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Ten Years Back Home – Princes Park

A decade ago football proudly came home for Dartford with the opening of a brand new environmentally friendly stadium. Princes Park has been the venue for some memorable moments in the club’s history and so Pure DFC raises a glass for many more to come.

Without the pain and heartbreak it’s really hard to experience the pride and joy Princes Park gave club officials and supporters on 11 November 2006. Exiled for fourteen years after one of the most difficult periods in Dartford’s history the road back home seemed never ending.

End of the Watling Street era
Whilst the eighties and in particular the latter part of the decade was successful on the pitch, the financial situation worsened. When Maidstone United started their groundshare with the Darts, the extra income was welcome. However, further politics turned the thought of bankruptcy into a reality and so Watling Street was finished and the following 1992/93 campaign went unfinished. Mudeford dart, one of over 550 forum members using Pure DFC remembers the day the terrible news broke, “I don’t mind admitting I sat at my desk and cried my heart out the day we went under, that might explain my half full, rose tinted attitude through thick and thin”.

It is with that positive attitude that kept the club going thanks to The Club’s Supporters’ Association. The club was rescued and senior status was kept thanks to the Youth Team. All that was left was to appoint a manager (step forward Tony Burman), find a squad and a venue, so the Darts could start over in the Kent League.

Watling Street: A former home of Dartford Football Club.

Watling Street: A former home of Dartford Football Club.

Dartford on tour
Known as the nomadic days, the fourteen years before Princes Park saw Dartford touring Kent and Essex with false alarms of homecomings along the way. Oxford Road, Sidcup became the first ‘home’ of the new era as the Darts shared with Cray Wanderers, a period Mudeford dart looks back on nostalgically, “from a personal point of view I loved our days at Cray with the iconic “Dave Skinner Stand”. There was a real camaraderie because everyone was so happy to have our Darts run by our supporters. Cray were great landlords and made us feel very welcome”.

Park View, Belverdere had better facilities, but once again drama unfolded and the main stand was burnt down in 1997. Between September and December, Dartford played home fixtures at Purfleet, Slade Green, Northfleet and Barking. The Kent derby against Margate was actually played in Essex.

Unsuitable to host Dartford matches the club were forced to move from Park View and into Ship Lane, Purfleet. With that came new problems, enticing fans across the River Thames, poor public transport links and the M25 to contend with. Attendances declined but the venue would eventually be the last destination of Dartford’s tour.

Before Ship Lane hosted Dartford games again, the club struck a deal with rivals Gravesend and Northfleet to play at Stonebridge Road. It was during this period news broke on 10 April 2004 that funding for a new home was granted by Dartford Borough Council. The words of a former fanzine title was never more apt, finally their was a “Light at the End of the Tunnel”.

So the nomadic times may have been tough but many have fond memories and were delighted the club were back, paulnorwich reflects on those fourteen years, “I never went to Stonebridge Road to watch the Darts. Cray was good, Erith and Belvedere and Welling was handy for me as they were both so local, but because of family commitments I could only really start watching the Darts again more regularly at Purfleet, which I quite liked though. None of them were ever “home” though”.

Oxford Road: A lifeline for the Darts.

Oxford Road: A lifeline for the Darts.

Homecoming
11 November 2006. An emotional day in the history of Dartford Football Club, a celebration of the continuous hard work put in by those that kept the club running, of those that made Princes Park happen. A huge sense of pride and relief to be home again and for new supporters an exciting adventure. In the days leading up to the grand opening, on the morning before kick off, behind the scenes was hectic. In the excellent Princes Among Men: The History of Dartford Football Club, Jeremy Kite MBE recalls the desperation on the eve of the homecoming when the Princes Park lights went out. Luckily it wasn’t a metaphor of fourteen years ago, the venue was ready for the sell out crowd against Horsham YMCA.

A day of entertainment didn’t disappoint on and off the pitch. paulnorwich remembers, “I was talking to everyone I know about the “return” throughout 2006 and it was a day I’ll never forget!”. The team arrived by coach almost cup finalesque with fans waiting for the arrival. Fireworks greeted the two teams out of the players tunnel and finally football would do the talking.

Princes Park erupted when Brendon Cass entered the history books with the first goal. The striker netted another before Eddie McClements struck the goal of the day. Although the visitors pulled two goals back, Nick Barnes scored Dartford’s fourth in a 4-2 victory. The win was the icing on the homecoming cake.

Another Pure DFC user, El Kebabus of Arabia sums up the journey from homelessness to Princes Park, “all those years of following the Darts around during our nomadic days. Putting hard earned cash into the Warbler, holding ebay sales to raise funds, whip rounds and signing other people up for the Warbler. Boy was it worth it”.

Jeremy Kite’s chapter in Princes Among Men looks back at the long road back home and how much it meant to the community and on a personal level, “in the years since opening day, Princes Park has certainly fulfilled its promise as a catalyst for change and I couldn’t be more proud of it”.

Homecoming: Dartford take to the Princes Park pitch for the first time. Photo courtesy of Tony Jaglo.

Dartford take to the Princes Park pitch for the first time. Photo courtesy of Tony Jaglo.

Ten years of history and memories
Three promotions, two county cup wins, becoming the best part time team in the country and many more wonderful moments, the last decade at Princes Park has without doubt changed Dartford Football Club. Attendances have risen, an academy is beginning to blossom and the reputation of the club has improved.

In the early days, the venue helped attract players to pull on a white shirt and some of those players, Dave Martin, Cody McDonald, Charlie Sheringham, Ebou Adams, Tom Champion and current centre half Tom Bonner went on to play higher up the football chain. The core of today’s squad Elliot Bradbrook, Ryan Hayes, Lee Noble and Danny Harris have all provided brilliant moments, whilst a former core member Lee Burns added his imaginative and humorous goal celebrations. Title winning captains, Adam Flanagan and Alex O’Brien embodied the character and spirit manager Tony Burman works so hard to create, the type of spirit provided by current captain Elliot Bradbrook, Princes Park’s top goalscorer.

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Wingers such as Hayes and Martin have produced some special goals and creativity, in particular Hayes’ trademark curler in front of the television cameras against Mansfield Town, Martin’s wonder strike against Burgess Hill Town. There have been a fair share of important goals, like Lee Noble’s in the National South playoff final against local rivals Welling United and the one that goes down in history as the first scored at Princes Park, Brendon Cass’ effort versus Horsham YMCA.

As team performances go, the Darts have blown opponents away at times, twice they have won 7-2 against Burgess Hill Town and then Witham Town. Through the leagues Enfield Town, Canvey Island, Ilford, Tilbury, Kingstonian, Thurrock, Sutton United, Alfreton Town and Woking have all been put to the sword. Dartford have shocked and conquered bigger sides such as Crawley Town in the F.A Trophy, Luton Town, Mansfield Town, Macclesfield Town, Grimsby Town, Newport County, Hereford United and Wrexham in the league. Port Vale were so close to being put on the list in the heroic F.A Cup first round 1-1 draw.

paulnorwich picks his favourite moments, “beating Welling United in the playoff final cannot be beaten in front of over 4000 and what a goal from Lee Noble to do it. So many great memories in ten years and so many goals but the performance versus Port Vale was excellent, as was the one against Mansfield Town on television when Ryno’s goal must be in the top five at Princes Park”.

Dartford have got used to celebrating whether it was the homecoming, the two league titles, the playoff win or the two Kent Senior Cup’s. Here’s to more glories, to ten brilliant years and many more fond memories. Cheers.

Thank you to Pure DFC forum users paulnorwich, El Kebabus of Arabia and Mudeford dart. Thank you sonytino for all the youtube highlights over the years, Tony Jaglo for the excellent photographs on homecoming day (to view them all go to http://imgbox.com/g/E0nCwQ0wUK). Credit to John Anthony, Mike Brett-Smith, Tony Brown, Gary Clark and Steve Irving for the excellent Princes Among Men: The History of Dartford Football Club book, available in the club shop.

Season Review 2014/2015

1st – Barnet – 92 pointsBFC

Deservedly winning the title on the final day of the season, Barnet become Conference champions for a record third time. Manager, Martin Allen picked up a second league winners medal in three years, having won League Two with Gillingham, and his know how had the Hertfordshire club leading the Conference for the majority of the campaign. An opening day 5-0 win set the tone in a consistent season as the Bees went on to open up a comfortable gap. John Akinde’s 31 goals earned the striker the golden boot award in his first season with the Bees, the striker helped his side top score with 94. A wobble in the New Year and February allowed challengers to claw back the deficit. Having led the way for five months, Barnet were knocked off the top at the start of March. The Bees wasted no time and returned to the summit immediately, an eight match unbeaten run had Allen’s side a point clear entering the final day showdown. Facing Gateshead at home, The Hive was in a celebratory mood as the season closed with a 2-0 victory, stretching the unbeaten run to nine ensuring the Conference title returned to Barnet. The honours board now reads at The Hive, Conference champions 1991, 2005 and 2015.

Did you know…
Barnet had six spells at the top of the table and ended up at the summit 42 times, after completing a match.

