside in may think I've won the league many times and I'm a great choice. He outlined the fact that you can't underestimate the other teams in the league, claiming it isn't easy.

ONE TO WATCH: Craig Robson 

Following in Still's footsteps Robson will play a vital
role in The Bees' bid for promotion. He is a leader and
rock at the back.

Barrow                                      PREDICTED FINISH: 14th

Last season, The Bluebirds' three year stay in the top flight of non league football was threatened as they avoided the drop by a point. It was a wake up call for the north western side as just as they made a name for themselves in the league, that hard work was put under threat. Looking aheadto the new season, Ian Evatt has been appointed as the new manager in his first permanent managerial position . The former Premier League player comes from Chesterfield where he was player manager for a short while at the end of the season which saw the club face relegation from the football league. A major rebuild has taken place unsurprisingly at Barrow after last season's scare. Their most notable signing being John Rooney, younger brother of England and Manchester United record goal scorer Wayne. Evatt was delighted with the arrival of Rooney and expressed that a good start is vital in order to succeed this season with Barrow.

ONE TO WATCH: John Rooney

Evatt had nothing but positive words for Rooney
upon his arrival saying he hopes John can bring that
goal threat. He also complemented the striker's

Boreham Wood                                PREDICTED FINISH: 12th

Despite experiencing that sinking feeling and feeling of sheer disappointment after their play-off final defeat to Tranmere, the underdogs on the day shouldn't be too hard on themselves. After a frustrating end to the season losing 2-1 to ten man Tranmere, looking back there were plenty of positives to take from a good season for The Wood. Luke Garrard's men will be looking to compete yet again at the top of the table, but this season is looking tougher than the last, it won't be easy for them. Especially with the notable abscences of keeper, Smith and attacking threat Bruno Andrade who both joined Lincoln in the summer. The Portuguese winger proved vital in Boreham Wood's success last season, the chance to repeat that success has been somewhat hindered by this transfer. Another one of their star players Morgan Ferrier,who signed during the season, has become central in unwanted media attention. After getting a new 25 year old agent described by the club as ' a new intermediary/agent/representative'. The agent threatened to open 'a can of worms' about the club if he didn't get what he wanted for his client. Ferrier sacked his agent after 6 days however Garrard said it had managed to ruin the club's pre-season, which of course is less than ideal. Overall, it hasn't been a good start for the forthcoming season however the only way now is up.

ONE TO WATCH: Angelo Balanta

This could be the colombian's chance to step up to the
plate as Andrade has gone and with Ferrier being the
only other strong option out wide. Cold this be Balanta's
chance to prove himself ?

Braintree                     PREDICTED FINISH: 21st 

The Iron came 6th in the National League South last season and before the play - offs were by no means favourites. However their desire, and it has to be said luck, saw them through. After their six year stay in the topflight of non-league football came to an end in 2016/17 Braintree immediately bounced back after their play off penalty triumph last season. The man at the helm for Braintree is Brad Quinton who guided them to promotion in his first season at the club after being appointed in May 2017. His appointment saw him return to his beloved Braintree after spending 12 years at the club making over 500 appearances. The manager has embraced the idea of loanees in order to build his squad despite not liking the idea of short term signings. However, he showed permanent signings are still an option by signing defender Michael Clarke from Orient and Della - Verde from Dartford. Quinton stated " If you say we'd finish one point above the drop I'd bite your hand off '' however he insisted there is no reason why The Iron can't finish higher.

ONE  TO WATCH: Olumide Durojaiye

He scored 3 and played 39 for Welling in National League South
last season.  He will be hoping to step up his game in the National
League and impress in the Braintree back line. 

 Bromley                              PREDICTED FINISH: 10th

For The Ravens last season was a slight improvement bettering their position from the 2016/17 campaign by one place by finishing 9th last season. However, it wasn't the play - offs and they like many others will be hoping to snatch a play-off place this season. They will also be hoping to carry their cup form into the league after a strong performance in the FA Trophy saw them come Runners - up in the competition. Ahead of the new campaign Bromley have signed Reece Meekums who impressed in pre-season as a triallist consequently signing for the club. The 19 year old is a product of the Brighton U23 set up and was released at the end of the 2017/18 campaign, Meekums is a versatile striker as well as a promising attacking threat. The Ravens will be hoping to finish around 6th or 7th however that doesn't look too likely as the standard of the teams has bettered this season.

ONE TO WATCH: Frankie Sutherland

He is experienced at 24 and proved vital last season, his first
in a Bromley shirt. Frankie is a real asset to his side and will
be looking to impress again this season.

Chesterfield                            PREDICTED FINISH: 3rd

After back to back relegations the only way is surely up for The Spireites.They are an established football league side winning a record 4 league two titles. However, the club as a whole clearly lacks
consistency. The man at the wheel looking to steady the ship and steer his side to promotion is ex hammer Martin Allen. Martin impressed the Chesterfield hierarchy as he joined Barnet, Chesterfield's rivals in the relegation scrap. They had 8 games to spare and 7 points to make up, he closed the gap but The Bees were ultimately relegated on goal difference. Ahead of the new season Allen has signed Charlie Carter from Woking, he netted 12 times in 41 games for The Cardinals last season. The manager's transfer strategy was to have quality over quantity, cutting down the size of the squad. With the money he received from the sales he looks to get more quality signings.

