As the chase for promotion from the Vanarama National League to the football league hots up. With three games left for the teams to decide their fate, here we’ll take a look at which teams are in the title race and who’s looking to sneak into the play-offs.
We’ll start with the side who currently sit in pole position. Leyton Orient sit on top of the pile two points clear of Salford City. No team this season has really run away with the division and pulled away from the chasing pack showing the competitiveness of the league. Out of a possible 15 points The O’s have only picked up eight points, allowing Salford to catch up. Orient have a potentially tricky run in for the league title. On Good Friday they host Harrogate Town who themselves are looking to secure a play-off position at the first attempt of playing at this level. Then on Bank Holiday Monday they face a tricky trip to Solihull Moors which has the potential to see the title race swing in a new direction. Finally, to finish they play already confirmed relegated side Braintree United which could see a title winning party take place at Brisbane Road.
Next is big spenders of the Vanarama National League Salford City. With the Class of ’92 and the owner of Spanish side Valencia in the boardroom Salford were not going to struggle to attract players, it was easy to see why Salford were most people’s favourites to go up. The Ammies made the marquee signing of Adam Rooney from Scottish Premiership in the summer, Rooney has gone on to score 21 goals this season fourth in the league’s top scorers table. The Ammies head Boreham Wood and AFC Fylde in the Easter Bank Holiday double header, before travelling to Hartlepool on the final day.
The third and final team hoping to get their hands on the league trophy are Solihull Moors. Moors sit third three points behind leaders Orient. They have the opportunity to bring themselves level with Orient, when to two sides play each other at Damson Park on Bank Holiday Monday. Tim Flowers’ side have been the real surprise package of the division this season, Moors finished 18th last season. But with Flowers becoming manager in the summer he’s turned their fortunes around.
Title Race Run In
Leyton Orient Salford City Solihull Moors
19/04 Harrogate (H) Boreham Wood (A) Bromley (A)
22/04 Solihull (A) Fylde (H) Orient (H)
27/04 Braintree (H) Hartlepool (A) Dag & Red (A)
Onto the play-off positions now. North Welsh send Wrexham have confirmed their play-off position but still have a chance to get into the top three to get a first round bye in the play-offs. The Dragons have qualified for the play-offs three times in a row and failed on each attempt. Wrexham will host Sutton United then come to the Shay over the Bank Holiday weekend then finish at home to Harrogate, who themselves would hope they have secured their place in the play-offs.
With Danny Rowe leading their line AFC Fylde will always believe they can compete with the big teams in the division. Fylde won promotion to the national league in 2017, in their first season at this level they only just made the play-offs on goal difference. Fylde would fall at the first attempt in the qualifying round to Boreham Wood. Looking to right last seasons wrongs, it looks like The Coasters will secure fifth position at the worst.
With their first season at this level and with their fast start Harrogate Town have turned heads with their performances this season under manager Simon Weaver. Currently sitting in sixth position five points inside the play-offs Harrogate can secure their place in the play-offs this Bank Holiday weekend needing four points from the games against Leyton Orient, Gateshead and potentially Wrexham on the last day.
Eastleigh currently occupy the last play-off spot ahead of Ebbsfleet United by four points. Eastleigh came up from the Conference South in 2014 and got to the play-offs in their first season but would go on to lose 5-1 to Grimsby in the semi-final and haven’t returned since. Now with Paul McCallum banging in the goals with 25 this season Eastleigh will be hoping McCallum can help them secure the five points to guarantee them in the play-offs.
7 Eastleigh Played:43 GD:-1 Points: 70
8 Ebbsfleet Played:43 GD:19 Points:66
9 Sutton Played:43 GD:-1 Points:64
10 Gateshead Played:43 GD:7 Points:63
Ebbsfleet are the most likely of teams to get themselves into the play-offs but it is out their hands. The Fleet will be needing Eastleighs opposition to ruin their play-off bid. But Ebbsfleet do have a far superior goal difference over the teams around them, which could be very very important come the final whistle on the 27th April.
Play-off Run In
Eastleigh Ebbsfleet Sutton
19/04 Dag & Red (A) Hav & Wat (A) Wrexham (A)
22/04 Maidenhead (H) Dover(H) Maidstone(H)
27/04 Boreham Wood (A) Bromley (A) Dover (A)
Sutton first came to the attention of fans nationwide for their part in the 2017 FA Cup getting to the last 16. Last season The U’s finished third that season but lost in the play-off semi-final to Boreham Wood. Looking to go one step further this season it all looked certain for Sutton but, 11 points since the beginning of March has seen them fall of the pace of the play-off pack. Sutton’s’ chances could well be truly be over if they don’t win against Wrexham, realistically needing three points from every game and teams above them to slip up, the pressure is really on The U’s.
Another team that looked sure of play-off football was Gateshead. The Tynesiders have spent long parts of the season in the play-offs but, recent form has halted their chances of getting into the play-offs. Four losses out of five and no win since 9th March has seen Gateshead waive goodbye at their chance of competing in the football league.
All we know is that there’s some very important football still left to be played and there’s still time for plenty of time for the twits and turns that will undoubtedly come.
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