Skrill Premier 2013/14 Preview - Part Two
In the second instalment of the three blog series previewing the new Skrill Premier season, I take a look at the 8 teams who I believe will finish in mid table obscurity or mid table safety depending on the relative status of the team. If you missed part one you can see it here: Skrill Premier 2013/14 Preview Part One
16th. Alfreton Town (Promotion 80/1, Relegation 9/4). Nicky Law’s men ended last season in 13th place and despite losing Nathan Arnold to Cambridge United and Theo Streete to Nuneaton Town, Alfreton should still have enough about them to stay away from the relegation dogfight. New signings at the Impact Arena include midfielder John McGrath who brings a wealth of experience from his time in the football league, most recently with Burton Albion. Derby County goalkeeper Ross Atkins has joined on a season long loan, making his return to Conference football following a loan spell with Tamworth in the 2010-11 season. Also penning terms is hard working midfielder Tom Shaw on a two year deal following his release from Cambridge United. The Reds start their campaign away at Dartford and are priced at 5/2 to leave Princes Park with all three points.
15th. Woking (Promotion 66/1, Relegation 6/1). The Cards were certainly entertaining to watch last season, scoring 73 goals and conceding 81, whilst drawing only 8 of their 46 games. Garry Hill’s side will be looking to kick on this season and the retention of Gavin McCallum, Brett Johnson and dangerous winger Kevin Betsy will be central to their hopes of doing just that. They open the new campaign with a home game at Lincoln, with a Cards victory priced at 6/5.
14th. Dartford (Promotion 50/1, Relegation 6/1). Tony Burman’s Darts were last season’s surprise packages finishing in 8th place and would be more than happy for a similar season. In my opinion, the Princes Park outfit should achieve a comfortable mid table placing but finishing higher than last season will be a step too far. They have strengthened well in preseason, signing Newport County’s 30 year old goalkeeper Alan Julian, defenders Matt Fry and Tyrone Sterling as well as strikers Jason Prior and Adam Birchall. The latter joins on loan from Gillingham and shot to fame whilst at Dover Athletic as they reached the third round of the FA Cup in 2010-11, finishing as the competition’s top scorer. He also claimed the top scorer accolade in the Conference South in the same season, which earnt him his football league move. Dartford host Alfreton Town and are 11/10 to win.
13th. Macclesfield Town (Promotion 16/1, Relegation 8/1). The Silkmen have not enjoyed a smooth preseason, staving off potential liquidation as well as making national news when they announced they were going to sell the chance to play for them if the ‘player’ parted with £5000, an offer which was subsequently withdrawn. Consolidation will be the aim for John Askey and assistant Efe Sodje this season following the tumultuous preseason they have endured. Among others, Thierry Audel, Carl Tremarco and Sam Wedgbury departed, joining Crewe, Inverness and Stevenage respectively. At the time of writing, seven players have joined the club. Striker Connor Jennings joins on a 6 month loan from Scunthorpe whilst Danny Andrew, Steve Williams, Paul Turnbull, Rhys Taylor, Scott Boden and Joe Connor have all joined on free transfers. They welcome Nuneaton Town to Moss Rose on Saturday and are priced at around evens to emerge victorious.
12th. Halifax Town (Promotion 20/1, Relegation 10/1). Neil Aspin led The Shaymen to promotion via the Conference North play offs, defeating Brackley Town thanks to a 75th minute Lee Gregory strike. There has been a plethora of transfer activity at The Shay, both in and out. Departing were Gareth Seddon, Liam Hogan, Adriano Moke and Jason St Juste. Seddon joined fellow new boys Chester, Hogan joined League 2 side Fleetwood Town for an undisclosed figure whilst Moke and St Juste were released. Joining the club are experienced campaigner Keith Briggs from Kidderminster, Adam Smith from Lincoln, Simon Ainge from Luton, Matt Pearson from Rochdale, Marc Roberts from Buxton. Also signing are Kevin Holsgrove, Josh Maynard and Lois Maynard. The Shaymen have added experience and quality to their play off winning side and will achieve safety comfortably. Keith Briggs will be a key player for Halifax as a driving force from midfield, where his leadership quality and experience should come to the fore. Halifax’s return to the Conference is a history making one; they take part in the first televised game in the division’s new television partnership with BT Sport, visiting Cambridge United on Sunday and are 10/3 to triumph in front of the cameras.