2nd – Bristol Rovers – 91 pointsbristol rovers

This season’s playoff winners were officially the most difficult team to beat in the Conference Premier, Bristol Rovers’ extraordinary form from September to the end of the season meant Barnet couldn’t quite shrug them off until the very end. After three games, the Gas were shown that life in non-league wasn’t easy. Relegated from League Two, Bristol Rovers opened their campaign with a draw, defeat to eventual champions and a loss to promoted Altrincham. Darrell Clarke soon pulled his troops together and embarked on a nine game unbeaten run. After defeat at home to Forest Green Rovers, the Gas set a season’s record of a further twenty matches unbeaten and ended eight games without a loss. The best defence in the league kept 22 clean sheets and with summer signing Matty Taylor and Ellis Harrison netting 31 between them, Bristol Rovers were always hot on Barnet’s tails. Going into the final day, Clarke’s men knew they had to win and they did in style with a 7-0 thrashing of Alfreton Town. A 19 match unbeaten away run looks good on paper but too many draws on the road cost Bristol Rovers the title. A playoff semi-final win over Forest Green Rovers meant a Wembley showdown with Grimsby Town. A record playoff final crowd gathered to witness a 1-1 extra time draw but ‘Gas Heads’ went home celebrating with a 5-3 penalty shoot-out victory.

Did you know…
Bristol Rovers hit the woodwork 16 times, the joint highest with Conference Premier champions Barnet

3rd – Grimsby Town – 86 pointsgtfc

Qualifying for the playoffs for a third successive season, Grimsby Town broke their record points haul but went home as bridesmaid’s yet again. The Mariners have come so close in recent years losing two playoff semi finals and a F.A Trophy final. This time Paul Hurst’s side managed to keep in close contact with the top two and were still within a shout of the title going into the last month. Entering April, the Mariners were a point behind leaders Barnet thanks to a run of eight wins from nine, including victory against the champions. As expected and consistent with their last two campaigns, Grimsby Town’s defence was difficult to breach. In attack, Lenell John-Lewis’ 16 goals and Nathan Arnold’s ten assists helped make the Mariners a solid yet productive team. The opening to the season was mixed with three draws against a mixture of opposition but back to back 6-1 and 7-0 wins against Gateshead and Alfreton Town made the Conference sit up and take notice. Indifferent form in very small patches turned out to be the difference as the top two continued to remain ahead of Grimsby Town. The majority of their campaign consisted of strong unbeaten runs and so a playoff spot was well deserved. The Mariners defeated Eastleigh in the semi-final but a fourth Wembley defeat in a row prevented a return to the Football League.

Did you know…
The Mariners recorded the most shots on target with 285, averaging 6.19 per game.

4th – Eastleigh – 82 pointseastleigh

A terrific debut season for the Conference South champions who for a consecutive campaign set the clubs highest ever finish. The backing of Stewart Donald and the management of Richard Hill led the Spitfires to an impressive fourth spot. The Hampshire club bought in a wealth of experience recruiting the likes of Stuart Fleetwood, Jack Midson, James Constable and Crag McAllister. Constable’s 18 strikes continued his prolific record in the Conference Premier. Eastleigh’s attacking prowess, second top scorers in the division coupled with consistently beating teams in the bottom half led to a strong first term at the top of non league. One of many highlights included a 2-1 away win at Bristol Rovers and a new stand opening in December to increase capacity at the Silverlake Stadium. Eastleigh have been a growing club despite nine years in the Conference South, but the move to professional status has taken the Spitfires higher. For a successive season a newly promoted side reached the playoffs and like FC Halifax Town the campaign before it was a step too far. Eastleigh faced third place side Grimsby Town, after a 2-1 loss at home the return leg finished 3-0 to the Mariners, the Spitfires dream of reaching Wembley ended in a 5-1 aggregate defeat.

Did you know…
The offside trap was perfected by Eastleigh when they caught their opponents out 221, more than any other club, a staggering 67 times more than second place Aldershot Town.

5th – Forest Green Rovers – 79 pointsfgrfc

Constantly starting as one of the favourites, Forest Green Rovers finally showed their promise this term. Since the investment of Dale Vince, Rovers have disappointed including three tenth place finishes in a row. This time instead of fading after early promise, the Gloucestershire club ended the campaign strongly. Accumulating the most points in 2015, Rovers broke into the top five over the New Year and their consistency kept them above the playoff line. The first half of the campaign could have been just as impressive had Adrian Pennock’s team converted draws into wins. Jon Parkin’s success up front with 25 goals left him six behind the golden boot winner John Akinde. Capable of putting together strong unbeaten runs, with two sequences lasting ten and 12 games respectively, the Gloucestershire club may have fancied their playoff chances. An array of midfield creativity helped the frontline with Marcus Kelly, Rob Sinclair and Elliot Frear all inside the top ten assist makers. Currently the longest serving Conference Premier club Rovers threatened to depart after 17 years, for the first time in this spell they reached the playoffs. Facing promotion favourites Bristol Rovers, Pennock’s side were unable to make the final as they lost 3-0 on aggregate.

Did you know…
Forest Green Rovers were often caught napping up front being caught offside 135 times, the highest in the division.

6th – Macclesfield Town – 78 pointsmtfc

There is a lot more to be positive about at Moss Rose as the Silkmen narrowly missed out on a playoff place. One more goal on the final day of the season at Torquay United would have been enough as Forest Green Rovers drew, as it was Macclesfield Town could only earn a point. Beneath the end of season disappointment the Cheshire club had less off field speculation about finances than the previous campaign, a manager in John Askey who is a club favourite from his playing days and up until mid-February the title was in reach. The financial situation at Moss Rose had an impact in the end as a small squad ran out of steam, in the final two months won just three from the last eleven fixtures leading to a drop to sixth place. An exemplary home record laid the foundations of a much improved campaign, the best home defence and only two defeats at Moss Rose. The Silkmen got results, even if the fewest number of goals were scored in games featuring Macclesfield Town. Waide Fairhurst and Matthew Barnes-Homer netted 19 between them but other than that their attack was as productive as a mid-table team.

Did you know…
Macclesfield Town recorded their best home record since 1997/1998 when they went unbeaten. This term they picked up 49 points (W14, D7, L2).

7th – Woking – 76 pointswokingfc

This season’s best part time team in the United Kingdom, Woking recorded their highest finish for eighteen years and their biggest Conference Premier points tally since 1996. Garry Hill’s reputation grows as he manages to keep improving Woking’s final league position ever since he took charge in 2011. For part of the campaign it looked as if though the Cards would surprisingly challenge at the very top, they occupied second and third on a number of occasions between September and December. Scott Rendell continued his excellent form in front of goal by netting 24 times, only Jon Parkin and John Akinde scored more. The season started with a nine match unbeaten run, including a 6-1 thrashing of Conference South playoff winners Dover Athletic. Three consecutive defeats weren’t enough to derail the Surrey side as they soon climbed to second. Approaching the New Year became a little sticky with an indifferent November and a run of eight games without victory in December and January. Dropping to eighth, Woking picked themselves up as consistency returned for the remainder of the campaign, nine wins, three draws and three losses for the final run in kept the Cards ahead of the part time pack.

Did you know…
Woking’s 76 points was their highest in the Conference Premier for 19 years, when the Cards finished runners up on 83 points.

8th – Dover Athletic – 68 pointsdover

The Conference South playoff winners will be more than pleased at their first season back at the top of non-league football for twelve years. Yet the hard part is still to come with the dreaded ‘second season syndrome’ approaching, a jinx playoff winners of the Conference South seem to suffer from. For now, the second best team in Kent can reflect on a solid campaign helped by Stefan Payne’s contribution of 15 goals and nine assists. Had anyone mentioned a top ten finish mid-September they would have been classed as mad. Dover Athletic struggled to get to grips with their new surroundings losing eight of their opening eleven matches. The tide turned and the rest of the season was a blast for the newboys. A thirteen match unbeaten run took them through September to the last day of January. Resounding wins at home against Nuneaton Town as well as Kent rivals Welling United and Dartford lifted the Crabble support. A minor blip followed but Chris Kinnear could be excused as he got his side back on track losing just twice in the final eleven. The Whites also managed to enjoy a F.A Cup run to the third round where they bowed out to Premier Leaguers Crystal Palace.

Did you know…
Dover Athletic picked up 31 out of 36 points at the Crabble against teams who finished in the bottom half.

9th – FC Halifax Town – 66 pointsFC Halifax Town

The Shaymen were unable to repeat their excellent season a year ago and so missed out on the playoffs. It started all so well despite the loss of star striker Lee Gregory in the summer to Champions hip side Millwall. The campaign begun with manager Neil Aspin signing a new two year contract, despite having a year to run and in September he was rewarded with Manager of the Month. FC Halifax Town boasted a 100% record after five games and showed no signs of missing a quality striker. The rest of the season played out inconsistently until March when the only consistency was picking up a point. The Shaymen drew nine out of eleven games towards the end of the season ending with a four match losing streak. Lois Maynard managed to find the net eleven times closely followed by Scott Boden on ten. Away from home FC Halifax Town struggled to find goals with only four teams scoring fewer on their travels. However, the back remained tight away from the Shay recording the fourth best defence. Their second term in the Conference Premier was always going to be tough after a superb return last campaign, the Shaymen certainly found that out.

Did you know…
Jamie Jackson’s yellow card against Aldershot Town came after only 26 seconds on the field, the quickest caution of the season.

10th – Gateshead – 66 pointsgfc

Last term the Heed were just one game away from a return to the Football League for the first time in 55 years, this time last season’s playoff runners up only just made the top ten on goals scored. Form against those who finished above them yielded only one victory but the story was so different up to November. Gateshead lost only twice in their opening sixteen matches as they set to challenge for promotion continuing where they left off last campaign. At the start of November, the Heed were second behind Barnet but the distraction of the F.A Cup changed the picture. A run to the third round and a 7-0 defeat against Premier League’s West Bromwich Albion in January came at the end of a period of one win in nine league games. Gary Mills guided the Tynesiders through the rest of the campaign inconsistently but always on the fringes of a playoff spot. When their chance of promotion disappeared they still had a major say in the title race. Gateshead’s final day defeat handed Barnet the title and ended the campaign with one win in nine. With the season closed Mills moved to take the reins at Wrexham, the appointment of a new manager will have to wait until after Chairman Graham Wood leaves his post.

