Season Preview 2018/19 - Part Two

Vanarama National League Season Preview

Gateshead                                       PREDICTED FINISH:18th

Last Season showed clear regression from The Heed who fell 9 places compared to the previous season where they finished a respectable 8th. Looking ahead to the new season, the club now have a new owner in Dr Varghese who is based in Hong Kong. This came after the club was put up for sale in the summer and a previous takeover deal fell through. Gateshead fans breathed a sigh of relief as this deal went through knowing that the club will remain full time despite scares of things being otherwise. Along with the new ownership came a five year plan to create an 'established, League Two level, secure and self-sustaining football club'. The new Operations Director stated on the club website that the club will be ' operating this season with a modest budget and a young, hungry and competitive side.' The Heed have signed keeper Aynsley Pears on a season long loan from Middlesbrough. The 20 year old impressed during his loan spell at Darlington last season so can he shine at The International Stadium, Aynsley is son of Boro legend Stephen Pears. Steve Watson, who was appointed manager in October, spoke highly of the Middlesbrough U23. Gateshead will be hoping to secure a place in the National League  just below mid-table so they can push on in the 2019/20 season.

ONE TO WATCH: Luke Armstrong

Armstrong has already hit the ground running in pre-
season scoring a hat trick against his Dad's side, Blyth.
In his season long loan from Middlesbrough he could
prove vital for The Heed.

Halifax                                        PREDICTED FINISH: 13th

The Shaymen's National League status was just about secured last season, they saw themselves three places above the drop in February. Therefore sought new management in Jamie Fullarton. He ultimately kept them up and Halifax finished 16th in their return to the National League.  The Scot expressed his desire for the side to be a 'High Intesity Attacking team' saying you have to score goals in order to win games. However, in order for that system to work you surely have to have the defensive capabilities and letting in 58 goals last season which overall isn't too disappointing they will certainly look to improve in defence. He has looked to sure up in defence bringing in Jacob Hanson on a six month loan hoping he will get a good start to the season. Fullarton has also brought in Josh Staunton a centre half from Woking who has captained the England C side. Nathan Clarke has also joined the back line as the former Coventry and Huddersfield man returns to his home town. He has also strengthened his attack with a few signings including fellow Scot Cameron King, the boss spoke highly of him as if he were a hidden gem ready to unlock his full potential. King has joined on a two year deal, he is a former Scotland U21 international.

ONE TO WATCH: Josh Staunton

Staunton will play a vital role in Fullarton's side,
especially as his tactics show trust in his defence. Josh
will look to be a leader at the back for The Shaymen.

Harrogate                                       PREDICTED FINISH: 20th

Last season was one of the finest in the club's history as Harrogate Town reached the non-leagues top flight for the first time ever. They defeated Brackley Town 3-0 in the play off final as they came second in the league only to Salford. The North Yorkshire side had a stellar season and they were ultimately rewarded with promotion. Up ahead is unknown territory for National League newcomers Harrogate however they will put up a fight to write their name in history and keep National League status. Long serving Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver is approaching his tenth season in charge after being appointed in 2009. Weaver said he was happy with the quality and depth of the squad post Scarborough defeat. One quality signing is striker Jack Muldoon who helped Lincoln gain promotion in the 2016/17 season. He scored 10 goals for Fylde last season as they snatched a play off place making 45 appearances in the league. This season will be a challenge for the Town however they will be up for it and will hope to defy expectations.

ONE TO WATCH: Jack Muldoon

He is a big signing and will be vital in this Harrogate
side. They will be looking to him to bring some goals
this season.

Hartlepool                                     PREDICTED FINISH: 8th

Hartlepool have had a tough few seasons struggling financially and ultimately being relegated from the football league was a big blow for them in 2016/17. However in April Raj Singh completed his takeover of The Pools as they look to get back to where they belong. It was the first ever time Hartlepool United have been out of the football league and this season with new ownership they will look to get back to the football league. The Pools hierarchy believe Matthew Bates is the right man for the job after his interim spell last season saw him secure a National League spot for the club. The club have made several signings and look like a solid side as they enter the new campaign, among the new signings is established football league player Liam Noble. Noble has made over 200 appearances in the football league and scored over 30 goals, the midfielder is a quality signing. Another addition in the centre of the park is Paddy McLaughlin he was an ever - present for Gateshead last season scoring three goals. Over the course of three seasons he made 125 appearances for The Heed scoring 13 goals, he is very experienced in the National League and is a great signing.  Overall, The Pools will be looking to reach the football league however it isn't going to be easy and it may take one season more for Hartlepool to reach their aim.

ONE TO WATCH: Paddy McLaughlin

He is only 27 yet has a lot of experience in the league
and he will be vital with his knowledge and quality.
If there is link up play between him and Noble, Pools
fans will be in for a real treat this season.

