Vanarama National League Preview Season 2019/20
National League 2019-20 Season Preview
By Peter Moore
As Woking continue their preparations back in the National League, it’s time to look at the teams that will be contesting a very competitive National League.
Dave Challinor has once again put together another squad fully capable of matching last seasons promotion ambitions, after falling just short in the promotion final in May.
Despite losing James Hardy (Walsall), Zaine Francis-Angol (Accrington), Jordan Tunnicliffe (Crawley), Tom Brewitt ( Morecambe) and Serhat Tasdemir(Peterborough) all to Football League clubs, Challinor has already bought in no less than nine players for the challenge ahead. Goalkeeper James Montgomery from Forest Green and Dunfermline James Craigen were signed this week along with Matty Kosylo from FC Halifax, Jordan Williams from Rochdale, Mark Yeates from Eastleigh and England C striker Kurt Willoughby from FC United. Challinor also added to his squad earlier in the summer by signing Centre backs Kyle Jameson(West Brom) and Alex Whitmore(Grimsby) alongside left back Scott Duxbury from Stockport County.
With the influx of a cluster of new players AFC Fylde certainly have the quality to launch a genuine title tilt once again this season.
The Shots have had a summer of rebuilding under new management. After a disappointing last season that saw the Hampshire side relegated from the National League to National League South, saw Manager Gary Waddock shown the door and replaced by Danny Searle. Just when the former Braintree Town boss was preparing for life in National South, the club were thrown a lifeline following the National League’s decision to demote Gateshead.
Searle, was only in charge of Braintree Town at the back end of last season and will face another tough season ahead of him in the League. Searle, has added midfielder Dean Rance from Ebbsfleet United and Dover’s 27-year-old keeper Mitch Walker. One key signing for the Shots is Gateshead’s highly rated England C defender Robbie Tinkler.
Last season was a disappointment for Barnet fans who had to watch their side finish in mid table. Legendary gaffer John Still was replaced by his assistant Darren Currie who will now have the benefit of starting the season as Manager. The Bees have made an astute acquisition in Scott Loach, the former Hartlepool stopper has bags of experience and looks a quality signing. Last season’s problems for Barnet mainly focused around a leaking defence that shipped a lot of goals, but with the signing of Loach this should help to stem the tide. With the likes of Shaq Coulthirst and Ephron Mason-Clarke and Republic of Ireland Under 21 player Jack Taylor, the Bees should have enough offensively to avoid trouble.
Under his first year of management Ian Evatt steered the club to a healthy mid-table finish, with the squad strengthened by the return of striker Byron Harrison, could well see the side push for the play-offs come May. Harrison joins an exciting strike force which already contains Scott Quigley, Dior Angus and youngster Morgan Penfold from Peterborough, while other new arrivals include Sheffield United midfielder Oliver Greaves and Mark Waddington from Stoke City.
One of the sides that were expected to really push for the play-offs last term, but in truth were very disappointing, eventually finishing fifth from bottom.
Luke Garrard has been busy in the summer by recruiting a host of players including stand out signing Kabongo Tshimanga from Oxford City. The 21-year-old had an outstanding season by hitting the net 37 times. Garrard has also strengthened with the signing of forward Tyrone Marsh and midfielder Adam McDonnnell from Aldershot. Piero Mingoia a midfielder with over 200 appearances in the Football League has agreed to join the Wood alongside Jordan Thompson on a season-long loan from Coventry. The duo of midfielders Kieran Murtagh and Mark Ricketts remain among the best in the division. With the right blend of youth and experience expect a better showing this time around from the outfit from Hertfordshire.
Neil Smith’s Bromley side could finally force themselves into the forthcoming promotion race after the club has seen an impressive summer spree. Smith snapped up Barnet’s former number one Mark Cousins, while at the back Chris Bush has been recruited from near neighbours Ebbsfleet alongside former Billericay Town defender Joe Kizzi- who was named in the National league South Team of the year. Smith, also persuaded former Gillingham midfielder Billy Bingham to drop into non-league. But the two key signings for Bromley must be two strikers who have been snapped up by Smith. Michael Cheek and Adrian Clifton, who bagged 30 goals between them for Ebbsfleet and Maidenhead last term. On the face of it this surely looks the strongest side assembled at Hayes Lane in a very long time.
John Sheridan turned an underperforming Spireites into a serious proposition after arriving at the club midway through last season. They rose from relegation trouble to mid table safety, thanks to three new additions to the side.