Did you know…
Gateshead managed just one win against teams finishing above them, the Heed also lost to the top five at home.

11th – Wrexham – 66 pointswfc

With a summer of rebuilding, Wrexham were led by Kevin Wilkin who impressed with his spell as Nuneaton Town boss. Wilkin took some key players with him in Louis Moult and Wes York, Moult managed 16 goals in a side which were unable to live up to expectations. The Welsh side completed their seventh campaign in the Conference Premier and after three consecutive playoff failures have struggled to reach those same heights. Still, the Red Dragons improved on last term’s seventeenth but a return to the Football League eludes them. Up until the end of September, Wrexham were in a healthy third position but form dipped for too long, only three more league were recorded from October through to the end of January. The New Year saw an improvement as the Red Dragons were tougher to beat, losing just four more in 2015. Wins were interspersed with draws but even still Wrexham finished fairly strong. The Welsh side performed admirably in both cup competitions reaching the F.A Cup third round, giving Premier League Stoke City a run for their money. Yet Wilkin lost his job when a 2-0 lead was thrown away in the F.A Trophy final to Conference North underdogs North Ferriby United, the 3-2 defeat denied Wrexham any silverware and their second F.A Trophy in three years.

Did you know…
Wrexham ended their campaign with a nine game unbeaten run at the Racecourse Ground, the longest current sequence.

12th – Chester – 63 pointsCFC

When their campaign started Chester must have thought ‘here we go again’. Reprieved last term as Hereford United were demoted for their financial issues, the Blues lost the opening game 5-0 to eventual champions Barnet. By the time April arrived Steve Burr’s side were the most improved team from the Conference Premier class of 2013/2014. Fourth from bottom last season, Chester were twelve points and nine places better off this time. Add a run to the F.A Cup second round which included a 2-1 win at Southend United and a respectable 0-0 draw at Barnsley then Chester took advantage of a second bite of the Conference Premier cherry. The Blues finished just three points behind their rivals Wrexham and recorded their highest league position since forming as Chester. John Rooney topped scored with eleven whilst Sean McConville impressed with nine strikes and eleven assists. Their slow start always had the Cheshire club looking over their shoulder but stability approached in January. The Blues went on a run of taking thirteen out fifteen points giving them a cushion to hit a poor patch, one victory in nine. The final three fixtures boosted Chester’s final position as they took all nine points including an entertaining 5-3 triumph over Nuneaton Town on the final day.

Did you know…
Since reforming in 2010, Chester recorded their highest ever finish to retain their Conference Premier status.

13th – Torquay United – 61 pointstufc

Despite an opening day defeat Torquay United lived up to expectations over the first eleven games reaching second place. Chris Hargreaves ‘ side kept eight clean sheets in that time which contributed to the Gulls six straight victories. A ten match unbeaten run came to halt unexpectedly at bottom of the table AFC Telford United and from then on Torquay United were not quite the same. The Gulls lost five from six and only won five more up to the beginning of April. By which time it was too late leaving Torquay United in a disappointing sixteenth. Hargreaves felt the frustration and revealed the average wage of £375 per week for his first team against Kidderminster Harriers, sparking national headlines. Luke Young’s creativity impressed with his fourteen assists, the joint highest in the division with Eastleigh’s Jai Reason. However, the Gulls lacked a striker to earn them more points. The Devonshire club did finish fairly strong though winning three and drawing one of their final four fixtures conceding just once. Last time Torquay United fell from the Football League it took them two attempts to return, they will have to try once more next term after a disappointing campaign.

Did you know…
Torquay United conceded the most fouls this term by giving away 513 free-kicks, an average of 11.13 per game.

14th – Braintree Town – 59 pointsBTFC

It was the first time in six years that the Iron failed to improve on their league position. In all fairness it was always going to be challenging considering the last four campaigns set new record high finishes. The man instrumental to the success of Braintree Town will not be at the helm next term, Alan Devonshire turned down a new contract offer. The Essex club were consistent throughout 2014/2015 and drew the fewest number of games in the division. The first two months started well and Devonshire’s side looked set to continue where they left off in April 2014. By mid-September the Iron were in seventh but a sticky run of ten without a win, including six games without a goal left them in the bottom half. Winning ways returned more often and apart from two further blips Braintree Town finished where you would expect. The highlight of the season came in March when the part timers went to Plainmoor and convincingly beat Torquay United 5-1, their highest scoring away win since competing in the Conference Premier. Jordan Cox and Dan Sparkes shared the club’s golden boot with ten league goals.

Did you know…
The Iron suffered the most 1-0 defeats in this season’s Conference Premier losing by a single goal ten times, they also recorded the most 2-0 wins with seven.

15th – Lincoln City – 58 pointslcfc

A fourth season completed in the Conference Premier since relegation four years ago, the Imps have made little progress by finishing between fourteenth and seventeenth on each occasion. Lincoln City started the campaign with Gary Simpson in charge and a four game unbeaten run, winning three after drawing their opening game. Six defeats from seven and a whole host of draws slid Simpson’s side down to mid table. Three goals up against Forest Green Rovers on 1 November, the Imps conceded the lead in the final twenty minutes to draw 3-3. The board reviewed the progress made and decided it was time to place Simpson on ‘gardening leave’. Chris Moyses was named the new boss having been promoted from the Lincoln City Centre of Excellence. Moyses remained in charge until the end of the season and initially the appointment looked promising when a run of six wins in seven moved his side up the ladder. Form returned to pre Moyses level as the Imps earned just four more victories in the final nineteen fixtures. Defensively on their travels Lincoln City struggled conceding 43 times, the fourth highest in the division. Ben Tomlinson was one of the bright sparks of the campaign netting 14 times, whilst Jordan Burrow grabbed ten goals.

Did you know…
The Imps were left without their kit when their hotel in Southampton suffered a fire, the incident led to their match at Eastleigh being rescheduled.

16th – Kidderminster Harriers – 57 pointsKHFC

It feels like Kidderminster Harriers missed their chance to return to the Football League two years ago. Taking the title to the final day, the Harriers missed out finishing runners up. The longer the Worcestershire club have spent in the Conference Premier greater off field pressures have caused managers to come and go and now board members. Harriers started off on the front foot unbeaten in their opening seven and perhaps their expectations were raised too high. However, Gary Whild had his team contending for the playoffs even up until January, finishing that month in fifth spot. Two months prior it was announced Kidderminster Harriers were having financial difficulties and when the transfer window opened players moved on. The wage budget was cut and out went Michael Gash, Chey Dunkley, Nathan Blissett, Kyle Storer and Marvin Johnson. Fans favourite, Lee Hughes did return to Aggborough where he started his career over 20 years ago scoring a goal every other game. It was no coincidence that form dipped, Kidderminster Harriers went on to win just once in their final fifteen games picking up eight out of 45 points available. Chairman Kevin Rae quit the club along with two directors and at the end of the campaign Harriers only had five players contracted players for next term, the wage budget is to be cut again.

Did you know…
Kidderminster Harriers recorded their lowest league position since returning to the Conference Premier, the last time they finished lower in the football pyramid was in 1997/98.

17th – Altrincham – 56 pointsaltrincham

A three year absence from the Conference Premier made no difference to Alty who had enough in the tank to take their foot off the gas. In Conference Premier seasons gone by Altrincham have consistently been in the lower reaches of the division, so their final position this term went with historical form. Losing five from their opening six games made safety look a long way off, yet in that spell they took the scalp of playoff winners and runners up Bristol Rovers. By October, Altrincham started to fit in with the division and up until February showed why they were capable of staying up. Damian Reeves brought his Conference North goalscoring form with him by scoring an impressive 18 goals, only three others in the league scored more times than the 29 year old. A decent run of just two defeats from a dozen matches moved the Greater Manchester club towards the middle of the standings. With fifty points reached before the end of March, Alty added seven more against FC Halifax Town, Dartford and Southport. The final four games all ended defeat but by then the mission had already been accomplished. Manager, Lee Sinnott will be pleased with survival and the way his team altered to their new surroundings.

Did you know…
The Conference North playoff winners of last season used the fewest number of players this term, 21 players took part in their first campaign back in the Conference Premier.

18th – Aldershot Town – 53 pointsAldershot Town FC

This time the Shots started on a level playing field compared to last terms ten point deduction. Andy Scott began the campaign in charge but dreadful form in the depths of winter cost Scott his job. The Hampshire club couldn’t find any sort of consistency in the early part of the season, and the reliance on Brett Williams’ goals throughout the campaign continued. The Shots had an awful December and January and during that time lost nine out of ten. Club captain, Chris Barker took the hotseat and the 34 year old guided Aldershot Town to a more comfortable position. When the defender took charge, the Shots were just six points from the drop zone, an unbeaten run of six games helped him secure the role until the end of the season. Barker may well have done a decent enough job but it will be former Dundee and Alloa Athletic boss Barry Smith at the helm next term. Aldershot Town eventually surpassed last season’s points tally by two points, but would have been way off had it not been for the Shots starting 2013/14 with minus ten points. Off the field, Chairman Shahid Azeem seems to have stabilised the club but on the field the Shots failed to make any progress.

