Whenever a club loses their grip on their League Two status, the comments you hear first from pundits tend to focus on how infamously difficult it can be to mount an immediate challenge to return.
We have seen names like Luton Town, Cambridge United, Cheltenham Town, Barnet, Grimsby Town, Bristol Rovers and Lincoln City all being reunited with league football in recent seasons, however. Here in January 2018, the race is finely poised in the Vanarama National League as notable clubs of Football League yesteryear tussle with what would be tantalising new kids on the EFL block in 2018/19.
On the brink of the 30-game mark in the National League, it is Macclesfield Town sitting top of the tree, four points clear of Gary Waddock’s Aldershot Town. John Askey’s Silkmen have emerged as a top contender as the campaign has progressed, with contributions like the 11 goals from Scott Wilson giving the Cheshire outfit genuine hope that their six-year exile from the EFL may be reaching its conclusion.
Perched just above big clubs in Wrexham (4th) and Tranmere Rovers (5th) at present, are a side who have never before reached the league – Sutton United. The U’s made headlines last season as they knocked out Cheltenham, AFC Wimbledon and Leeds United in an FA Cup run that saw them only exit after a 2-0 home loss to Arsenal in the last 16. There was also the sideshow of the club’s goalkeeping coach Wayne Shaw eating a pie in that televised Gunners clash, an act which saw him let go by the Yellows and later fined £375 and banned for two months by The FA for breaching betting rules.
Boreham Wood have been ignited by the firepower of Bruno Andrade, the Portuguese attacker and former QPR youngster who continues to be linked with a big move. At present, the 24-year-old remains with The Wood, and as his side lie in 6th, the prospect of making his march back up the ladder with Luke Garrard’s charges very much burns bright. Below them are Dover, guided by a wise and experienced head in Chris Kinnear, while they also boast the best defence in the league (23 conceded) after Wrexham (22).
Dagenham & Redbridge, with another of the game’s elder statesmen at the helm in John Still, are among a well-populated chasing pack which includes, primarily, Bromley, Ebbsfleet United and AFC Fylde. But for National League North playoff heartache last season, the Class of ’92-backed Salford City could be chasing the fourth tier at this point, though another handsomely-resourced side from the North West are in that position as we speak.
AFC Fylde are led by the defender who garnered some attention as Tranmere Rovers’ long-throw specialist during those cup runs around the turn of the century, ex-defender Dave Challinor. He has presided over three promotions in the past few years, and even though the Coasters, who are backed by local businessman David Haythornwaite, have earmarked 2022 as their time to join English football’s 92, the 15 goals of the division’s top scorer Danny Rowe are one key reason why it could be four years early.
An outside bet on Maidenhead or Maidstone United could also prove vindicated come the season’s end, or perhaps even Andy Hessenthaler’s Eastleigh for a really spectacular crashing of the party after a season of struggle prior to the ex-midfield terrier’s recent appointment. Top spot really is still anyone’s for the taking, while the nerve-jangling uncertainty the playoffs bring speaks for itself by now. In a league offering a melting pot of grit, skill, unpredictability and far more besides, there could be a pretty penny to be made on backing a team or two from here. Why not put your BetVictor Promo Code to very good use?