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Stalybridge Strike Back as Pilgrims Sail Home Frustrated

Dave A. Burin finds himself at Bower Fold for his latest Matchday Adventure. Read the rest of this entry

Vanarama Conference Predictions 2014/15: An Update

A look at the predictions I made prior to the season for the Vanarama Conference divisions. Read the rest of this entry

Tipped for Glory 2014-15: Conference North & South

Following on from my Conference Premier prediction, it is now time to turn the focus onto Step Two. Which clubs can take the titles in Conference North and South, and with it a place at non leage’s top table?

Conference North

Barrow AFC.JPG.My tip for the Conference North title is Barrow AFC. Under manager Darren Edmondson, the club have made good progress, and the ex-Huddersfield Town and Carlisle United defender has assembled a strong looking squad for the new campaign. The most notable signing is probably that of striker Anthony Wilson, who scored twenty league goals for North Ferriby United as they finished second in their first ever season at Step Two.

Another potential star signed is James Ellison. The 22 year old striker came through the youth ranks at Liverpool, but has been somewhat nomadic since leaving Anfield in 2009. Barrow will be his eleventh club in those five years. It’s fair to say that he had struggled to make an impact at any of the previous ten clubs, until he arrived at Colwyn Bay, where he made more than fifty appearances in just over a season and scored fifteen goals. If he settles into life in the North East quickly, Edmondson may have unearthed a gem.

It’s not just in attack where Edmondson has strengthened though. Defender Danny Livesey has joined the club after spending the second half of last season with my Premier tip Wrexham on loan from Carlisle United. The 29 year old is something of a legend at Brunton Park, spending almost ten years at the club and making more than three hundred appearances. He also captained theside. His experience will be key for Barrow this season, and at a still relatively young age, is a fantastic signing.

Everything seems to be in place for The Bluebirds to have a real crack at the title next season, and the fact that they are currently the bookies’ favourites bears that out.

Conference South

Bromley crestIn the South, it was an easy pick for me. I’ve gone for Bromley FC. Just a look at the news section on their website shows how much they’ve been up to in the close season. Record season tickets and a whole host of quality signings mean Mark Goldberg’s side are rightly the clear favourites for promotion.

Goldberg seems to have strengthened every area of the squad, and every position on the pitch. In goal, ex-AFC Wimbledon favourite Seb Brown has joined. Brown, you may recall, was a hero in the Conference playoff final against Luton Town back in 2011, saving two penalties in the shootout to help The Dons into the Football League. He spent part of last season on loan at Woking, but has joined the revolution at ambitious Bromley following his release from AFC.

The defense has been added to, with Adam Bailey-Dennis rejoining the club for the new season. Bailey-Dennis spent the latter part of last season at Hayes Lane, and the former Colchester United, Braintree Town and Bury Town man obviously feels he is at the right club at the right time.

In midfield, Goldberg has really pulled off some great looking signings. Moses Ademola, Dean Sinclair, and Damian Scannell all add quality and experience, whilst upfront there have been some fantastic additions, mainly Sam Higgins from East Thurrock United, and ex-Tottenham Hotspur and Chelmsford City man Jamie Slabber from Sutton United. I’ve seen both players play live, and they should be cracking additions to the squad.

It may not have always been the most stable and harmonious club internally over the years, but things have really improved. Goldberg is now going into his fourth season in charge – in his third spell as manager. That sort of stability shouldn’t be ignored, and coupled with the new signings, things are looking good. If the manager can find a good blend, and keep everybody happy, I can honestly see Bromley FC running away with Conference South this season.

What do you think about my predictions for Step Two? Do you agree, or do you have your own tips for the titles? Get in touch on facebook or twitter (search undertheleague on either), or email Alternatively leave a comment on this post.

City On The Brink

Conference North club Worcester City could fold this summer, as season ticket sales are falling well short of the board’s target. With a figure of fifteen hundred targeted, so far only around 360 have been bought for the 2013-14 season. This will be even harder for the club to take, as the tickets were available for just £100.