Did you know…
Brett Williams took 42 seconds to score after coming off the bench against Alfreton Town, the quickest goal scored by a substitute this season.

19th – Southport – 51 pointssfc

Two excellent runs kept Southport afloat for another campaign in the Conference Premier. This time the Sandgrounders had their fair share of managerial changes bringing instability to Haig Avenue. Even still, Southport waded through and stayed up despite constantly keeping an eye on those trailing closely behind. Martin Foyle was the man responsible for getting the Merseysiders off to a slow start and by October he was sacked following a 5-2 defeat at home to Woking. Three wins in their opening 14 matches left the club third from bottom and in stepped Gary Brabin. The new boss made an immediate impact setting a six game unbeaten run but his tenure was short lived. In January he chose to move to coach at Everton’s academy leaving Southport looking for a third manager of the campaign. Four defeats in a row soon followed making Paul Carden’s task tougher but he pulled his team together in an unbeaten March taking 14 points out of the 18 available. With six games remaining Southport were just three points shy of the 50 point mark but they had to wait to the final match to reach it, the Sandgrounders ended too close to the drop zone for comfort.

Did you know…
Southport collected the most yellow cards picking up 88, Luke George’s 15 cautions was the most by a single player.

20th – Welling United – 45 pointswelling

Two major decisions severely affected Welling United’s return the Conference Premier taking survival down the wire. The Wings participated at the top of non-league for the first time in 14 years and with promising manager Jamie Day in charge, the Conference South champions looked as if though they would ease to safety. All was going to plan until November which saw the loss of Harry Beautyman to Peterborough United then a fortnight later decision one, Day left. Conference South side Ebbsfleet United wanted to flex their financial muscles and picked Day to lead their spending spree, the 35 year old accepted. The second decision came days before Christmas when Welling United gambled on Jody Brown from Grays Athletic. Brown was unable to make a positive impact and one win in nine games made his position shortlived. The Kent club managed to lose nine in a row and so it was up to right back Loui Fazakerley to have a go in the dugout. With the Wings sliding down the ladder fast, Fazakerley managed back to back victories at home to Kidderminster Harriers and Wrexham. The penultimate fixture away to Alfreton Town proved crucial; avoiding defeat would give Welling United an advantage over their opponents going into the final day, a 2-2 draw turned out to be enough, both sides lost on the last day.

Did you know…
The Wings had 12 players red carded in their first Conference Premier campaign since 1999/2000, more than any other club this term. Midfielder, Jake Gallagher saw red three times.

21st – Alfreton Town – 45 pointsatfc

In the end the Reds went down with a whimper, a crushing 7-0 loss a title chasers Bristol Rovers returned Alfreton Town back to the Conference North after a four year spell in the Conference North. The Derbyshire side conceded the most goals shipping in 90 and a goal difference of minus 41 was twenty short of Welling United’s. Nicky Law was always playing catch up not helped by the fact the manager began the campaign with a six match ban. The Reds lost all six of those fixtures and one more on his return to the sideline for good measure. Good results against fellow strugglers Southport, AFC Telford United and Nuneaton Town lifted Alfreton Town out of the drop zone, but this was only temporary. Four more defeats in a row, this time without scoring and a further four successive defeats a month later left them in trouble. Surprisingly, the Reds managed to move out of the bottom four when form picked up in 2015. With only three defeats between January and March, including seven unbeaten gave the Derbyshire a fighting chance of survival. The final five matches were too tough against three of the playoff contenders, the Reds lost three before a damaging 2-2 draw with Welling United, ultimately leading to the final day catastrophe.

Did you know…
Alfreton Town failed to pick up a single point against all top 12 teams on their travels.

22nd – Dartford – 39 pointsdfc

Lightning struck twice for the Darts when they ended up third from bottom for a successive campaign. Last term Hereford United and Salisbury City helped the Darts out leading to the Kent club’s reprieve. Although this time the consequences are far smaller AFC Telford United’s points deduction moved Dartford up one place weeks after the campaign ended. On paper the squad looked in better shape, despite preparing for Conference South football in the summer, but on the field where it matters the Darts were five points shy of last season’s total. In almost a repeat to last term a terrible ten game period was the catalyst to a bottom four finish. In November and December 2013 Dartford went on a ten game losing streak, equally a club record. A year later from November to January the feat was almost repeated; a win at Wrexham in the middle of a poor ten game run prevented the record being equalled again. Against the bottom sides Dartford fared better than the campaign before but an increase in draws and almost as many defeats left the Kent side relegated. Lee Noble impressed and Elliot Bradbrook yet again top scored from midfield. The Darts failed to fire on all cylinders up front with only Nuneaton Town scoring fewer goals.

Did you know…
Dartford may have recorded the fewest attempts on goal with 318 shots, but Ryan Hayes goal after 25 seconds against Kidderminster Harriers was the quickest this season. The midfielder’s  goal was one of three corners he directly scored from this term.

23rd – AFC Telford United – 36 pointsAFCTUFC

In danger of becoming a ‘yo-yo’ club AFC Telford United returned to the Conference North after one season. The Bucks finished bottom two years ago before bouncing back at the first attempt, now the Shropshire club drop a division once more. Liam Watson led the Bucks to the Conference North title a year ago and was rewarded with the chance to keep AFC Telford United in the top non-league division. However, his start failed to take off with the first win coming after 12 games albeit an entertaining 4-3 victory versus Torquay United. The Bucks were rooted to the bottom for the majority of the campaign and by December Watson lost his position as manager with Steve Kittrick taking over. In the second half of the season AFC Telford United did manage to pick up almost twice as many points as the first half. High scoring draws against Nuneaton Town and Eastleigh and a 4-0 win away to Wrexham, showed life in attack. When the goals dried up more defeats followed and despite moving of the foot of the table Kittrick’s team fell through the relegation trapdoor. The current boss will be hoping for a clean slate next term, especially after he went public over players not wishing to play for the club.

Did you know…
AFC Telford United’s home record was the worst in the division; the Bucks also had the worst home defence conceding 44 times.

24th – Nuneaton Town – 36 pointsntfc

An unstable and poor season for Nuneaton Town, who finished the last two seasons in fifteenth and thirteenth. Boro struggled throughout, a stark contrast to last term when they were flirting with the Conference Premier playoffs. A poor start to the campaign cost Brian Read his job in September, the Scotsman was dismissed just seven games into the new season. Boro had only scored twice in that time during a 2-1 home win against newly promoted Altrincham. Former Ebbsfleet United boss Liam Daish took over but failed to make a major impact working with the least prolific attack and a leaky defence. Off the field, Chief Executive Officer and director Ian Neale resigned following his arrest in October which led to a suspended sentence. On the field, when Daish managed to plug the leaky defence Boro went on a seven game unbeaten run during February and March, in that time Nuneaton Town kept six consecutive clean sheets helping them move up to fourth from bottom. Any chances of survival ended when they lost five of their final six games, picking up a point. To make matters worse, three points were deducted for an ineligible player to ensure the wooden spoon for Boro.

Did you know…
The Boro scored just 13 times on their travels and failed to score in 56% of their away games, the worst away attack in the division.

Tony’s ten years – Where are they now?

Club director Tony Burman became caretaker manager, ten years on he remains in charge of the Darts seeing them through three promotions and a new home.

When Dartford were defeated away to Aveley, the desperate performance ended the Tommy Sampson era. Tony Burman steadied the clubs fortunes and in his first full season back as boss the foundations were be laid. Within three full campaigns Dartford returned home, Princes Park opened and the first league championship was won in 24 years, the boss celebrated with fans to a rendition of ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You’. A Kent Senior Cup, F.A Trophy semi-final and two more promotions later, the Darts climbed to the Conference Premier, the top of non league football.

In his first season back in charge Ryan Hayes made four appearances scoring twice, the midfielder now in his tenth year has been part of the journey alongside Burman. Hayes has now made over 400 appearances for the Darts, and continues to bring creativity to the wing. Elliot Bradbrook, Lee Noble, Lee Burns and Danny Harris have remained loyal to the cause whilst others have brought leadership and skill to the club, a host of players could be listed here but that’s another feature in the making.

Aside from Tony Burman himself, the other contstant factor over the last decade is that the Darts have continued to exist and develop by living within their means. To put the tough realities of non league into perspective here is a look at the other teams in Dartford’s league, when Tony Burman took charge in 2005.

Fisher Athletic London

Under the guidance of Wayne Burnett and the backing of a new chairman, the Fish became champions. Their short term gain failed to bring long term rewards as the club lasted just four more years. Burnett resigned in November 2005 and was replaced by former Tottenham Hotspur defender Justin Edinburgh, who led them to another promotion into the Conference South. The South East London club were on the up especially with permission granted for major redevelopment of the Surrey Docks Stadium. After a Conference South playoff defeat and a player exodus a winding up order for unpaid tax dissolved the club in May 2009. Reformed as Fisher FC, the Fish have been playing at Kent League level now the Southern Counties league.

Last meeting against the Darts

Southern League Division One Eastern
23 April 2005 – Fisher Athletic London 2 Dartford 1
13 November 2004 – Dartford 1 Fisher Athletic London 2

East Thurrock United

The Essex club finished their first season in the Southern League Eastern division as runners up. The following campaign the Rocks were playing in the Isthmian Premier League. Toying with the idea of renaming the club to Thurrock United, the Essex FA rejected their request. The 2007/08 season ended in dramatic circumstances, a one point deduction for fielding an ineligible player was the difference between safety and relegation, Boreham Wood stayed up by two goals. Champions of the Isthmian Division One North three years later saw the Essex club return to the Premier League where they remain. Three years ago East Thurrock United created club history by reaching the F.A Cup first round a feat they repeated this term.

