National League Review
The Vanarama National League season has to come to an end, with only the play-offs left to decide who will join Leyton Orient in the Football League. Here we will take a look at the teams in numbers.
Leyton Orient – 1st 89 points
Starting of with champions Leyton Orient. Oreint’s top goalscorer was Macauley Bonne with 23 goals to his name putting third in the seasons top scorer table. Next best for The O’s was winger Josh Koroma with 11. With a squad size of 26 with an average age of 26.9, Justin Edinburgh called on 23 of his players to pull on the red shirt, missing out was the two reserve keepers and a under 18 striker. O’s keeper Dean Brill kept 19 clean sheets through the league season, but couldn’t keep The Shaymen from putting the ball into his net three times. With Brill in goal along with his back four the league champions had the best defence conceding 38 goals, The Shaymen conceded 43. Brisbane Road had just under 117,000 fans go through its turnstiles this season, averaging 5,318 per game. This season was the highest total attendance at the London club since the 2014/15 when 115,956 came to watch and that was when The O’s were in League One.
Solihull Moors – 2nd 86 points
The Moors have been one of if not the surprise package this season. Pipping Salford to second place on the last day of the season Tim Flowers has turned this side fortunes around. Although Flowers didn’t have a prolific striker like teams around them at his disposal, he had players who would always be chipping in. Adi Yussuf has 17 goals, Jermaine Hylton with 13 goals, Daniel Wright has 12 goals and Nathan Blissett is currently on 9. 73 goals scored this season for The Moors gave them a tied third best attack in the league. Flowers a former England keeper with a Premier League medal with Blackburn Rovers, turned his experienced eye to bringing in a solid keeper and he has. Ryan Boot from Port Vale kept 20 clean sheets, only one behind top spot in the clean sheets table. Damson Park saw a boost of 9,000 fans come down and follow The Moors this season compared to last, averaging out at 1,274 per game in the league.
Salford City – 3rd 85 points
The Ammies came into the league as one of the big favourites to go straight up into the Football League. Big money signing from Scottish side Aberdeen Adam Rooney came into the league expecting to run fifth tier defences apart. Rooney scored 22 times in his debut season for Salford, making him their top scorer. Salford brought in a massive 27 players during the season, including Devante Rodney. Majority of those signings were free transfers or loans but, when they wanted to The Ammies could spend big. Salford missed out on the best attacking record in the division by one goal, scoring a total of 77 goals in their 46 games. Along with Rooney Rory Gaffney put the ball in the net 12 times. Salford welcomed 57,257 fans to The Peninsula Stadium this season averaging at 2,489 per match.
Wrexham – 4th 84 points
The Welsh side once again close to finding their way out of the fifth tier and returning to the Football League since their relegation in 2008. The Dragons certainly found the keeper for the job. Rob Lainton on loan from Port Vale has kept 21 clean sheets this year in the league the most by any keeper in the division, conceding only 39 goals they have the second defence in the league behind Orient, so it will be a tough task to break down the Welsh side in the play-offs. Going forward has been the major issue for Wrexham this season. The Dragons have two tied for their top scorer which is six goals all season, striker Stuart Beavon and centre-half Shaun Pearson. The Racecourse Ground boasts one of the biggest in non-league football been able to hold 15,500 people. This season just over 113,000 fans have gone to The Racecourse Ground averaging out at 5,140 fans per game.
AFC Fylde – 5th 81 points
Towns latest opponents, The Shaymen may have spoiled the homecoming party for Dave Challinor and his side. It was a very successful season for The Coasters after last seasons play-off heartbreak. The sense of achievement can be taken from every player in the squad, as all senior players made an appearance during their campaign. Leading the line for Fylde was Danny Rowe scoring 27 goals getting himself the golden boot for the division. To realise how important Rowe is to Fyldes’ success, the next on the list for goals scored is Andy Bond with six goals. With this season being a little bit more successful for The Coasters they have also seen a dip in attendances at Mill Farm. 38,063 in total in their 23 home games which is 3,000 down from the season before, averaging out at 1,655 per game this season compared to 1,796 from the season before.
Harrogate Town – 6th 74 points.