St George's Lane has seen its last match

St George’s Lane has seen its last match

City will, of course, be playing their home games at Kidderminster’s Aggborough stadium, eleven miles away, after their historic St. George’s Lane ground was sold for housing. The team normally have more than seven hundred supporters on a regular basis at home games, and with a population of more than a hundred thousand, the season ticket target seemed achievable, especially as there were more than four thousand at St. George’s Lane for the final game at the ground against champions Chester FC.

The following statement was issued by the club this week:

“The chips are down. Worcester City Football Club belongs to the people of Worcester. There are no millionaires waiting in the wings to save it. The sad reality is that if enough people don’t come forward the board will have no alternative but to seriously consider bringing the curtain down on the club as it is not prepared to go forward without the confidence that it can fulfil its financial obligations during the coming season.”

In an interview with the Worcester Standard, vice-chairman Colin Layland had this to say:

“I am disappointed that the offer has not been taken up to be honest. If people want a football club to survive they should have come out and bought the tickets – that’s the bottom line. We originally asked for around 1,500 and then dropped it down to 700 and we can’t even get that amount. The player budget and everything will come into the equation because we have got to survive at Kidderminster somehow and we have still got to pay the bills.”

The problems stem from the reduced income from the sale of St. George’s Lane. Originally, the figures being quoted for the sale were in the region of £8million, but when the sale was finalised, it transpired that the final price had been more in the ballpark of £3million. This has led to a huge shortfall, and their plans to build a new ground at Nunnery Way, on the outskirts of the city, are now under threat. They are also facing a £400,000 tax bill.

The low uptake on season ticket sales, coupled with the extra costs of playing at Aggborough next season, has led to a drastically reduced playing budget for next season. Manager Carl Heeley has been unable to offer terms to any of last season’s playing staff, and reports suggest that the budget may have been cut by as much as forty percent.

My opinion on this is as follows:

While I was sad for the fans to see the club play it’s final game at it’s famous old ground, I have to agree with Mr Layland. Us fans are always quick to lay blame at the door of directors for not putting every penny they own into our club, but if we don’t put our own hands in pockets to support them, then the writing is on the wall. Granted, it will not be easy for lots of fans to get to Kidderminster for “home” games, but the fact that they got more than four thousand through the gates on the final day of the season suggests that there is a decent fan base in the area. Let’s just hope that more of them dig deep and hopefully save the club.

Ups & Downs In Non League, Part 1: The Conference

In this, the first of a series, I provide a comprehensive roundup of the ups and downs in non league, starting with the Football Conference. Read the rest of this entry

An Unhappy Easter At Telford

Telford United’s stay in the Blue Square Bet Premier came to an end on Easter Saturday as a 3-0 defeat at the hands of fellow midlands side Nuneaton saw them slip back in the Blue Square North.

The season has been poor one for the Bucks from start to finish really, and not just on the pitch, but in the Dugouts too.

In February they parted company with boss Andy Stinton who had taken the Bucks into the promised land of the Blue Square Bet Premier and delivered them a mid-table finish in their debut season. But then following a winless run which stretched back to October when their last win was a 4-1 victory over Dartford which saw them go 8th  they have slipped down and down before parting with the boss.

In fact, Telford made Conference history by losing the most games on a consecutive run with 26 games without a win; the previous total was AP lemmington in the 81-82 season going from August to February without registering a win.

Respected manager Mark Cooper, who has Darlington and Kettering on his CV in Non-league football, was then handed the hot-seat at the New Bucks Head. However, just weeks later, he departed to become assistant boss of Swindon Town FC.

No one can deny him the chance to work in the football league but it left Telford looking for their third boss of the season- Graham Hyde was put in caretaker role but he also lasted weeks before leaving the Shropshire club after a 2-0 loss to Macclesfield.

The final (for now) manager of the season to take over is John Parash who is supported by goalkeeper Ryan Young (who has played over 300 games for Telford) and Phil Trainer (who scored the goal to promote Telford into the Blue Square Premier).

John did his best but sadly the end came when they lost to Nuneaton on the 31st March.

But what now for the Bucks?