11th. Lincoln City (Promotion 22/1, Relegation 8/1). The Imps finished 16th last season and should be able to improve this season. Gary Simpson improved the clubs fortunes after they dispensed of the services of David Holdsworth following a 12 game winless streak which saw the club sucked into the relegation battle. Former Accrington Stanley midfielder Bohan Dixon and former Mansfield and Kidderminster striker Nick Wright have both penned terms for the coming season. The latter is sure to be an important player for Lincoln, boasting a prolific goalscoring record at this level from his time at Tamworth and Kidderminster. Adi Yussuf and Nat Brown have both also joined from Burton Albion and Macclesfield Town respectively and Simpson has undeniably strengthened despite the loss of Vadaine Oliver to Crewe and I certainly expect them to push on this season and finish in the top half. They visit Woking on Saturday and are priced at 12/5.
10th. Gateshead (Promotion 25/1, Relegation 8/1). Last season was a disappointment for the Heed and they will be looking to prove that their final position of 17th was a blip, not aided of course by the constant waterlogged state of their International Stadium pitch during the wet winter weather. Anth Smith is the manager having replaced Ian Bogie at the turn of the year following the latter’s controversial and unceremonious exit. The signings of Adam Boyes and Colin Larkin as well as Richard Brodie on loan will add much feared and needed firepower whilst the retention of Carl Magnay and James Marwood will help to create the platform for the heed to build upon. They have been handed an intriguing opening trip to Kidderminster and are 5/1 to return from Worcestershire with the spoils.
9th. Barnet (Promotion 9/1, Relegation 10/1). If ten years ago you would have said that a Dutch maestro, complete with 74 international caps, would be a player manager at a Conference club you would have been hard pressed to find a single person willing to even hear you out. However, following Barnet’s last day relegation from League 2, that is exactly what has happened with 40 year old Edgar Davids swapping the San Siro, Nou Camp and Old Trafford for the slightly more humble surroundings of the Impact Arena, Princes Park and Barnet’s new stadium, The Hive. Davids announced last month that he would stay on as player manager following relegation which is testament to the quality of non league’s premier division. No fewer than 13 players have been released with Spanish midfielders Luis Manuel Villa and Roberto Casabella among the players to join following successful trials. Also signing are names that are likely to be more familiar to non league fans, namely Keanu Marsh-Brown and Welling’s Anthony Acheampong. With players such as Jon Nurse, Mauro Vilhete and Curtis Weston, the Bees promise to be a threat at the top end of the table and whether they can launch a genuine attempt at promotion will depend on how quickly they can adapt to this level of football. They have been handed a home start, hosting Chester and are 11/10 for the win.
8th. Hereford United (Promotion 16/1, Relegation 12/1). Martin Foyle’s Bulls missed out on the play offs last season, finishing in 6th place and will be outsiders to break into the top 5 this season. Although Sam Clucas and James Bittner have departed, Foyle has added strength in depth, bringing in Chris Bush, Danny Pilkington, Michael Rankine and Kingsley James among others. Competition will be stiff for places as will the competition to break into the play off picture and Martin Foyle’s limited budget could see them just fall short once more. They will be looking to get their campaign off to the best possible start at home to Braintree, priced at 10/11 for the victory.
Find the best Conference Premier Betting Odds for ever game this season on Non League Bets. In the course of the next couple of days, the final part of this series of previews will be published as I take a look at the top 8 and give my prediction on where the title will go this season and which of the top 5 will join them via Wembley. To share your views and comments, you can follow me on Twitter @Harriershane. Read part three of Shane’s Skrill Premier Preview.