Up there with Solihull Moors in terms of surprise package the North Yorkshire club flew out the gates and haven’t really looked back. After gaining promotion last year via the play-offs Harrogate have got their feet under the table very quickly. Harrogate got into the play-off positions after the sixth round of fixtures and Simon Weaver has kept his side in the top seven since. This is mainly down to the attacking prowess his side have, putting the ball in the net a total 78 times to make them the most lethal side in the league. But you wouldn’t think that with their top scorer scoring 15 goals from winger Jack Muldoon and 12 from striker Mark Beck. But from the 21 players who have appeared for Harrogate only five outfield players haven’t scored. 36,253 fans got down to Wetherby Road, averaging at 1,576 this season have seen a Harrogate turned people’s heads this season.
Eastleigh – 7th 74 points
There is perhaps a correlation between Eastleigh and the success of striker Paul McCallum this season. Last season Eastleigh finished 14th and McCallum scored eight goals in 27 games. This season however the striker and Eastleigh have enjoyed mass success, McCallum has over trebled his goal tally from last season. In 41 appearances McCallum has 26 goals just one behind golden boot winner Danny Rowe. McCallums’ success in front of goal has being really important for The Spitfires as the next highest scorer is Ben Williamson with seven. Similar to Wrexham, with this goal drought among other players in the squad Eastleigh are the second lowest scorers in the top seven. But with this new success of Eastleigh numbers have not followed suit, crowds have fallen at The Silverlake Stadium since the 16/17 when The Spitfires averaging over 2,250, to this seasons average of 1,829 with a total amount of fans 42,077 which is almost 10,000 than two seasons ago.
Ebbsfleet United – 8th 67 points
With all the off-filed issues Ebbsfleets’ season rather petered out towards the end as they were gunning to sneak into the last play-off position. Manager Gary Hill had to use all his resources in terms of selection, with a small squad of 20 the joint smallest squad in the league with Braintree, it was the two reserve keepers who failed to make an appearance in the league. The Fleet have an average age of 28.3 the oldest average age in the league, the experience that would have brought undoubtedly helped Hill when his squad was tight on numbers. Fortunately for The Fleet top scorer Michael Cheek kept himself fit to score 16 times this season, with veteran strike partner Danny Kedwell keeping him honest with 13 goals for himself. With the off-field issues going on down at Stonebridge Road that could be the reason why over 2,000 fans stayed away this season. With a total of 33,780 fans going through the turnstiles averaging at 1,469 per home game.
Gateshead – 9th 66 points
The Gateshead International Stadium saw one of the earliest goals in National League history. And potentially the fastest goal of the season when The Shaymen travelled North over the Christmas Period, with Jordan Preston tucking the ball away in 18 seconds. Ben Clarks’ side have been flirting with the play-offs all season long, but with a young squad and with only 21 players at his expense The Tynesiders appeared to run out of steam. It can be said that Gateshead lacked in-front of goal when Luke Armstrong’s loan came to an end at the end of 2018. The Tynesiders lost a prolific striker, in Armstrongs 18 games he scored 10 goals. Also, Scott Boden was sold to Chesterfield in the January window meaning Gateshead missed out on him adding to his 11 goals he already got. In the North-East where football is dominant in everyday life Gateshead got 17,757 spectators through their turnstiles, averaging at 846 at The Gateshead International Stadium.
Sutton United – 10th 65 points
This season saw the end of Paul Doswell’s 11 year reign at The U’s. Doswell is a legend at the London club as he himself paid the £500,000 for the artificial pitch. Doswell oversaw their remarkable FA Cup run to the fifth round, famously beating Leeds United in the fourth round. This season however their was a lack of success with off-field issues with the manager effecting the players Sutton slipped away from the play-off positions, which they would have been expecting. Not a single player was able to get to double figures in terms of scoring goals, Craig Eastmond formally of Arsenal top scored with seven. The U’s had a fall in spectators this season, perhaps without the glory that an FA Cup run brings local casual fans were perhaps not as interested, a total of 43,568 spectators went through the turnstiles averaging at 1,894 per fixture.