ONE TO WATCH: Charlie Carter

After his first season in the National League Charlie
will be hoping he can become a household name within
non league football and help earn Chesterfield

Dagenham & Redbridge        PREDICTED FINISH: 9th

Last season was one of the toughest yet for The Daggers more off than on the pitch as majority shareholder Glyn Hopkin withdrew his funds from the club. This left them in a deep financial hole, it saw star players such as; Corey Whitely, Morgan Ferrier and Sam Ling  part company with he club. This was halfway through a season which, until then, could have materialised into a play-off place. The outgoing manager and lifelong daggers fan John Still said " It has been the toughest season of my life". It wasn't the worst decline in terms of positioning however as they managed to finish a respectable 11th. Up ahead a new look Dagenham & Redbridge has an experienced Peter Taylor at the helm. The ex England boss will work alongside Terry Harris; the pair were announced following the expected departure of John Still. At the end of the season 5 followed in Still's footsteps including the spine of the team; Cousins, Robson and Boucaud. This came as a result of the financial situation at he club. Taylor is looking to put his trust in youth and team spirit due to his tight budget, he believes the club can still succeed with the tight budget he was given. Taylor has acquired a fair few players for his new look Dagenham side including the likes of Lamar Reynolds who joined on a one-year deal from Newport. Also Gavin Hoyte who rejoins the Daggers, Taylor outlined the importance of Gavin's experience on and off the pitch. It is an exciting time to be a Dagenham fan as the club looks to a bright and young future.

ONE TO WATCH: Lamar Reynolds

He is a pacey winger who is looking to help Dagenham
succeed. Reynolds has already impressed in pre-season
and he will be looking to continue to shine at Victoria

Dover                             PREDICTED FINISH:11th            

The 2017/18 campaign was one of slight disappointment as The Whites narrowly missed out on a play-off place by goal difference. They failed to repeat their success of 2016/17 after they lost out to an ambitious Fylde side who bettered their goal difference tally by eight. Club legend Chris Kinnear will be hoping to improve this season and snatch a play-off spot. This comes as he enters his sixth season in his second spell as manager at the club. He first managed Dover from 1985-1995 where he led The Whites to the conference from the foot of the Southern Leagues, quite a football success story. He is now five years into his second spell at the club as he came back to finish what he started, his only aim now is to get his beloved club into the football league. Kinnear's loyalty factor seems to have rubbed off on the players as Nortei Nortey signed a new deal keeping him at the club for another two years, in mid July. Another familiar face at The Whites has shown dedication to the club as wide man Anthony Jeffrey has joined on a permanent following a successful loan spell at the club.Dover will be hoping to have a stronger season and Kinnear will look to get another promotion under his belt, but this time to the football league.

ONE TO WATCH: Nortei Nortey

Besides having a great name, Nortey loves to hit the
back of the net from time to time. Could Nortey top
the list in terms of goal scoring this season?

Eastleigh                              PREDICTED FINISH: 22nd

Eastleigh sprung no surprises last season finishing 14th one place better than the previous season. Their run of poor form saw Andy Hessenthaler take charge of the club towards the back end of 2017, Eastleigh then moved clear of the drop, rising around 4 places to 14th. The club are also under new ownership as former owner Stewart Donald left the club to take over struggling Sunderland. The new co-ownership consists of directors as well as Chairman, Mark Jewell. Eastleigh will be aming for a mid table finish however there is a possibility they could get sucked into the relegation scrap. One of the Spitfires new signings is ex-Southampton youngster George Dowling. The 19 year old is only at the club for six months on loan from Bristol City, so he will have to make  an instant impact. Another new Spitfire is Alex Wynter who joins from Maidstone, the strong defender won Player of the year at the club last season, the Kent side finished 19th last campaign.

ONE TO WATCH: Chris Zebroski

He scored 10 goals last season, his first season since
being released from jail. He will be hoping to add to
that tally this season.

Ebsfleet                           PREDICTED FINISH: 4th      

Ebbsfleet took the National League by storm last season as after a four year absence from the league they earned a play off spot. However, back to back promotions wasn't possible after they were knocked out in the semi-finals after losing 4-2 to eventual play off champions Tranmere. Daryl McMahon is the new young man at the helm of Ebbsfleet at just 35. He guided the club to promotion in his first season at the club, 2016/17. That being just two seasons after he made 11 appearances for Boreham Wood in the National League. Daryl is a loyal man, this can be proven by his decision to snub football league offers to sign a new 5 year contract at the Fleet. This season they will be looking to compete at the top, McMahon said " This is a very strong group of players" insisting he is more about long term quality than short term quality. He added " Kedwell, Coulson, Whitely - we've got the likes of them in the door already, they're players other clubs would love to be signing this summer." The boss is thinking long term however one of those short term quality signings is Ebou Adams who has already impressed during pre-season. Adams' current contract ends in a years time however that deal is likely to be extended if he continues his recent form.

ONE TO WATCH: Ebou Adams

The creative midfielder will be looking to score a
few for his own personal tally as well as create for
his teammates.


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