Alan Alger: My 2018/19 National League season preview
Our non-league expert assesses the best bets for promotion, the play-offs, relegation and more as the English fifth tier gets under way again.
Justin Edinburgh was the perfect appointment for Leyton Orient midway through last season.
He’s had enough time at Brisbane Road to go into his first full campaign brimming with confidence that they can make a title charge.
The O’s rate a cracking bet to lift the National League title trophy at a double-figure price.
AFC Fylde - who are to be promoted - had a great first season at this level as their strong investment behind the scenes brought them a play-off place at the first time of asking.
They can go one better this term by taking the second promotion spot at Wembley in May.
The top seven teams in the National League qualify for the play-offs shoot-out format. Those that I fancy to fail at that hurdle include big-spending Salford City , who definitely have the money to challenge.
I just don’t think their manager Graham Alexander will cope with the situation where they are everyone’s ‘cup final’ and favourites for each match.
Another documentary is rumoured to be following the club, too, and it could all become one big distraction that ends in play-off heartache.
Barnet have the added plus of historically the division’s greatest ever manager John Still in the dugout. Dave Tarpey should be back fit from long term injury and can fire the goals that power them to extend their season.
Ebbsfleet United are going the right way and I couldn’t expect them to be any worse off than last year’s play-off exit.
Bromley were distracted by the FA Trophy last season, and if they sensibly drop that in their priorities then a top seven finish beckons for the Ravens.
Martin Allen should guide Chesterfield to a play-off finish, too, having brought in the right blend of players for the division.
It looks like another year of Wrexham just falling a little short of where they want and need to be.
Hartlepool United can start going the right way and improve on last season, with things steadier behind the scenes.
Aldershot Town might just struggle to replicate last season’s fifth spot.
Harrogate Town can hit the ground running and finish ahead of a few of the established names.
Maidstone United are my dark horse for an improved finish in the top half of the table.
In the bottom half, but safe from relegation I see the following sides.
Dagenham & Redbridge will struggle under Peter Taylor and their new budget restrictions.
Boreham Wood will find it difficult to replicate their run to the Promotion Final last season, and that hangover could knock them back a bit for this campaign.
Eastleigh have had some funds withdrawn from the budget, but not enough to concern them with relegation worries.
Dover Athletic might have, in relative terms to their outstanding few seasons under Chris Kinnear, a small wobble.
Sutton United are a strong fancy to finish bottom half after last season’s top three finish.
Havant & Waterlooville have finally made Non-League’s top-flight and can stay there. Just.
FC Halifax Town will struggle but just do enough at home to survive. Barrow can do likewise.
I’m full of admiration for the efforts of Alan Devonshire in hitting the top half with Maidenhead United last season, and he loves to prove doubters wrong. I just think they’re a value call - at the prices - for the drop.
Gateshead have cut budgets and squad size and could be heading back to the North division.
Solihull Moors were just six points off the bottom four last season and the upcoming section looks far tougher on paper.
Talking of weak sections, Braintree Town came from a poor South division last season and could be heading right back.
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