South Shields, Warrington or Farsley Celtic – where’s your money going?
Matt Badcock: Expecting this to go to the final day and their run-ins look fairly even – although Shields have to play both Basford United and Scarborough Athletic.
Warrington’s defence is so strong and Paul Carden is proving what a good manager he is. Perhaps the fact they’re four points off top puts the others in the driving seat. Farsley Celtic went close last year, but you have to wonder if South Shields’ know-how at this stage of the season will see them through.
It’s been a right tussle in SPL Southern Premier too – Who will edge it between Weymouth, Taunton, Salisbury and MET Police?
David Richardson: Weymouth to win the league. They’ve maintained their momentum from last season’s 97-point haul, which was staggeringly only enough to finish fifth, and Mark Molesley continues to impress in his first management post.
But full credit to the other three clubs mentioned for pushing Weymouth all the way. Taunton and Salisbury have both enjoyed excellent first seasons at Step 3 following promotion while Met Police, despite not wanting to be allocated into the division last summer, have coped brilliantly with the demands of the league.
What has gone wrong, apart from everything, at Staines Town?
DR: A complete lack of direction off the pitch has led to a truly shambolic and embarrassing season on it.
Staines’ problems began when chairman Matt Boon stepped down last May. Joe Dixon and Paul Jaszynski took over, and vowed to turn the club into a Football League side in ten years, all within a self-sufficient model.
Jaszynski has since departed along with three managers – Spaniard Cristian Colas, super agent Barry Silkman and Rob Easom.
It is also believed Staines are in a legal dispute with the adjacent Thames Club, who own the club’s Wheatsheaf Park ground.
The team, relegated in the first week of March, has been made up of mostly academy youngsters, who have conceded 136 goals in 37 games.
Despite defeat on Saturday, Kettering (right) have surely had Stourbridge’s number in a two-horse race – how good can they be in Step 2 next season?
MB: I’m pleased for Marcus Law and his Kettering Town side because make no mistake they had to take on the pressure of favourites before a ball was kicked. Last season ended in play-off disappointment and fans were even more desperate to get up this time.
They’ve got some talented players who are more than capable of performing in the National League North. Aaron O’Connor has had injury blips this season but his experience is key, Lindon Meikle is a class act and Rhys Hoenes, with 15 goals, has really emerged.
The Sports and Sporting of Peterborough and Bromsgrove have enjoyed a ding-dong battle in SPL Central – who will get over the line?
DR: Both sides have similar run-ins so I think the points advantage Peterborough Sports currently hold will clinch them the title.
Jimmy Dean’s side have been magnificent this season and not just in the league. Their win over National League North Boston United in the early FA Cup qualifying rounds was one of the competition’s highlights.
Again, Bromsgrove and boss Brendan Kelly deserve all the plaudits they get after challenging for the title following promotion. Kelly has barely been in management for 12 months too!
Morpeth have looked a class above in NPL East all season – will there be a challenge from anywhere?
MB: Considering they were worried about the impact of moving up to Step 4 when they won mandatory promotion last season, they’ve taken the division by storm. It shows the strength of football in the north east and I’d fully expect them to get over the line soon. It’s an interesting division.
Brighouse Town’s turnaround under Vill Powell has been impressive and the merging of Albion and Town into Ossett United seems to have paid off with the highest average gate in the division.
Let’s talk Bostik League – have you ever known the title races to be so wrapped up with weeks to go, in all divisions?
MB: We often see runaway winners, but it seems unusual all four of the Bostik titles have been largely dominated.
Dorking Wanderers made their intent known with some big-summer signings, Hayes & Yeading have been a class apart in the South Central and Rob Small’s Bowers & Pitsea should be applauded after going so close last year. They’ve been transformed since Small took over when they were struggling in the Essex Senior League a few years ago.
Cray Wanderers are a club who have played at a higher level and with a new ground on the horizon will be pleased with what looks like a soon-to-be-confirmed championship season.
Hayes & Yeading United won the title – is this a club that can get back to former glories?
MB: A return to Non-League’s top flight shouldn’t be in the forefront of their minds just yet, but it’s good to see the club back on the up. There are some good people running the club and they deserve it for all the hard work they’ve put in.
The fact they are finally in their own ground again can only help and with Paul Hughes’ side laying on some exciting football, it will hopefully boost gate numbers. They can take heart from how last year’s promoted teams have fared at Step 3.
Can Haringey Borough rediscover their best form for the play-offs?
DR: Since striker Ralston Gabriel left for Boreham Wood in mid February, Haringey have lacked the consistency they were showing, which allowed Dorking to run away with the title.
Their run-in offers a good opportunity for some confidence-boosting wins ahead of the play-offs, where they’ll be the ones to beat.
For both of you… It’s a four-horse race in NPL West – the tightest across all steps 3-4. Looking at the run-in, give us your finishing positions of Atherton, Radcliffe, Runcorn and Ramsbottom?