Barrow – 11th 64 points
The away trip to Barrow this season’s FA Trophy will live long in the memory of Town fans who travelled and the players. Club captain said it was the “coldest I’ve ever been on a football pitch. Both sets of players didn’t bother with handshakes, we just wanted to get off.” Barrow spent the vast majority of season in the mid-table, competing for a top half finish. Tied with Barnet foe the biggest squad, manager Ian Evatt had 31 players to chose from. This season Barrow had a mass player overhaul and gave chances to players from lower divisions and loans from junior sides from teams much higher up. The gamble paid of for The Bluebirds Jack Hindle formally of Colwyn Bay scored 12 goals at his debut season at this level, and young striker Tyler Smith on loan from Sheffield United, the 20 year old scored 10 goals this season. Attendances were up over at Holker Street this season, a total of 31,635 saw Barrow at some point this season averaging at 1,375 per league match.
Bromley – 12th 60 points
With a three-way tie for 12th place Bromley pinched with a better goal difference. After finishing ninth last season, it can be said that this season has been a bit of a disappointment for The Ravens. Spending the first half of the season treading water above the relegation zone, but then Neil Smiths’ side found some consistency and form the rise to middle of the pack. Safe to say the turning point was the loan signing of JJ Hooper from Grimsby. Since his arrival at The Ravens Hooper has scored 13 goals in his 21 appearances and having some involvement in 35% of the goals in his time at the club. Bromley have continued to grow their spectators from 2015/16 when it was 25,590 to this season there has been a total of 33,809 watching this season, averaging out at 1,470 per match.
Barnet – 13th 60 points
The Bee’s have been one of the most active teams in the division, competing in 52 games across the league, FA Cup and FA Trophy. Darren Currie had 33 players who made appearances in the black and orange for him over the season, the most by any club in the division across all competitions. Shaymen favourite Manny Duku spent time at The Bee’s earlier this season making nine appearances scoring three times. Shaq Coulthirst top scored for Barnet with 15 goals in the league and he also scored the penalty that knocked out Sheffield United in The FA Cup third round. Naturally as their first season after relegation from the Football League attendance was always going to take a hit. The total attendance for the season was 29,305 in the league meaning The Bee’s lost just over 19,000 fans, the average for a league match at The Hive was 1,274.
Dover Athletic – 14th 60 points
Having missed out on qualifying for the play-offs last year only on goal difference, and having finishing inside the top 10 every season since their promotion in 2014, it was a surprise to see The Whites flirt with relegation this season. Dover were bottom of the pile on two occasions. Andy Hessenthaler was appointed in October and slowly turned the wheel around. The Whites climbed out of the relegation zone for the last time with a 3-1 away win over Salford in February. No Dover played managed to get his goal tally into double figures, Inih Effiong and Mitch Brundle were both tied on eight goals. With the lack of results not matching the standards of previous years fans stayed away from The Perrys Crabble Stadium with 25,827 fans going through the turnstiles. That is 5,500 less than the record total set last season, meaning that the average fans per match fell as well to 1,122.
Chesterfield – 15th 59 points
After a bright start to the season Chesterfield were looking like they would make easy work of returning back to the Football League at the first attempt. But after a disappointing September The Spireites were firmly placed in the bottom half. Central midfielder Curtis Weston managed to be the only player to play every game in the league for Chesterfield. The turning point for The Spireites season was the appointment of John Sheridan in early January. Sheridan immediately got a proven goal scorer in and he got Scott Boden from Gateshead. In the remainder of the season Boden got 10 goals in 14 appearances, making him top scorer for The Spireites. The Proact Stadium has seen a dwindling of numbers coming through the turnstiles. This season a total of 103,565 came down to watch Chesterfield in action with an average per match of 4,503.
FC Halifax Town – 16th 59 points
The Shaymen enjoyed an amazing start to their season, sitting top of the tree at one point, and manager Jamie Fullarton picking up the first manager of the month award. The Shaymen have the only two players in the league to have played in every minute of national league, FA Cup and FA Trophhy action this season. Goalkeeper Sam Johnson and at the age 35 Nathan Clarke is showing he isn’t slowing down. Devante Rodney joined Town in early March and was able to play a role a pivotal role for The Shaymen scoring seven times in the league in his short stay at the club. Injuries unfortunately stopped The Shaymen from rediscovering that early season form. The Shaymen had the joint third best defence in the league only conceding 43 goals, Johnson kept 19 clean sheets which was joint third best in the division. 35,727 total spectators attended The Shay this season, averaging out at 1,553 per league game.