Last meeting against the Darts

Southern League Division One Eastern
30 April 2005 – Dartford 0 East Thurrock United 3
28 August 2004 – East Thurrock United 2 Dartford  1

Maldon Town

Promoted to the Southern League East division the season before, Maldon Town followed up the success with a third place finish. Winners of the playoffs the Essex side moved up once more to the Isthmian Premier League. This time they were unable to continue their rise and were relegated after one campaign in the seventh tier. The ‘yo-yo’ affect was cut short in 2007 when Maldon Town were prevented from taking part in the playoffs due to ground grading issues. Just over five years ago, Tiptree United chairman Ed Garty took over the club. Tiptree withdrew from the Essex Senior league and joined forces with Maldon Town to become Maldon and Tiptree. The Jammers remain in the Isthmian League Division One North.

Last meeting against the Darts

Isthmian Division One North
22 December 2007 – Maldon Town 2 Dartford 2
18 August 2007 – Dartford 2 Maldon Town 2

Uxbridge

Leading Maldon Town in extra time of the playoff final, Uxbridge went on to lose on penalties. The Middlesex club changed their manager the following season when Tony Choules was appointed, he remains in charge today. Stability is a common theme for the Reds who have gone through just five managers in forty years. Under Tony Choules, Uxbridge reached another playoff final in 2008, this time falling short in a 1-0 defeat to Oxford City. After a switch to the Southern League Division One Central, four years later the Reds suffered more playoff heartbreak in the semi-finals. Still playing at the same level the Reds have participated in the Southern League for the last ten years.

Last meeting against the Darts

Southern League Division One Eastern
7 February 2006 – Dartford 1 Uxbridge 3
31 December 2005 – Uxbridge 2 Dartford 1

Wivenhoe Town

A fifth place finish was followed up with an appearance in the playoff final a year later. Wivenhoe Town were beaten 2-1 by Stamford to miss out on promotion. With the geographical challenges non-league brings the Dragons moved back to the Isthmian League, finishing bottom in 2008. After 22 years the Essex club returned to the Eastern Counties League where they continue to finish at the lower end of the table. Life at Broad Lane has not given supporters much to cheer, even when former West Ham United defender Julian Dicks was appointed boss. In their second season back in the Eastern Counties, Wivenhoe Town hit rock bottom with a paltry eight points. Fortunately they survived because two other teams withdrew from the division.

Last meeting against the Darts

Isthmian Division One North
15 December 2007 – Dartford 4 Wivenhoe Town 2
21 August 2007 – Wivenhoe Town 0 Dartford 3

Barking & East Ham United

At the time Tony Burman stood in to take charge before the Tommy Sampson era, Barking and East Ham United had only just begun a new adventure of their own. A merger in 2001 was incredibly short lived, within five years the club were dissolved. Based in Dagenham, the Essex club reached the playoff semi-final in 2006 losing to the winners Stamford. The club spent two seasons in the Southern League East before switching back to the Isthmian League, however prior the new campaign Barking and East Ham United folded. Out of the ashes Barking were formed and entered the Essex Senior League immediately, the Blues have enjoyed top half finishes over the last eight years and are amongst the front runners this term.

Last meeting against the Darts

Southern League Division One Eastern
25 February 2006 – Barking & East Ham United 2 Dartford 2
25 October 2005 – Dartford  2 Barking & East Ham United 2

Boreham Wood

The second highest ranked team from the class of 2005, the Wood have been a thorn in Tony Burman’s side over the last ten years. The Hertfordshire club have lost just twice in eleven games against Dartford during Burman’s third stint in charge.  Boreham Wood won the Southern League Eastern division the following season; the exciting end to the campaign saw the club take the title on goal difference. Four years in the Isthmian Premier League came to an end when they were promoted to the Conference South along with Dartford; the Wood beat Kingstonian in the playoff final.  Managed by Ian Allinson since 2008, the club may well overtake the Darts as they currently lead the Conference South table.

Last meeting against the Darts

Conference South
21 April 2012 – Dartford 2 Boreham Wood 2
8 October 2011 – Boreham Wood 3 Dartford 1

Barton Rovers

A consistent club continuing to play at the same level, Barton Rovers have been pootling along. The only major excitement over the last ten years has been the renaming of their division. From Southern League East to Midlands to Central, the Rovers regularly finish mid table but have flirted with relegation to add a little danger. The Bedfordshire club did manage to attract a trio of former Luton Town players in Tony Thorpe, Scott Oakes and Liam George but this didn’t make too much difference. Last season Barton Rovers came sixth ending three points behind playoff winners Slough Town, this term they are hanging around in the same region hoping to reach the playoffs and finally move out of level 8.

Last meeting against the Darts

Southern League Division One Eastern
30 April 2006 – Barton Rovers 0 Dartford 2
28 January 2006 – Dartford 2 Barton Rovers 0

Waltham Forest

Formerly known as Leyton Pennant the club changed its name under chairman Harry Ramis. Renamed Waltham Forest and with the chairman’s brother Hakan Heyrettin in charge, the Stags finished in the top ten. Heyrettin and his brother left the following season and the Essex club were left on the brink financially. Two more changes in the chairman’s seat plus ground difficulties added to a chaotic period up to 2008. The Stags became Illford’s tenants and lower league finishes in the Isthmian Division One North were now the norm. Four years ago, Waltham Forest survived with a reprieve but last term the club were relegated to the Essex Senior League, with their lowest points tally and 118 conceded goals.

Last meeting against the Darts

Isthmian Division One North
1 March 2008 – Dartford 1 Waltham Forest 0
20 November 2007 – Waltham Forest 2 Dartford 4

Leighton Town

Isthmian Division Two champions the year before with a sound 91 points and an impressive 111 goals, Leighton Town have been in the Southern League’s second tier ever since. The Reds mainly ended each campaign in mid table with their best ever finish coming four years ago, when they secured seventh spot. Last season has been extremely difficult for the Bedfordshire club, due to mounting debts the club decided to not pay their players to become the only amateur side in the Southern League Division One Central. Despite the decision the Reds improved on the previous campaign which saw them second from bottom and conceding 121 goals. This term Leighton Town are hovering around the same region of the league standings.

Last meeting against the Darts

Southern League Division One Eastern
19 March 2005 – Leighton Town 1 Dartford 1
18 December 2004 – Dartford 0 Leighton Town 0

Chatham Town

The most notable and significant link between Chatham Town and the Darts is Brendon Cass. The striker joined Dartford in 2005 and went on to score 83 times. In the five years Cass played under Burman, the Chats continued at the same level finishing as high as tenth and consistently in mid table. Having moved between the Isthmian Division South and North, the Kent club employed former Dartford title winning captain Alex O’Brien as manager in 2010. O’Brien only lasted a season, and as recent as last season the Chats enjoyed their best F.A Cup run in eighty years. Reaching the F.A Cup fourth qualifying round, the club came close to a first round tie against Mansfield Town.

Last meeting against the Darts

Isthmian Division One South
9 April 2007 – Dartford 1 Chatham Town 3
26 December 2006 – Chatham Town 2 Dartford 3

Wingate & Finchley

On 26 April 2008, the Blues visited Princes Park to face the newly crowned Isthmian Division One North champions Dartford. Three years later the London based side tasted promotion themselves but not before heartbreak the season before. Back to back third places gave Wingate and Finchley two attempts at the playoffs, firstly losing to Enfield Town then winning the final a year later, after extra time against Brentwood Town. Promotion to the Isthmian Premier League was the icing on the cake, as the club also triumphed in the Isthmian League Cup and London Senior Cup. Last season ended dramatically, a 5-0 final day win saw the Blues relegated on goal difference only to be reprieved when Worksop Town resigned from the Northern League.

Last meeting against the Darts

Isthmian Division One North
26 April 2008 – Dartford 1 Wingate & Finchley 0
3 November 2007 – Wingate & Finchley 0 Dartford 2

Arlesey Town

The club had risen through the lower levels of non-league and after nine years moving sideways between the Southern and Isthmian leagues, the Blues became champions of the Southern League Central Division four years ago. Despite having a nine point deduction Arlesey Town still managed to rack up 108 goals and win the title by a point. In the following campaign the Bedfordshire club reached the F.A Cup first round for the first time losing to Salisbury City. They repeated the feat the following season and this time Coventry City stood in the way. Another year on, Arlesey Town did enjoy cup success lifting the Southern League Cup. This term, the Blues are in the lower regions of the Southern Premier League.

Last meeting against the Darts

Isthmian Division One North
19 February 2008 – Arlesey Town 0 Dartford  4
26 January 2008 – Dartford  1 Arlesey Town 0

Beaconsfield SYCOB

Over the next three seasons Beaconsfield SYCOB played in three different divisions without being promoted or relegated.  Sticking in the Southern League, the Rams moved from East to West to South West before relegation arrived in 2007. Beaconsfield SYCOB bounced straight back winning the Spartan South Midlands Premier League by nine points. The following season saw the club reach fourth, their highest ever finish. Twelve months later, the Buckinghamshire side fell to bottom of the pile but were spared a return to the county leagues with a reprieve. Fortunes turned quickly and in the following campaign the Rams finished as playoff runners up losing out to Bedworth United. The club remain in the Southern League Division One Central.