Well they will be looking to end the season on a high with a couple of wins. On Easter Monday they drew 0-0 with promotion chasing Forest Green Rovers, which is an okay start with the pressure now off the Bucks.

The next step is to appoint a successor to take over the hot seat. I am sure John Parash will be considered but other names in contention include former England Midfielder Steve Hodge, former Hyde boss Gary Lowe and former Hinckley manager Dean Thomas.

Also the man whose team sent Telford down is in contention being Kevin Wilkins, boss at Nuneaton.

Then after that it will be a case of attempting to regain their status in the Blue Square Premier by going up in the Blue SQ North.

It will be tough. Although Chester have run away with the league this season, and are all set to win the division, teams like Halifax, Brackley, Boston and Guiseley FC are still in there, and it will be tough for the Bucks, but if they can keep hold of the likes of Ryan Young and Phil Trainer then they might have a chance of making a fast return to the Blue Square Premier.

Follow Rich on twitter: @nonleaguerich

Shaymen Maul Toothless Tigers

For the first time in nearly twenty years, I ventured to The Shay to watch FC Halifax Town in action, and boy, how things have changed in this corner of West Yorkshire! Read the rest of this entry

Colwyn Bay v Vauxhall Motors: Match Preview

Stephen Prosser previews this New Year’s Day encounter at Llanelian Road, as Jon Newby’s side look to address a four game losing run. Read the rest of this entry

FA Cup 1st Round: Non League Watch

The first round is now done and dusted, and we know the teams that will be in the hat for the second round draw, barring those ties that went to replays. So how did the non-league representatives do?

Redbridge FC got themselves a draw

The lowest ranked team left in the competition, Redbridge FC, did themselves proud as they held Oxford City to a goalless draw at Oakside. City, who are top of the Southern Premier Division, were favourites to win, but will have to do it in a replay now. Bath City, bottom of the Conference Premier, have got themselves a home replay after their 1-1 draw at League Two side Dagenham & Redbridge. The Romans took the lead on eleven minutes through midfielder Marc Canham. Daggers equaliser came four minutes before the break, striker Brian Goodall getting his first of the campaign to take the game to a replay. Bath City will certainly fancy their chances of a causing an upset in that one.

In the other games involving League v Non-League, two teams got wins, and two more will take their ties to replays. The winners were Luton Town and Fleetwood Town. The Hatters saw off League Two outfit Northampton Town, the only goal coming ten minutes from time courtesy of young midfielder Adam Watkins. As for Fleetwood Town, they went one better by downing League One side Wycombe Wanderers 2-0. The goals in this one came from strikers Andy Mangan and Jamie Vardy. The Cod Army even had to play the second half with ten men, as Richard Brodie was sent off on the stroke of halftime. These two results are probably not too surprising, in terms of the clubs’ positions in their respective leagues; Both Wycombe and Northampton are fighting relegation, while Luton and Fleetwood have ambitions of becoming Football League clubs for next season.

The two non-league teams facing replays against their league opponents are Grimsby Town and Stourbridge. The Mariners got a good 0-0 draw with League Two playoff chasers Port Vale, and will fancy their chances back at Blundell Park in the replay. Stourbridge, meanwhile, came within two minutes of eliminating League Two’s bottom club Plymouth Argyle at the first attempt. The Glassboys were 3-2 up until Onismor Bhasera levelled for The Pilgrims, who had two men sent off in those hectic final ten minutes. Plymouth will not enjoy their trip to the Midlands for the replay, and I can see Stourbridge progressing.

There were also eight all non-league ties in the first round, with three of them needing replays. Draws between Hinckley United and Tamworth, Maidenhead United and Aldershot, and Cambridge United and Wrexham will all be sorted out with replays. The biggest result of the day, though, came at The Testwood Stadium, where AFC Totton thumped Bradford Park Avenue 8-1. Four goals in each half for The Stags saw them progress to the second round draw for the first time in their history. Bradofrd PA did have two players sent off, the first after just eleven minutes.

