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Talking Points: The big stories in Non-League football

Ebbsfleet looked to be in an early relegation battle, but now they’re only two points adrift of the play-offs despite cutting costs, what’s going on?

Garry Hill has done a top job since taking over in November. Daryl McMahon had kept last season’s play-off team together, but struggled for results in the early part of the season with off-the-field problems regarding late wage payments not helping.

The club parted company with McMahon and subsequently owner Dr Abdulla Al-Humaidi cited the need to make the club sustainable. Hill was hand picked by the Ebbsfleet board and he, along with managing director Dave Archer, has helped save almost half a million pounds in two months.

All of McMahon’s coaching staff have left the club plus five players, but Hill’s side have lost just once in his 11 league games in charge. Crucially, he wasn’t afraid to make tough decisions on which players to let go – and even though the squad is thinner, it still has the quality to trouble the top seven.

 

There’s a new play-off structure at Step 3 and 4 this season which looks confusing, can you explain how it’s going to work?

Non-League’s restructuring means ‘Super’ play-offs will be needed at Step 3 while two Step 4 play-off winners also won’t be promoted.

It’s a result of last summer’s Pyramid shake-up, which has seen an extra division added at both levels in an attempt to cut down on travelling.

The champions of all the four Step 3 leagues will go up and the traditional play-off structure from second to fifth place remains, but the winners won’t be guaranteed promotion.

Instead, the four successful teams face a ‘Super’ play-off – two separate ties, decided by the FA Leagues Committee on the most suitable geographical basis. The matches will be one-leg and played at the side with the best points-per-game ratio during the season. The two winners will be promoted to Step 2.

The extra Bostik League division at Step 4, taking the total to seven, has also complicated things numbers-wise. There are 12 promotions spots to fill and seven will be taken by the respective champions.

That leaves a handful of places up for grabs – and they will be allocated to five of the seven divisional play-off winners.

The five with the best points-per-game ratio will win promotion from Step 4. It means two sides who win their divisional play-offs will suffer the heartbreak of not going up.

 

It looks like this is finally the season where Stockport are serious title contenders, what’s changed?

Reaching the play-offs last year seems to have given Stockport the belief they can climb out of National North. It was the first time in five seasons they had come close to returning to Non-League’s top-flight, now they’ve built on that momentum.

Moving to a full-time training schedule will have also helped and they’re now seeing the best of striker Matty Warburton, who is scoring goals for fun.

Jim Gannon is an experienced manager and knows the club inside out. He’s the type of boss who commands respect, but will know there’s still a long way to go and that they have some catching up to do. They’re four points behind leaders Chorley, who have a game in hand.

 

How have Chesterfield started under John Sheridan? Surely they won’t suffer back-to-back relegations?

Played 2, won 2, scored 3, conceded 0. It has been the perfect start for John Sheridan, particularly with a win over relegation rivals Aldershot last Saturday.

The Spireites are still in serious danger of falling through the trapdoor again – they’re two points adrift of safety – but supporters will be beginning to look up and not down.

The Chesterfield board have come under a lot of criticism this season from fans and have spent big on bringing Sheridan to the club. As we have seen with Stockport and York in previous years, the National League holds no sympathy for ex-Football League giants battling to stay up.

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