Last meeting against the Darts

Southern League Division One Eastern
15 January 2005 – Beaconsfield SYCOB 2 Dartford 1
21 August 2004 – Dartford 0 Beaconsfield SYCOB 0

Harlow Town

The Hawks returned to the Isthmian League the following season finishing runners up in Division One North. A penalty shootout win in the playoff final against AFC Sudbury secured Harlow Town’s place in the Isthmian Premier League. Joined by Dartford a year later, the Essex side were relegated which included a three point deduction.  The club continued to slide and ended bottom of the Isthmian Division One North with a further ten points docked for financial problems. New owners revived the club temporarily but two years later another ten point deduction for an administration error led to another reprieve.  Last season Harlow Town look back on track with a fourth place finish, an all-weather pitch and a playoff final appearance.

Last meeting against the Darts

Isthmian Premier League
24 March 2009 – Dartford 1 Harlow Town 1
25 August 2008 – Harlow Town 1 Dartford 2

F.A Trophy First Qualifying Round
18 October 2008 – Dartford 2 Harlow Town 1

Aveley

Restructuring of the non-league pyramid meant that Aveley were another team to move across to the Isthmian Division One North the following campaign. It wasn’t until Rod Stringer was appointed manager that the club started to progress. Six years ago, the final day of the football calendar was full of tension when the top two met. Aveley had to beat free scoring East Thurrock United away from home, Aveley’s 3-2 win saw two former Darts experience different emotions, Joao Carlos triumphed but Max Cornhill missed a crucial penalty. Stringer led the club to third in the Isthmian Premier earning a move to Braintree Town, two years later the Millers returned to the Isthmian Division One North.

Last meeting against the Darts

Isthmian Premier League
17 April 2010 – Dartford 2 Aveley 2
24 October 2009 – Aveley 1 Dartford 4

Isthmian League Cup Third Round
15 December 2009 – Dartford 4 Aveley 5

Berkhamsted Town

Financial troubles hit the club at the time Tony Burman took charge Dartford ten years ago. Berkhamsted Town had seven points deducted and would have finished above Beaconsfield SYCOB had it not been for the off field problems. The Lilywhites would only last another three full seasons, on each occasion the Hertfordshire side ended in the bottom two, twice getting a reprieve. Berkhamsted Town were finally relegated in 2008 and so they moved downwards to the Spartan South Midland League, with just 10 points and 128 conceded goals. Attempts to resolve its debts were unsuccessful and the club eventually bit the dust when they were wound up in 2009 with its record expunged.

Last meeting against the Darts

Southern League Division One Eastern
18 February 2006 – Berkhamsted Town3 Dartford 1
1 October 2005 – Dartford 1 Berkhamsted Town 1

Sittingbourne

The Brickies have been consistent over the last decade and remain in the Isthmian Division One South, which they joined nine years ago. Sittingbourne’s main success came in the Kent Senior Cup when they won the honour for the first time in 52 years by beating Folkestone Invicta. The Kent side under Richard Brady had former Dartford defender Jamie Coyle as his assistant, the pair eventually left Bourne Park for Leatherhead. The Brickies have had less stability in relation to where they are playing home matches. After leaving Central Park for Bourne Park in 2002, the club upped sticks once more for financial reasons to Woodstock Park, to share with Southern Counties East side Woodstock Sports.

Last meeting against the Darts

F.A Trophy First Qualifying Round
17 October 2009 – Sittingbourne 0 Dartford 1

F.A  Cup First Qualifying Round
18 September 2007 – Sittingbourne 1 Dartford 5 (replay)
15 September 2007 – Dartford 1 Sittingbourne 1

Great Wakering Rovers

The reorganisation of the league system meant Rovers moved from the Southern League Division One East to the Isthmian Division One North. Mid to lower league placing’s become the norm for the Essex club peaking at ninth five years ago. Since then Great Wakering Rovers gradually slid down the pecking order and within two years were relegated back to the Essex Senior League, which they left only 13 years earlier. Only a point separated the bottom three with Rovers finishing in last place. Rovers top scored in the first campaign back but couldn’t amass enough points, however the following season they won the championship by a point on the final day, to return to the Isthmian Division One North.

Last meeting against the Darts

Isthmian Division One North
19 January 2008 – Great Wakering Rovers 0 Dartford 2
16 October 2007 – Dartford 3 Great Wakering Rovers 0

Erith & Belvedere

Local rivals Erith and Belvedere were relegated to the Kent League ending a 23 year stay in the Southern League.  Often top ten finishers, the Deres appointed former Dartford striker Micky Collins in 2010 as manager. Collins made steady progress and three years ago almost delivered the title losing out on goal difference to Herne Bay, a three point deduction proved costly. Erith and Belvedere went to the final day the following season and this time lifted the title in style. The Deres needed to beat VCD Athletic’s result by five goals, they managed a 7-1 win to secure a league and cup double. Last term the club returned to the Kent League, where this season they are amongst the front runners.

Last meeting against the Darts

Southern League Division One Eastern
5 February 2005 – Erith & Belvedere 1 Dartford 1
23 October 2004 – Dartford 1 Erith & Belvedere 1

Tilbury

The basement boys of 2005 wasted no time in returning when they were promoted from the Essex Senior League after one season. Tilbury finished third which was enough to earn promotion to the Isthmian Division One North. The Dockers have remained there ever since despite the odd scare of returning to county level. In Dartford’s title winning season, Tilbury ended third from bottom but they moved in the right direction thereafter. The Dockers did manage an Isthmian League Cup triumph in 2009 beating Harrow Borough in the final. Three years later the Essex club reached the playoffs with a third place finish but an extra time semi-final loss to Needham Market denied the club any glory.

Last meeting against the Darts

Isthmian Division One North
12 April 2008 – Dartford 5 Tilbury 0
30 October 2007 – Tilbury 1 Dartford 2

Season Review 2013/2014

1st – Luton Town – 101 pts

ltfc champs

We’re Going Up: Luton Town return to the Football League

At the fifth attempt and after four managers failing, the Hatters are back in the Football League. Recruiting John Still was a master-stroke, the 64 year old showed patience and experience  to glide Luton Town to the title. With the largest support onside, Kenilworth Road’s pressure filled atmosphere from previous seasons was lifted. A winning margin of 19 points and a goal difference of +67 are Conference records, their unbeaten run of 27 matches a club record as well as their 23 clean sheets. Goalscoring was never a problem, the club fell one shy of equalling another landmark. The second month of 2014 saw the Hatters pull away at the top. February’s run included a 7-0 victory over Hereford United followed by scoring five against Nuneaton Town and Wrexham, results which signalled their intent. A century of points and 102 goals, striker Andre Gray grabbed 30 of those to take the golden boot. Still strengthened his personnel throughout the campaign with notable contributions from loanee Paul Benson, who netted 17 goals and midfielder Pelly Ruddock. Supporters will now feel justice has been done on the pitch, after the way the club suffered administration and points deductions leading to the Hertfordshire club’s demise. After seven painful years sliding down the football pyramid, Luton Town have begun their climb back up.

Did you know…Luton Town’s title party in their penultimate game attracted a crowd of 10044, the highest in the Conference Premier since Oxford United’s 10298 versus Northwich Victoria in 2009.

F.A Cup: First Round
F.A Trophy: Third Round
Top Scorer: Andre Gray (30)
Average Attendance: 7387
Discipline: 47 Yellow Cards / 2 Red Cards

2nd – Cambridge United – 82 pts

cufc fat

Glory: The U’s first of a double Wembley win

Deservedly promoted, the pace setters at the beginning of the campaign looked to have the makings of a championship winning team. Opening with a 5-1 win against newboys FC Halifax Town, the club set off on a 16 game unbeaten run, the second best start to a Conference Premier season. Not many could breach the U’s defence, who along with champions Luton Town conceded the fewest goals. Manager, Richard Money had strikers to his disposal but couldn’t find that 20 goal a season man. Kwesi Appiah looked likely scoring ten in 14 league appearances but he was only a loan signing and was recalled, a longer spell may have provided what the U’s needed. A tight unit at the back and a strong midfield kept his side in the title race until the end of  February. Money made no secret of the fact that the successful F.A Trophy campaign became a distraction. The outspoken boss prioritised promotion and even wanted to be done with F.A Trophy replays. Once Cambridge United reached Wembley then failure wasn’t an option, a 4-0 win over Conference South side Gosport Borough handed the U’s the trophy. The playoff spot was secured with a 7-2 victory at Hyde, the biggest away win in this season’s league. With a trophy in the cabinet and the campaign extended, the U’s took their foot off the gas losing their last four matches without scoring. Money and company returned to the venue where they lifted silverware by making the playoff final.  It was third time lucky for Cambridge United who became the first team to reach Wembley three times via the Conference Premier playoff, the U’s lost both in 2008 and 2009. Former Gateshead striker Ryan Donaldson scored what turned out to be the winner in a 2-1 triumph to take the U’s back into the Football League.

Did you know…Cambridge United were the only unbeaten Conference Premier team against champions Luton Town, the run also includes two F.A Trophy ties. The U’s also had the best disciplinary record picking up just 29 yellow cards and one red in the 46 league games.