Technically, Sutton United caused an upset by beating Conference Premier side Kettering Town, although United are second in Conference South, while their opponents are battling relegation. Craig Watkins got the only goal of the game after 64 minutes. Not a bad way to celebrate his 100th appearance for the club. Another Conference South side, Chelmsford City, hammered Premier side AFC Telford 4-0 with goals from Aiden Palmer, Craig Parker and a brace from skipper David Rainford.

There were no such shocks at Croft Park, where visiting side Gateshead of the Conference Premier beat North outfit Blyth Spartans 2-0. Jon Shaw and Micky Cummins got the goals to settle this local derby. Finally, Salisbury City avoided a shock by seeing off Southern Premier side Arlesey Town 3-1.

Will The Shay witness a massive shock?

There is one huge game today, of course, as Conference North side FC Halifax Town host League One’s runaway leaders Charlton Athetic at The Shay. It is undoubtedly the biggest game in the new Shaymen’s life. The club were formed in 2008 after the liquidation of the original Halifax Town AFC due to heavy debts. There hasn’t been a monumental shock yet in the first round, maybe this could be it?

Conference North & South Preview: November 12th 2011

The FA Cup might be taking most of the headlines this weekend, but there are still a lot of games in the Conference North and South taking place. Here’s a quick preview:

Conference North

There are nine matches in Conference North tomorrow, with the top four all in action. Leaders Hyde travel to Boston United, who currently lie in tenth place. Hyde have won their last three league games without conceding a goal after a run of four without a win. Boston, meanwhile, have a decent home record, with three wins and three draws from their eight matches at York Street. Hyde should pick up all three points, although they won’t have things all their own way.

Second placed Stalybridge Celtic are the only top four club to be playing in front of their own fans this weekend, as they entertain Histon United. Celtic have only lost once this season, a 0-2 reverse at Colwyn Bay in October, but have won two and drawn one since that defeat, and scored ten goals in the process. They boast the second and third top scorers in the division, Connor Jennings and Phil Marsh, who have 27 league goals between them. Histon lost 4-0 at Hyde last time out, and so a trip to the second placed team is probably not high on the wishlist for them! They did win the two previous games, but lost three of the five before that. It’s hard to imagine anything other than a comfortable home win.

Third and fourth placed Gainsborough Trinity and Guisely are both on their travels, with Trinity going to North Wales to take on mid-table Colwyn Bay and Guisely making the trip to second bottom Eastwood Town. My money is on a Guisely victory, but Colwyn Bay will take something from their match with Gainsborough.

Full fixture list for Conference North, all games kick off at 3pm:

Boston Utd v Hyde
Colwyn Bay v Gainsborough
Eastwood Town v Guiseley
Gloucester v Harrogate Town
Nuneaton v Workington
Solihull Moors v Bishop’s Stortford
Stalybridge v Histon
Vauxhall Motors v Droylsden
Worcester v Altrincham

Conference South

There are six matches in the South, with fourth placed Dartford the highest placed team playing. They host mid-table Weston-Super-Mare knowing they will go second with a win. Over the last few games, Dartford have been alternating wins and defeats, and going by that run a defeat is next in the sequence. That doesn’t seem very likely though, and I would expect to see the points stay with the home side.

Game of the day though could be at Meadow Park, where eighth placed Boreham Wood host Dover, lying in fifth. A win for the home side would see them within a point of their opponents, while a defeat for Dover would see them slip down to sixth on goal difference, even though sixth or seventh aren’t playing! Bottom club Thurrock are not in action which means they could find themselves cut adrift if the two clubs above them can win. That will be no mean feat for either Hampton & Richmond Borough or Staines Town however, as they both travel to teams just outside the top ten. Borough go to Dorchester, while Staines are at Tonbridge. It is hard to see anything other than home wins, although one of them might just scrape a draw.

Full fixture list for Conference South, kick off 3pm:

Boreham Wood v Dover
Dartford v Weston-S-Mare
Dorchester v Hampton & Richmond
Farnborough v Eastleigh
Havant and Waterlooville v Eastbourne Boro
Tonbridge Angels v Staines Town