Sheridan will start his first full season in charge of former Football League club Chesterfield having been busy in the summer by bringing in goalkeeper Luke Coddington from Northampton Town. The vastly experienced David Buchanan and Anthony Gerrad have also been signed. Josef Yarney has rejoined on a permanent basis following his release by Newcastle. But the key signing of the summer looks like being Liam Mandeville, signed from Doncaster Rovers, the forward looks a quality signing for the Spireites. Despite the tag of bookies favourites, which doesn’t always bode well, Sheridan’s managerial experience may just be enough to give Chesterfield automatic promotion.
A well-run club that has seen three promotions in the last ten seasons to get back to this level. Like Woking, they have decided to remain part-time for their National League campaign. Manager Jamie Vermiglio took over last summer following the surprise departure of Matt Jansen. Their home form was the bedrock of last season and once again that will be vital. Vermiglio, has added just three players to his squad, with experienced striker Chris Holroyd and the returning Mark Ross from Stockport. This week centre back Lewis Baines put pen to paper from Fleetwood Town.
Dagenham And Redbridge
Under the guidance of Peter Taylor, Dagenham finished a lowly 18th place last term, however, hopes are high in East London this season after executive chairman Peter Freund stated an ambition to make the Daggers an EFL club come May. A busy few months at Victoria Road has seen no less than 13 new arrivals through the door, including former Dover midfielder Mitch Brundle, striker Joe Quigley, Reece Grant and defender Luke Croll. One disappointment for the Daggers fans was the sale of striker Conor Wilkinson, who was sold to League Two outfit Leyton Orient. Taylor, is an experienced manager who will want success down in East London, but for this season it make be a season too early.
When Andy Hessenthaler agreed to return for a second spell at Crabble last October, Dover were in a whole pile of trouble. Somehow, with an outstanding second half to the season the Kent club clawed their way out of trouble, to mid table safety. Hessenthaler, has now assembled a completely new look side at Crabble. This week alone he added Wolves youngster Aaron Simpson and Bilal Hinchiri were added to the squad, to join ten new arrivals. No fewer than 17 players were exiting the revolving door at the same time.
The stand out addition already looks like being striker Steven Rigg who has arrived from Gateshead, alongside seasoned performers at National League level in the shape of Jack Munns, Michael Woods, Oscar Gobern and Will De Havilland. Nassim L’Ghoul has arrived from Welling while Paul Rooney provide valuable Football League experience.
The side from Hampshire proved to be the surprise package last season by claiming a play-off place. Helped by 26 goals from Paul McCallum the Spitfires ended up seventh in the table under boss Ben Strevens.
It will be a new look Eastleigh that will start their campaign after losing three regulars in the summer. The loss of McCallum will hurt, so will the loss of assist king Mark Yeates and Josh Hare. Strevens has recruited six close season signings including defender Joe Partington from Bristol Rovers, Max Stryjek and Jack Payne has also signed for the club. Experienced striker Scott Rendell has been snapped up after being released by Aldershot. All Strevens summer arrivals have National League experience which will be crucial in the forthcoming campaign ahead.
Garry Hill has made a number of high-profile signings in the off-season as they look to build on last seasons impressive eighth place finish.
Gozie Ugwu returns for a third spell at the club after joining on loan at the end of last season. Midfielder Alex Lawless has been signed from Leyton Orient and James Ball, a midfielder has been recruited along with John Goddard from Stevenage. Hill will also be keen to get striker Cody McDonald back in action after he suffered a cruciate ligament injury towards the end of last season. Could be a tough season ahead for the Kent side, despite having a Manager who knows the non-league world inside out.
After previous manager Jamie Fullarton departed, it has been a summer of up heaval for new gaffer Pete Wild. Fullarton’s unexpected departure just two weeks ago took everybody by surprise.
Wild, former Oldham Athletic caretaker boss has had very limited time to invest in new players but has secured the signature of Dover Athletic striker Tobi Sho- Silva amongst three other additions. Jamie Allen has also joined from Dover along with goalkeeper Will Appleyard from Stevenage and Jack Earing, who has been signed after being released by Bolton.
The Pools have strengthened their side by adding central midfielder Gus Mafuta from Salford. Gime Toure has signed from Sutton alongside Michael Raynes, an experienced centre-half, who has joined the club from Crewe. Manager Craig Hignett has lost the services of Scott Loach, after the keeper failed to agree new terms with the club. The club will look to the promise of England C gloveman Ben Killip this season, after the club snapped him up from Braintree. Former Football League club Hartlepool will be looking to get back into the Football League with an exciting attacking style of play.
