With the National League having reached its conclusion, George Sanders examines every side in the league’s season, starting from the top of the league, to the bottom.
1st – Macclesfield Town
Macclesfield have been emphatic underdogs this season in addition to being worthy Champions. The Silkmen were among the favourites for relegation from the National League at the start of the season and have defied the odds to finish top with a tally of 92 points. That was ten points clear of second-placed Tranmere. Moreover, the club had one of the smaller budgets in the league, but the much-changed side sealed the title in advance, with a 2-0 win over Eastleigh.
2nd – Tranmere Rovers
The Super White Army have also secured promotion to the football league, however Micky Mellon’s side did it the hard way through the play-offs under the new format. The Merseyside club made it hard for themselves on the day, after going down to 10 men with under a minute gone of the game. An unphased Rovers then went on to take an early lead through Andy Cook and later James Norwood ensured Tranmere beat Boreham Wood 2-1 in front of over 16,000 supporters. Both of those players have scored a combined tally of 50 goals this season.
3rd – Sutton United
There were doubts by some at the start of the season that Sutton may in fact end up lingering towards the relegation zone after losing some key players such as Rory Deacon ahead of the campaign. However the club finished in third in spite of being in poor form in the final quarter of the season. They lost 3-2 to Boreham Wood in the semi-finals of the play-offs despite equalising twice in that game.
4th – Boreham Wood
Another surprise package perhaps, Boreham Wood secured fourth place in the league having gained 75 points this season. Bruno Andrade was the Wood’s top scorer in addition to the league’s fifth highest scorer with 22 goals to his name. Luke Garrard’s side progressed to the final at Wembley first after beating Fylde 2-1 and then after winning against Sutton. Michael Folivi nodded into the unguarded net for Boreham in the final minute to secure the 3-2 victory. Despite losing to Tranmere in the final, it has been the Wood’s highest ever finish.
5th – Aldershot Town
The Shots had a solid season as expected, this could be down to keeping many of their key players who were unfortunate to lose in the play-offs in the 2016/17 season against Tranmere. The Shots secured the National League play-offs with a tally of 75 points, only being behind Boreham Wood on goal difference. Aldershot lost 5-4 on penalties at the EBB Stadium against Ebbsfleet in their play-off match following a 1-1 draw after extra time.
6th – Ebbsfleet United
Ebbsfleet established themselves in the National straight away this season after finishing in the play-offs, gaining 74 points in the process. Ebbsfleet faced Tranmere in the semi-finals of the National League play-offs and lost 4-2. Former Gillingham forward Danny Kedwell was their top scorer this season after scoring 18 times.
7th – AFC Fylde
AFC Fylde secured the last play-off spot this season with the help of the goal-scoring exploits of National League team of the year player, Danny Rowe. The striker kicked on from where he left on in the National League North and managed to score an impressive 24 goals this season. This was the Coasters’ debut season in the National League and despite losing 2-1 to Boreham Wood in the play-offs, their fans will most likely be optimistic of things to come next season.
8th – Dover Athletic
There may have been doubts that Dover may not reach the same heights as in the 2016/17 campaign where they finished in the play-offs due to players leaving. This was narrowly the case as the Whites almost achieved the play-offs again. Only goal difference meant that they finished in the place below seventh.
9th – Bromley
The brand-new 3G pitch at Hayes Lane has not negatively impacted the Ravens this season, as they finished the season in a solid position. The London-based team have kept 15 clean sheets this season.
10th – Wrexham
The Welsh side finished the season rather poorly after initially pushing for the play-offs, with three defeats in their last five games as the season came to a close. Their last victory was also in March, a 1-0 win over Maidstone. This poor form certainly contributed as to why they missed out on the play-off places by three points. Former Macclesfield and Rotherham striker Chris Holroyd was the Dragons’ highest scorer this season with 13 goals to his name.
11th – Dagenham & Redbridge
It’s a disappointing season for Dagenham who would have hoped to finish higher, particularly with the experienced players they have at their disposal. What was encouraging was the fact that the Daggers have beaten the National league leaders on three occasions in the 2017/18 season. They were Macclesfield, Dover and Bromley. The club are still fundraising in the ‘Save The Daggers’ campaign, following the majority shareholder pulling out from the club which may have overshadowed some proceedings on the pitch.
12th – Maidenhead United
This campaign should be hailed as a huge success for Maidenhead after they preserved their National League status with comfort this season after being promoted in the season prior. The Berkshire side finished the season strongly with four wins in five games. Versatile midfielder Harry Pritchard found the net 13 times this season, making him their top scorer.
13th – Leyton Orient
This finish will have disappointed O’s fans, even more so when their forward Macauley Bonne has scored 22 goals this season, yet the club still finished 13 points outside of the top seven. Justin Edinburgh’s side conceded 56 goals this season and kept 12 clean sheets.
14th – Eastleigh
Many had tipped Eastleigh to clinch a play-off place this season, however an eight game run without a win before Christmas proved too much to come back from. One positive for the Spitfires is that they ended a five game winless run with a convincing 4-1 win on the final day of the season, against Solihull.
15th – Hartlepool United
The Pools were relegated from the Football League in the 2016/17 season on the final day and the National League has proved to be too much of a test for an instant comeback. In February, Hartlepool parted company with manager Craig Harrison but it was seemingly too late. There’s no doubt that the turbulence off the pitch has not helped in any way.
16th – FC Halifax Town
The Shaymen secured National League status for next season rather comfortably, despite doubts mid-season. Billy Heath was sacked by the club after a period of poor form and former Notts County manager Jamie Fullarton was appointed. This managerial change proved fruitful for Town as Fullarton guided the club to a tally of 55 points.
17th – Gateshead
Finishing in 17th is more than likely to be disappointing for Gateshead fans, especially after the club has flirted with play-off places in recent seasons. The Tynesiders ended the season with only one win in their previous 13 matches which was 2-0 against Eastleigh.
18th – Solihull Moors
Solihull admirably avoided relegation and could even afford a loss to Eastleigh on the final day of the season. That defeat halted an emphatic ten game unbeaten run which had rekindled hopes of staying in the league. The Moors eventually achieved a tally of 54 points and kept eleven clean sheets.
19th – Maidstone United
The Stones had also clinched National League safety with time to spare this season. In April a 3-1 win over already-relegated Chester ensured a less nervy conclusion for the season. Joe Pigott scored eleven goals for the club, which means that the current AFC Wimbledon striker remained top scorer for Maidstone, despite leaving in January.
20th – Barrow
Barrow rather surprisingly lost at home to Chester on the final game of the season, but the club managed to remain in the National League by the skin of their teeth, just one point putting them above 21st place. This season may have shocked many at Holker Street, for the wrong reasons.
21st – Woking
The Cardinals were relegated from the National League following a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Dover. What won’t have helped the Whites is the loss of players at the start of the season. The departures included 2016/17’s top scorer, Ricky Miller, who move to League One outfit Peterborough United.
22nd – Torquay United
It’s been another woeful season for the Gulls as they are now relegated to the National League South. The side from Devon conceded 73 goals this season and a heavy number of losses mid-season was too much to bounce back from. Torquay had gained 42 points this season.
23rd – Chester
After narrowly surviving relegation in the 2016/17 season, the Blues were unable to match this feat this time round and were relegated with four games remaining. The Cheshire side have won a mere eight games this season, conceding 79 times and keeping just six clean sheets.
24th – Guiseley
Guiseley could not finish their third consecutive season in the National League without surviving the drop. The rock-bottom side finished the season with 33 points whilst conceding 89 goals too.
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