Hartlepool United – 17th 59 points
The Pools spent the majority of the first half of the season in and around the play-off positions hoping they would be returning back to the Football League at the second attempt. Then manager Matthew Bates left the club after a shock defeat to then bottom side Dover, and the club never rediscovered that early season form. Hartlepool didn’t have a striker that they could rely on for goals, instead Liam Noble a central midfielder took on that responsibility scoring 13 goals in 43 games. 71,861 fans went through Victoria Park to watch The Pools this year, averaging out at 3,124 spectators per game.
Dagenham & Redbridge – 18th 56 points
The Daggers may be disappointed that they were unable to press on from their top half finish last season under their new American owners. The Daggers struggled through to January dropping into the bottom four three times before pulling away from the bottom. January signing Conor Wilkinson from Gillingham helped The Daggers pull away from the drop zone scoring 11 times in 22 games. Victoria Road welcomed 33,065 fans through the turnstiles, averaging at 1,437 per game.
Maidenhead United – 19th 54 points
Alan Devonshire had a small squad of players of 24 to pick from, including three players had international duties to make the job of selection a harder one for Devonshire. Much like Hartlepool, The Magpies struggled with a striker unable to be reliable for goals. Central midfielder Adam Clifton scored 13 goals in 40 games. York Road saw 31,392 a 2,000 drop from last season, the average attendance at York Road was 1,364.
Boreham Wood – 20th 52 points
Boreham Wood were last seasons beaten finalists in the play-off final, losing 2-1 to Tranmere Rovers. So it was expected that Boreham Wood could carry on that form and look to go that one step further. Luke Gerrard was unable to get the form restarted after the summer break. The Wood hung around mid-table before a 3-1 home defeat to Havant & Waterlooville drop into the bottom half of the table and carrying on falling from there. Unsurprisingly The Wood struggled for goals, 21 year-old Danish striker Justin Shaibu got nine goals in 41 matches. With the downturn in form compared to last season Meadow Park saw more fans than ever before this season with 16,510 heading down to the ground, averaging out at 718 per league fixture.
Aldershot Town – 21st 44pts
Despite Aldershot Town’s five-year stint in the National League coming to an end, they had a top-10 finish when it comes to average attendance. An average of 1,744 fans came through the gates at The Recreation Ground despite The Shots falling to the sixth tier of English football for the first time since 2004. Goals were hard to come by for Aldershot as they averaged less than a goal per game this season. Veteran forward Scott Rendell finished as the side’s top scorer with seven.
Braintree Town – 22nd 41pts
FC Halifax Town travelled to Braintree on the opening day of the season and The Shaymen came away with 2-0 win. Unfortunately for the Essex side, they never really got their league campaign going until mid-April when they won three games on the bounce. The Iron did manage to reach the dizzying heights of 19th in mid-August but they spent the rest of the season in the relegation zone. No wonder their attendance was the worst in the league with only an average of 678 people going through the turnstiles at Cressing Road.
Havant & Waterlooville – 23rd 40pts
On the 29th April, Havant & Waterlooville named Paul Doswell their new manager to help guide them back to the National League following this season’s relegation. Much like the teams around them, The Hawks struggled to keep the ball out of the back of their own net as they conceded a league high 84 goals. A 6-2 loss to AFC Fylde in late February saw The Hawks fall into the drop zone and they were never able to recover. On the bright side, young striker Alfie Rutherford netted 14 goals after being recalled from his loan spell at Eastbourne. He’ll certainly be looking to make a big impact for The Hawks next season.
Maidstone United – 24th 34pts
At the foot of the table are Maidstone United. The Stones endured a difficult season that saw them only win nine league games. Despite the disappointing campaign, attendances have been pretty much the same at the Gallagher Stadium with an average of just over 2,000 since their promotion to the National League in 2016. That sees them amongst the highest average attendances in the league with only five clubs getting more fans through the turnstile this season. With only winger Blair Turgott able to get into double digits for goals, the Kent club were always going to struggle.
Will Hopper & Max Hunter