F.A Cup: Second Round
F.A Trophy: Winners
Top Scorer: Luke Berry (12)
Average Attendance: 3085
Discipline: 29 Yellow Cards / 1 Red Card

3rd – Gateshead – 79 pts

ghghg

Close: The Heed celebrate reaching Wembley but lose out

When Gateshead, in one of its former guises exited the Football League 54 years ago the road heading back has been long and windy. Although the club is not there yet, it looked a long way off in August when the Heed lost their first four matches. A draw and a win was not enough for Anth Smith to persuade him to stay as he offered Chairman, Graham Wood his resignation. The news leaked on social media leaving Smith’s position untenable, not a ideal start to the campaign. Along came Gary Mills, successful in taking York City to playoff and F.A Trophy glory in 2012. Mills made the Heed a tough team to beat and with the passing style built up over the last few campaigns guided his team upwards. Six wins from seven in late September and to the end of October stealthily moved the Heed into the top half. By mid January the Tynesiders reached fourth and even after a small blip the following month wasn’t enough to put Gateshead off. Ending this term on 12 matches unbeaten secured the clubs highest ever non league finish. The form team often triumphs in the playoffs and Gateshead defeated Grimsby Town 4-2 on aggregate, thanks to two late goals. Reaching Wembley for the first time in their history the Heed faced third placed Cambridge United who ended with the worst form out of the playoff contenders. The form book was torn up when Gateshead missed out on a long awaited return to the Football League.

Did you know…Compared to last season’s final standings, Gateshead are the biggest movers up the table climbing 14 positions. In 2012/13 the club finished 17th.

F.A Cup: First Round
F.A Trophy: Second Round
Top Scorer: James Marwood (10)
Average Attendance: 885
Discipline: 59 Yellow Cards / 3 Red Cards

4th – Grimsby Town – 78 pts

Denied: More semi-final disappointment

Denied: Mariners suffer more semi-final disappointment

Always within a shout for promotion the Mariners matched last year’s placing with five fewer points. The backbone of the side remained from last campaign but the managerial team changed. In September, Rob Scott was suspended and left Paul Hurst in sole charge of the club, at this point Grimsby Town’s indifferent start left them in eighth. Form was found at the end of September after beating Dartford 5-2, Hurst’s team tasted just two defeats in 12 leaving them in a strong position. The nearly men of last season, F.A Trophy runners up followed by a playoff semi-final loss, almost slipped back out of contention and despite a fixture backlog Grimsby Town kept in touch. An incredible 16 league matches in the final two months, playing mostly Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday’s the Mariners had a strong end to the season. Ross Hannah top scored for the Lincolnshire club and Craig Disley chipped in from midfield. Once again, Grimsby Town came so close losing two more semi-finals. A two legged defeat against eventual winners Cambridge United in the F.A Trophy was followed by more playoff heartbreak, this time versus Gateshead. No doubt that the Mariners will be amongst the favourites next time round but competition in the Conference Premier is only getting tougher.

Did you know…Out of the 11 away victories Grimsby Town recorded they only conceded three times. On the road, the Mariners boasted the second best record and defence.

F.A Cup: Third Round
F.A Trophy: Semi Final
Top Scorer: Ross Hannah (13)
Average Attendance: 3568
Discipline: 81 Yellow Cards / 5 Red Cards

5th – FC Halifax Town – 77 pts

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Revelation: Gregory shines for the Shaymen

An astounding home record and a superb end to the campaign earned 2013’s Conference North playoff winners another crack at the end of season lottery. Only this time the jackpot was bigger with a place in the Football League. Since the dissolution of Halifax Town, the new FC Halifax Town continued their rise towards where they feel they belong. Opening their campaign in the worst possible fashion, with a 5-1 away loss at Cambridge United and ending the match with nine men, the Shaymen grew in stature throughout the season. Almost unbeatable in the league at the Shay, the Yorkshire club chalked up 16 wins, six draws and a defeat at home. Outscoring all but the champions with the help of 29 strikes by the excellent Lee Gregory, FC Halifax Town deserved a shot at the playoffs. A run of nine wins from ten in March up to mid April, in which they dropped two points and kept an astonishing seven clean sheets in a row secured fifth spot. The playoffs were a step too far, after an obligatory win at the Shay their one goal lead wasn’t enough. Cambridge United turned the tie around in the second leg winning 2-1 on aggregate. However, defeat shouldn’t take anything away from what the Shaymen achieved in 2013/14. If Neil Aspin can keep his squad together then it surely won’t be long until FC Halifax Town for another shot at the big time.

Did you know…Gregory may have rattled in the goals but it wasn’t a one man team in front of the opposition’s net. The Shaymen had 22 different goalscorers, the most by any club this term.

F.A Cup: First Round
F.A Trophy: First Round
Top Scorer: Lee Gregory (29)
Average Attendance: 1597
Discipline: 72 Yellow Cards / 8 Red Cards

6th – Braintree Town – 74 pts

Boss: Alan Devonshire yet again gets the most out of his team

Leadership: Devonshire takes part timers to the top six

Goal difference denied Braintree Town with the tag of best part time team in the country last season. This time the Irons convincingly took the honours but strangely ended up disappointed. With a fixture backlog as horrendous as Grimsby Town’s, Alan Devonshire’s group of semi-professionals dug deep to the very end to try and gatecrash the playoffs. Unable to overturn FC Halifax Town’s three point cushion on the final day of the season, the Essex club can be extremely proud of what they achieved. Once more, Devonshire has guided his team to their highest ever league position for the fourth year in a row, Braintree Town continue to defy the odds. With a small budget and an average attendance of just under 1000, Devonshire kept the majority of last season’s squad and that familiarity has been beneficial for the Iron. The Essex club surprisingly kept up with top five pace all campaign. The only reason Braintree Town dropped to 17th is because they played just three league matches throughout the whole of January and February. All of which makes the efforts of the part time squad in the closing stages of the season even more wonderful. Ten games in March and a further nine in April should have tired the Iron out, they kept pushing and against the odds picked up a win at Luton Town to spoil a promotion party. Devonshire certainly got the best out of a small squad and once again the Conference Premier sat up and took notice of Braintree Town’s achievement.

Did you know…Braintree Town have improved their final league position for the last five campaigns. The Iron in the Conference South ended 14th, 7th and 1st. Whilst in the Conference Premier they have finished 12th, 9th and 6th.

F.A Cup: First Round
F.A Trophy: Second Round
Top Scorer: Daniel Holman (13)
Average Attendance: 994
Discipline: 66 Yellow Cards / 4 Red Cards

7th – Kidderminster Harriers – 72 pts

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Success: Joe Lolley and a Harriers cup run

Runners up a year ago Harriers set their sights high this term. Unfortunately, they couldn’t repeat the incredible run of 25 wins from the last 29 games in 2012/13. A decent home record at Aggborough was counteracted by below average away form, including heavy defeats against the top two (6-0 v Luton Town and 5-1 v Cambridge United). In fact it was the thrashing at Kenilworth Road which effectively ended Steve Burr’s reign when chairman Mark Serrell sacked him to help achieve thier “aim of promotion to the Football League”. Harriers had drawn with League One Peterborough United in the F.A Cup before the announcement. The F.A Cup itself was a welcome distraction with the club reaching the fourth round. Sutton United and Newport County AFC were soundly beaten, Peterborough United defeated in a replay and Premier League Sunderland pushed to the end. A 1-0 defeat at the Stadium of Light brought the cup curtains down but the run put Joe Lolley (nine league goals) in the shop window, snapped up by championship side Huddersfield Town. Immediately after Burr came former Coventry City boss Andy Thorn who lasted two months before the axe fell on him. In February, Mark Serrell was the next to go after online criticism overstepped the mark, the chairman stepped down with Kidderminster Harriers in tenth. Stability was needed and so the club promoted from within. New chairman Ken Rae appointed Gary Whild who was Burr’s second hand man, Whild earned the right to become manager in March. With more to talk about off the field than on, the Worcestershire club will want to put this campaign behind them.

Did you know…The Harriers matched last seasons home record with 15 wins, four draws and four defeats, they did score four less goals but conceded the same.

F.A Cup: Fourth Round
F.A Trophy: First Round
Top Scorer: Michael Gash (11)
Average Attendance: 2035
Discipline: 74 Yellow Cards / 4 Red Cards

8th – Barnet – 70 pts

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The Hive: First season at a new home for the Bees

Season number one at the newly built Hive started with a Champions League winner as coach, a 3-0 home win and an opening month of promise. Edgar Davids begun life in the Conference Premier with victory against Chester and ended with defeat versus the same side. At the end of August the Bees were in second spot, hope in North London of a return to the Football League at the first attempt was growing. One win in September put a damper on those hopes and failure to turn a point into three cost the Bees. Barnet lacked goals for the position they finished only grinding out wins and draws. A three month spell of one defeat in 12 lifted the Hertfordshire side to the playoffs. A peak was always followed by a trough and a frustrated Davids ended his coaching role by mutual consent. Barnet were capable of putting a run of victories together, five at the most but they could also suffer consecutive defeats, four in March. A familiar face returned, Martin Allen took charge of the club for a fourth time in his managerial career and his appointment may see a different Barnet next term.

Did you know…Barnet recorded the most wins by a single goal (14) including nine 1-0 wins, the most in the league alongside Cambridge United.

