As another season draws closer, it’s time to take a look at what promises to be another exciting season in the Vanarama National League North and all of the possible contenders and strugglers are assessed in this article. With the announcement that there will be six play-off places available, the race for promotion could be more exciting than ever.
Salford City-After a successful first campaign at this level last year, in which they lost in the Play-Off Semi Final to eventual winners FC Halifax Town, The Ammies have strengthened their squad with no less than 12 signings, including Jack Redshaw from Blackpool, Lois Maynard from Tranmere Rovers and Liam Hogan from Gateshead to name a few. Almost all of their signings have at least some experience of playing at a higher level, showing the club’s ambition going forward which is also shown by the ongoing redevelopment of the stadium and infrastructure of the club. With the backing of Peter Lim and Man United’s ‘Class of 92’ it’s hard to look past them for the title.
Play Off Contenders
York City-Despite winning the FA Trophy in May, The Minstermen’s season was a disappointing one as they found themselves on the end of back to back relegations. Unlike some clubs that find themselves at this level, York have kept a large majority of their squad from last year together, which is vital for them wanting to bounce back at the first opportunity. Experienced stirker Jon Parkin is joined by Louis Almond and Amari Morgan-Smith, who have signed from Tranmere Rovers and Cheltenham Town respectively. At the back, Hamza Bencherif has made his loan stay from Wrexham a permanent one and is another of the 9 signings brought in by Gary Mills this summer.
Darlington-A strong season last year saw the Quakers only denied a Play-Off spot due to ground regulations, but this year, they have kept their squad together well and look like they could possibly have a similar season this year. With only three transfers in or out, it seems that Martin Gray has the confidence in his squad to get to the same level that they achieved last year.
Kidderminster Harriers-Another team that fell short at the play-off stage last season after relegation in 2015/16, the Harriers lost out to Chorley in the semi-final last year and are looking to emulate the same heights they reached. Despite losing a large number of players, they have recruited to their needs bringing Liam Daly from Solihull Moors and Lee Vaughan from Tranmere Rovers to name a few. It remains to be seen how the loss of key players such as Zaine Francis-Angol, Jordan Tunnicliffe and Arthur Gnahoua will affect the balance of the team.
Stockport County-Another of the bigger names in the league, they finished just outside of the play offs last year, mainly thanks to the exploits of Danny Lloyd, who has since departed for Peterborough. Filling this gap will be the key to their season, as well as losing Kayode Odejayi to Guiseley. Jim Gannon is hoping to replicate the form that took them to the heights of last year and the signings of Sam Walker and Stephen O’Halloran from Salford certainly help with this ambition
Chorley-The beaten Promotion Finalists last year, Matt Jansen’s side have kept hold of their squad well and are looking to be as competitive as they were last season. The addition of Terry Gornell from Accrington could be a good addition to an ambitious and strong squad hoping to go one better than last season, despite a misunderstanding which led 14-0 preseason defeat to League One side Wigan Athletic.
Brackley Town- Another team that finished strongly last year, they have strengthened their team with the signings of Danny Lewis, Jack Byrne, Connor Franklin and Andy Brown all from Solihull Moors, which will surely be welcome additions to the club.
The Mid-Table fight
Teams such as Harrogate Town, North Ferriby, Nuneaton and Boston will most likely take up the places below the play offs, all fourof these having the potential to break into the play offs. Newly promoted Blyth and Spennymoor have made strong signings and will look to use their momentum to from last year to finish as high as possible and Southport will be looking to bounce back as soon as possible and could also challenege for the play offs Looking into the bottom half, Curzon Ashton, Telford, Tamworth and FC United look unlikely to break inot the play offs, but also look good enough not to be drawn into a relegation battle.
For me, Alfreton, Leamington, Bradford Park Avenue and Gainsborough all look the most likely teams to be embroiled in a tight relegation battle, with the latter three of these losing their status in the National League North. Leamington have just returned to the league following promotion last season, but thye could be in for a tough spell again this year. Bradford PA and Gainsborough both struggled last season and could be in for another tough spell this time out.