Second seasons can also be tough on any side, and it won’t be no different for Town. Last season in their debut season in the National league they reached the play-offs, eventually losing to AFC Fylde, but despite this loss they have already proved that they certainly belong at this level. Under their long-standing boss Simon Weaver the club have made their intentions clear already by bringing in Jon Stead. The former Huddersfield, Bradford, Ipswich and Sheffield United striker has over 600 Football League appearances to show for his efforts alongside 150 goals from the 36-year-old. Along with an already settled squad, expect Harrogate to once again be up in contention this season.
Tipped to struggle for two seasons running, the Magpies have so far proved everybody wrong. Once again, the club will be operating on a part-time basis. Wily Manager Alan Devonshire will once again get the best out of a squad who lack quality players but have a squad that will be competitive in a very tight division.
With the club’s future finally secure after much upheaval, Notts County can at last look forward to concentrating on football matters and to try and bounce back into the Football League at the first time of asking. Manager Neil Ardley can’t bring anybody in yet due to the club’s transfer embargo which is still to be lifted. The key to how County can get promoted has to be how they can adapt to this level alongside the many different challenges that will face them week in week out.
Last season the outfit from the midlands pushed Leyton Orient and Salford City all the way for the title, eventually losing out to both. A second-place finish was an outstanding achievement under Manager Tim Flowers. Expectations will once again be high for another top three finish, and they will have to cope with that demand. A big summer signing for Solihull has been Paul McCallum from Eastleigh. The forward hit the net 27 times last season and will almost certainly be a fans favourite this season. Former league winner Mitch Hancox has also been added to a very strong squad who once again will be up challenging.
It has taken six seasons for Stockport County to return to the top table of Non-League Football. Despite losing 27 goal scorer last season Matt Warburton to League Two Northampton Town, Jim Gannon’s team will be relishing being back in the big time again. The gaffer has kept together the rest of last season’s successful squad and added Alex Curran. Expect big crowds to be flooding through the gates at Edgeley Park once again.
Sutton will start the season without the services of Paul Doswell. The long time U’s boss decided to call it a day at the end of last season and has since taken over the reins at National League South Havant & Waterlooville.
The U’s have also lost the services of the influential Nicky Bailey, Roarie Deacon and Josh Taylor- all to Havant- adds a further dent in their league aspirations. Sutton have recruited wisely by adding striker Omar Bugiel to the side from Bromley alongside David Ajiboye from Worthing. New Manager Matt Gray will hope for a good start from his troops along with good home form to boot.
Back in the top flight after a season away, Gary Johnson led the side to National League South glory last season and this season is banking on the loan market to help the club survive in the top flight of non-league football. Loan star from last season Jake Andrews has signed permanently with Armani Little- who excelled on loan at Woking last term- also agreeing to sign for the west country club. With the experienced Johnson at the helm, expect Torquay to be competitive and may just survive.
Boss Alan Dowson has kept the nucleus of last season’s successful squad with the addition of Dave Tarpey. The prolific striker was on loan at the Laithwaite last season for seven games where he picked up three goals. After his release from Barnet, Dowson was quick to snap up the 30-year-old. New additions include goalkeeper Sam Howes, centre backs Moussa Diarra- who was on loan last season at Woking- Manny Parry and midfielders Shaun Donnellan and Godfrey Poku. Last season’s top scorer Max Kretzschmar has re-signed along with Paul Hodges and Kane Ferdinand. Craig Ross and player of the season Josh Casey has also put pen to paper. If Tarpey and Hyde can avoid injuries, then the part time Cards should have enough to steer clear of trouble.
The Dragons are preparing to kick off their 12th season in the fifth tier of football. Boss Bryan Hughes has added six new names to the Racecourse ranks, including Scottish striker Leighton Macintosh. There will once again be huge expectation levels aimed at Wrexham, as surely this will be the season when they can push on to the play-offs and beyond.
New Manager Darren Sarll, who has managed at Football League level with Stevenage Town will venture into his first season in charge of the Glovers after securing two key signings, Lee Collins is a defensive rock alongside goal scorer Rhys Murphy, could well be the difference between success and failure at Huish Park. Sarll,was only appointed less than two months ago, and so has had little time to make his mark. It looks like this campaign will be a season of trying to stay in the League, which might be a tall order for the Glovers.