Havant & Waterlooville              PREDICTED FINISH: 23rd

Another side, Havant & Waterlooville have reached the top of the non league pyramid for the first time after back to back promotions. They won the National League South on goal difference bettering Dartford's tally by three. The Hawks will now look to keep National league status as they step up yet again as a third promotion in a row doesn't look feasible for Havant. Lee Bradbury is the man at the helm of the side and he has made a few new additions to his side including; experienced Paul Robinson, Nicke Kabamba from Portsmouth and young Alfie Pavey from Dartford. Nicke Kabamba played 11 times in the league last season on loan at Aldershot scoring three goals, the former Pompey man joins after being released from his old club. Ex Millwall skipper Paul Robinson has also committed his services to The Hawks, he provides experience to the Havant back line. He made over 300 appearances for the Dockers in a tenure that spanned 14 years. They have some experienced players and some quality signings from the lower leagues whose ability may be questioned.  The Hawks will be looking to silence all critics in a challenging season that is up ahead.

ONE TO WATCH: Alfie Pavey

He scored 22 goals for Dartford last season as Havant
pipped them to the title. He has signed a two year deal
at the club and will be hoping to make a name for
himself at The Hawks.

Leyton Orient                               PREDICTED FINISH: 15th 

Leyton Orient are a side who have struggled financially in recent years as controversial owner
Francesco Becchetti effectively ruined the club as they faced a winding up order. The disaster of Barry Hearn selling the club saw Orient's 112 year stay in the football league come to an end in 2016/17. They are now in a period of financial stability and will be looking to a bright future for the club. Their first season in the National League saw them place 16th and this season they will look to improve no doubt. Justin Edinburgh has been in charge since last November so in this his first full season with the club he will be looking to make this Orient side his own. It was also Macauley Bonne's first season at the club, he proved vital scoring 22 of Orient's 58 goals and they have done remarkably well to hang on to him after interest from other clubs. Edinburgh expressed his excitement and optimism ahead of the new season saying pre season couldn't have gone better. However he outlined his slight disappointment at the fact that the fight for the no.1 jersey wasn't contested due to illness. He indicated Dean Brill will be between the sticks for their opener against Salford which is live on BT Sport. The O's have an exciting season up ahead and to them a return to the football league isn't out of the question.

ONE TO WATCH: Macauley Bonne

Bonne is a vital part of this Orient side that need goals
and he is the one that will give them plenty of goals for
as long as he is at Brisbane Road.

Maidenhead                                   PREDICTED FINISH: 19th

Maidenhead's first ever season in the non league's top flight saw them defy expectations and finish 12th in the National League. The West Ham legend and ex- England international Alan Devonshire returned to the club in 2015 and gained promotion in 2016/17 with Maidenhead. They showed some impressive form last season in their first at that level however Devonshire doesn't see his side replicating that form this time round. This may be partly down to the departures of Harry Pritchard, Maidenhead top scorer last season, to Blackpool and Sam Barratt to Southend. The pair offered quality out wide and United may struggle without the main two wide men in attack. Striker Jake Hyde who has played for England C also left to join Woking, therefore the options have lessened in attack. Herson Alves is a Portuguese forward who has joined from Brentford B and will be hoping to find some form at Maidenhead. Looking at the calibre of players some other clubs have, Maidenhead look inferior and don't seem too alarming to opponents.

ONE TO WATCH: Adrian Clifton

Adrian Clifton was second in the club's top scorer list
last season and due to the departure of key players it
is his chance to step up to the plate.

Maidstone                                 PREDICTED FINISH:  24th

Maidstone suffered a 17 game winless run last season before finding some form and gaining National League safety. Despite their poor season, the club's Chief Executive believes the club should have a title ambition and with all their transfer activity you might see a little sense behind it. A major rebuild has taken place in the summer necessarily after their 17 game winless run last season. Their new arrivals include former Boreham Wood loanee Joe Quigley who was part of the side that reached the play off final last season. Another new signing is Jordan Wynter who joins from relegated Woking, he played 25 times for the Cardinals last season. Manager Jay Saunders is happy with the signings he has made and is optimistic about the future of the Stones. However with all these new signings there is a lack of understanding of each other that proved costly in their defeat to Billericay during pre season. As there is a new look back four with the likes of Finney and Efete there is a lot of learning to take place in a short space of time if they are to be ready for the start of the season.

ONE TO WATCH: Joe Quigley
The Irishman showed potential at Boreham Wood
however didn't show outstanding form,  so can he
shine with The Stones.

