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National League 2017/18 preview: Top tips for all outright markets

Our non-league expert picks out the best bets for promotion, relegation and plenty more as the football gets back underway.

04 Aug | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
National League 2017/18 preview: Top tips for all outright markets

I’m always fascinated to read interviews with National League managers ahead of a new season.

Some set expectations with quotes that need to be sifted through. Some send subtle, and some not so subtle, messages to other clubs and bosses. Some send some to their own bosses!

One thing that stands out from pre-season quotes this summer is that the league is going to be “tougher than ever”. A view that, for me, needs some clarification.

Performance-wise, the National League has been weak for a number of seasons – you’re probably already shouting at your screen disagreeing by stating Sutton and Lincoln’s FA Cup exploits.

Both were great to see, but one-off cup matches against almost B-teams does not prove a case for a whole division.

This season, the league is at the weakest it has been for a long time but ‘competitive’ is a very different word to ‘strong’.

I’m fully of the opinion the division will be competitive and exciting despite the lack of overall quality.


The team defeated in the previous season’s play-off final always struggle the next season. None have claimed the title and only three have made amends with promotion, rectifying things in the one-off game they lost the previous season.

But historical trends are there to be broken and I’m going to back Tranmere Rovers  to break that spell this season and claim the title.

They are very worthy favourites and would have definitely pushed Lincoln City much further if they had the services of Micky Mellon for a full season.

Title-winning favourites are a rarity in this division, with none since 2004, but the Super White Army can do it.


The National League didn’t provide an answer when I pointed out that their new play-off structure is mathematically wrong, and in roughly seven seasons out of every ten would actually favour the team in third over the team in second.

How can that be right? Every advantage must be given to the team finishing best in the final table. Hopefully they will change it in time for 2018/19, but until then we have a messy-looking six team shoot-out.

I’m going for Leyton Orient  to bounce back and win at Wembley, regaining their place in League Two at the first attempt.

Their well-documented struggles should be over and they look to have built a squad to challenge at the first attempt.

Other teams booked for a top seven finish should be: Dagenham & Redbridge , who have a young squad that will belie their age under John Still.

Next up, I’ve got Aldershot Town  who, after remedying their inconsistency of last season, could add an extra 20 points to challenge. 

Finally, Hartlepool United  come into a weak division and shouldn’t find it too hard to contend from the off.

Top Half

Eastleigh should improve on their disrupted campaign from last term. Ebbsfleet United,meanwhile, have the money and form from last season to get off to a good start and land a top half finish.

Barrow may just miss out on the play-offs again, but should be up there, while AFC Fylde scored plenty last season and that style of play should help them consolidate after promotion.

Bromley have a new 4G pitch and that can improve their home form to give them another slot in the top half. Sutton United should do the same.

Bottom Half

Involved in a very competitive mid-table scrap, Gateshead might just drop into the bottom half this year.  

Woking, meanwhile, could improve with changes behind the scenes at the club, which could lead to investment.

Boreham Wood have the right set up to ensure they stay in the division and are competitive at home, while Macclesfield may drop back a few places from impressive finishes in the last two seasons.

Chester need to drastically improve their home form, something that dragged them in late on last season. A little bit of improvement should see them hit around 60 points and that equals safety.

AFC Halifax Town and Maidenhead have the tools to survive after promotion and they’d both settle for that. Torquay might just be the team to avoid the drop late on.


Solihull Moors  were one of a number of teams that looked far safer than they actually were last season, because of the condensed nature of the bottom half of the table.

It was almost one point per place at the bottom, which is another indicator as to how weak the league was.

They look as if they will be joined by Maidstone United  where second-season syndrome – a very real thing for promoted teams from the South – could kick in.

Guiseley  survived on the final day last year, but I can’t see them being as fortunate again.

I often get Dover Athletic   wrong, but I can see them being dragged into a relegation scrap.

They represent a decent outsider for the drop and at their current price, you would still make profit even if you had followed me backing them for the drop for the past two seasons.

Insider knowledge

What town do Tranmere Rovers play in?

Tranmere Rovers are based in Birkenhead, which is part of the Wirral and just over the River Mersey from Liverpool.