Salford                                        PREDICTED FINISH: 1st  

Since 'the class of '92'  took ownership of the club, The Ammies have had 3 promotions in 4 seasons as their long term ambition to gain football league status moves ever closer. There is a new man at the helm in Graham Alexander, he is a record breaker as he is only the second player in English football to have made 1,000 professional appearances. In terms of his managerial capabilities he won promotion through the play offs to league one in 2013-14. After being sacked in 2015 he managed Scunthorpe for two years before being appointed as Salford manager. The newly promoted side are one of the favourites as they will be looking to carry their winning mentality into the new season. The Ammies financial backing is a key reason why the northern club are in the running however it won't be easy as this is a step into the unknown for Salford. Their main signing this summer is Adam Rooney who they bought from Aderbeen, the centre forward will look to become the top goal scorer for Salford if not the entire league. Their main aim is to get back to back promotions however if that isn't the case they won't give up hope as they are one club with one ambition.

ONE TO WATCH: Carl Piergianni

He was key at the back in Salford's title success as
he played 39 scoring 3 goals. He is also disciplined
as he didn't receive a card of  any sort last campaign.

Solihull Moors                      PREDICTED FINISH: 16th     

Last season Solihull finished 18th in their second season in the top tier of non league football, that is two places worse off than the previous campaign. It was a season of two halves for Solihull Moors as they were bottom at Christmas, then by their penultimate fixture they had lost just 5 in 26 games.Tim Flowers Premier league winner and ex- England international is the new Moors manager. He has had previous managerial experience despite it being very little; he was twice been caretaker manager at Northampton as well as having spells at Kidderminster and Stafford. Keeper Ryan Boot will gain crucial help and knowledge as the great keeper Tim Flowers is at the helm.  A new signing is Luke Maxwell who impressed under Flowers' watch at Kidderminster where he spent two seasons, he signs on a loan from Birmingham. Manager Tim Flowers outlined in an interview that they have only lost a couple of players and that the style they had developed last season remains in place. He stated ' If it ain't broke, we're not trying  to fix it' being realistic rather than pessimistic some may say he said ' we expect pretty much the same'.  In that interview he referred to the fact he signed experienced players 'not kids' these include the likes of; Danny Wright ,33, and Alex Gudger ,26,.

ONE TO WATCH: Luke Maxwell

Luke is only 20 yet he has the full support of his former
manager Tim Flowers. He will no doubt be given time 
as Flowers knows what he is capable of.

Sutton United                             PREDICTED FINISH: 7th

Last season was a fantastic one for Sutton as they improved 9 places to third compared to the previous campaign.  They were defeated in the first round of the play - offs by second place, eventual champions Tranmere.  However to repeat that feat next season will be a huge challenge, Paul Doswell is happy to maintain last season's squad if transfer activity is anything to go by.  One of his few signings is centre back Charlie Clough who joins from recently relegated Barnet . He will join the back line after making 54 appearances in the football league therefore he brings experience as well as quality to Sutton's defence. The 27 year old has signed a one year contract with the National League side. Tommy Wright will look to be on target this season yet again, after he was the U's top goal scorer last campaign with 13 goals. Another key man for Sutton is  captain Jamie Collins who is a rock at the back,  as a result of his stellar campaign he was awarded Sutton's Player of the Season award. For Doswell's Sutton there is an aim for play offs but once that target is realised anything can happen.

ONE TO WATCH: Tommy Wright

He will be hoping to deliver again this campaign and
score even more goals than last season in Sutton's bid
for promotion.

Wrexham                            PREDICTED FINISH: 17th

Last Campaign the Welsh side finished 10th in what was a good season overall for Wrexham, three places better off than last season. Former Premier League player Sam Ricketts is the new Dragons manager, taking up his first ever managerial post. Sam will be looking to take his side to the next level and challenge for the play-offs this season, which in his first season of management is a tough ask. The squad has had a certain rebuild heading into the new campaign with many departures and arrivals as they look to challenge for the play-offs. Jordan Maguire - Drew is a promising young talent who has joined on a season long loan, a part of the Brighton set up Jordan is on yet another loan spell. Before Wrexham he has enjoyed loan spells at Dagenham & Redbridge, Lincoln City and Coventry City previously. Another exciting prospect on loan at Wrexham this season is yet another attacker this time from Huddersfield, Rekeil Pyke. He featured three times for the Dragons last season and will be looking to get more games under his belt this campaign. There is an exciting season ahead for Wrexham however Ricketts' inexperience may prove costly in his maiden season as a manager.

ONE TO WATCH: Jordan Maguire - Drew

He is a quality young player who will be looking to offer creativity
as well as goals for The Dragons. At 20 he will soon be looking to
break into the Brighton first team so he will be determined to impress
for the Welsh side.


1. Salford
2. Barnet 
3. Chesterfield
4. Ebbsfleet
5. Fylde
6. Aldershot
7. Sutton
8. Hartlepool
9. Dagenham & Redbridge
10. Bromley
11. Dover
12. Boreham Wood
13. Halifax
14. Barrow
15. Leyton Orient
16. Solihull Moors
17. Wrexham
18. Gateshead
19. Maidenhead
20. Harrogate
21. Braintree
22. Eastleigh
23. Havant & Waterlooville
24. Maidstone


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