F.A Cup: First Round
F.A Trophy: Second Round
Top Scorer: Jake Hyde (11)
Average Attendance: 1706
Discipline: 68 Yellow Cards / 8 Red Cards

9th – Woking – 68 pts

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Goalscorer: Woking’s Scott Rendell top scored for the Cards

The Cards can be content with their second season back in the Conference Premier. An improvement of six points and three places on 2012/13 consolidated Woking’s status. It wasn’t all plain sailing for manager Garry Hill who had to tweak his squad to get he desired results. Only three wins in the opening 17 games left the Surrey club in the relegation zone. Averaging a goal a game, Hill felt more was required from his attack so in came Jack Marriott on loan from Ipswich Town. An immediate impact was made when he scored a brace on his debut in a 3-0 win against Dartford. The 19 year old netted 12 in 22 games over two spells with the Cards. The coup of former Luton Town striker Scott Rendell in January added more verve up front, the experienced 27 year old added 17 goals to the for column. When the two played together they combined to score 24 goals in 21 matches. Woking steadily lifted themselves to ninth by close of play, which included a run of six straight victories in March through to the first week of April. Away from the Kingfield Stadium Woking weren’t afraid to attack, recording the second highest amount of away goals only bettered by champions Luton Town. Behind the strike force summer signing Josh Payne impressed earning Supporters and Players’ Player of the Year awards, the England C international featured in 40 matches. Woking will be delighted with a top ten finish, a stable squad and a boss who will approach his fourth full campaign in charge at Kingsfield Stadium.

Did you know…Woking conceded just four goals in the fifteen minutes leading up to half time, the fewest by any team this season.

F.A Cup: Fourth Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy: Second Round
Top Scorer: Scott Rendell (17)
Average Attendance: 1601
Discipline: 64 Yellow Cards / 6 Red Cards

10th – Forest Green Rovers – 67 pts

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Record: Klukowski adds to his Rovers tally

Always amongst the favourites come the end of the summer break, their 8-0 opening day win backed up their tag. Starting the season with the attacking force of Wrexham’s top scorer in 2012/13 Danny Wright, Matty Taylor, James Norwood and Matthew Barnes-Homer, who top scored for Macclesfield Town the previous season, Rovers on paper looked strong. Dave Hockaday had assembled a squad he felt could mount a challenge knowing this could possibly be his last chance, and it was. Three months into the campaign Hockaday left by mutual consent. Forest Green Rovers were sitting in a disappointing 16th after a run of three points from 24. What Hockaday failed to realise is goals win games but not when you’re conceding at the wrong end. Former assistant Gary Seward was placed in charge but he too left after just a game. Seward was hoping to get the job but when he learned he wouldn’t, the 52 year old departed. So on to Adrian Pennock, who left Welling United in 2007 for a coaching role at Stoke City. Pennock improved performances ever so slightly but the Gloucestershire club continued to blow hot and cold throughout the campaign. When Barnes-Homer left in January the experienced Lee Hughes arrived to keep an attacking force flowing. In midfield the scoring exploits of Yan Klukowski added a dozen more to the for column, the club finished third highest scorers. Klukowski’s own feats broke a club record of 48 Conference Premier goals. Rovers had a decent record on their own patch but failed to record an away win against any team above them in the table. If their defence had been tighter on their travels then certainly Forest Green Rovers would have finished further up the standings. Instead they had to settle for a third consecutive tenth place finish.

Did you know…Outside of the top six Forest Green Rovers had the biggest goal difference of +14. When they finished tenth last season they had the biggest goal difference outside of the top five with +14.

F.A Cup: Fourth Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy: Second Round
Top Scorer: James Norwood (19)
Average Attendance: 1195
Discipline: 61 Yellow Cards / 10 Red Cards

11th – Alfreton Town- 67 pts

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Akinde: Celebrates one of his 17 league goals this term

Another improvement on the previous year left Alfreton Town feeling dizzy from such great heights. The Reds best achievement was entering unknown territory by flirting with the idea of reaching the playoffs. When they beat Barnet at home in September and occupied third spot pundits thought it was a one off, and it was for another three months. The Derbyshire club dropped out of the top five until a 2-1 home win versus Southport in their last game of 2013, a win which took them back to third place. What was most surprising was the Reds held their position for the next 13 out of 14 matchdays. By the end of March a serious challenge for the playoffs had reached its pinnacle, Alfreton Town were being taken seriously. The season was a month too long, for a club on a low budget with average crowds of 800 it was always difficult to compete the full distance. In the final months the Reds faded picking up just two points, the Derbyshire side ended the campaign without a win in their final eight fixtures. When chairman Wayne Bradley said in the summer that manager Nicky Law was “possibly worth four places in the league table” he was right. Deducted three points for an illegible player, fielded against Kidderminster Harriers in December, Alfreton Town would have finished ninth, an improvement of four places on the previous campaign. Law kept some key players from last season’s squad like Adam Clayton and added John Akinde, experienced John McGrath and later Shaun Harrad. Akinde top scored with 17 whilst Harrad chipped in with seven in 13 starts. A fantastic season for Alfreton Town, all this for a team that reverted back to part time football in the summer.

Did you know…At home Alfreton Town only lost one game against the teams that finished above them. The Reds picked up more points per game than any other club against teams in the top half of the Conference Premier.

F.A Cup: First Round
F.A Trophy: First Round
Top Scorer: John Akinde (17)
Average Attendance: 805
Discipline: 64 Yellow Cards / 2 Red Cards

12th – Salisbury City – 67 pts

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The Young One: Harris applauds his sides efforts

Four years on and Salisbury City have gone full circle, in 2010 the Wiltshire club were demoted having finished in twelfth. Two playoff victories in three seasons saw the Whites back in the Conference Premier finishing back in twelfth again. Their return started with the summer news that Darrell Clarke vacated the manager role for an assistant position at Bristol Rovers. Salisbury City appointed the youngest full time manager Mikey Harris, 28 years old. Harris did an excellent job for the Whites but had to learn quickly when his side lost their opening three games. Learn they did, the Whites came back with an eight match unbeaten run where they dropped just four points. The rest of the campaign went by inconsistently and only twice more Salisbury City won consecutive matches but never more than two, likewise the same could be said about draws and defeats. Dan Fitchett contributed with 13 league goals and earned an England C call up and last season’s top scorer James White found the net 11 times. Elliott Frear impressed along with team mate Angus MacDonald who was also chosen to wear the Three Lions shirt in a C international. Towards the end of the campaign former Dart, Charlie Sheringham returned to Conference Premier football scoring five in seven appearances. Off the field Salisbury City continue to struggle reaching the crowds they desire, averaging just over a 1000 the Whites initiative to attract double the amount of people walking through the turnstiles haven’t paid off. In December 2013, the club confirmed they had exited administration after five years of financial trouble. With crowds as low as they are, the club announced in early April that they still operate at a loss and are struggling to sustain football at Conference Premier level. Off the field Salisbury City could also be heading in a full circle..

Did you know…Salisbury City attempted the fewest shots at goal this season. The Whites had 357 efforts with 46% hitting the target and 58 resulting in goals.

F.A Cup: Second Round
F.A Trophy: First Round
Top Scorer: Dan Fitchett (13)
Average Attendance: 1003
Discipline: 64 Yellow Cards / 5 Red Cards

13th – Nuneaton Town – 66 pts

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Hat Trick: Moult ended with a flourish

The season was just too long for Nuneaton Town, who were playoff contenders up until the end of March. Incredibly, Boro topped the table after nine games winning seven and going unbeaten. The strike partnership of Andy Brown and Louis Moult flourished in the first ten games of the campaign with the couple scoring 13 of the team’s 17 goals. Manager Kevin Wilkin managed to take the tail end of last season’s form into 2013/14.  The next nine fixtures went by without victory but Boro managed to string four wins in a row to get out of the barren spell. By the end of the year Nuneaton Town were in a very respectable seventh. It was in 2014 when Boro’s inconsistencies took over by showing form more akin to where they finished the campaign. Wilkin who had been in charge since 2006, won three promotions via the playoffs, taking Boro from the Southern League Division One Midlands up to the Conference Premier.  In March, the 46 year old was tempted by Wrexham and switched allegiances. After the change in manager Nuneaton Town ended the campaign on a slump, winning one from their last nine fixtures. It will be down to former Ayr United boss Brian Reid to lead the club next term, the Scotsman managed the final three games picking up a win, loss and draw. What Boro did do well was beat the teams below them, at Liberty Way they defeated the bottom ten and away from home lost just twice. The Warwickshire club will have good memories of 2013/14 with their time in the early limelight. Performances from certain players were noted such as Gareth Dean, James Belshaw, James Armson and Moult who all represented the England C squad this term.

Did you know…Boro recorded their best unbeaten start (9 games) to any of their previous Conference Premier season’s including under their former guise as Nuneaton Borough.

F.A Cup: Fourth Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy: Second Round
Top Scorer: Louis Moult (17)
Average Attendance: 1209
Discipline: 45 Yellow Cards / 1 Red Card

14th – Lincoln City – 65 pts

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Good Start: Tomlinson hits 18 goals in début campaign

Small progress has been made by the Imps since sliding into the Conference Premier league in 2011. The Imps have gained three positions since their return as they continue to struggle to find the right balance. At Sincil Bank they had the fourth best defence but scored only 30. Whereas the same number of goals scored away from home registered the fourth best attack. A sound start to the campaign featured four wins, a draw and a defeat leaving Lincoln City in fourth spot. An average September threatened to derail Gary Simpson’s team and eventually the coming months did. October to early January was bleak, the club picked up just eight points and recorded one victory in 14 attempts. Relegation form had hit the club with Simpson cautiously looking over his shoulder. However, the manager’s experience and his side finding the net with more frequency managed to settle nerves around Sincil Bank. The final stretch from February to the end of the season saw a return to earlier form. If the campaign started on 1 February the Imps would have finished in the final playoff spot. Ben Tomlinson who was signed in the summer had a decent début season scoring 18 league goals. In defence Tom Miller impressed winning the club’s Player of the Season and being put on England C standby.

Did you know…The Imps have only finished higher in the Conference Premier on one occasion when they ended the 1987-88 campaign as champions

F.A Cup: First Round
F.A Trophy: Third Round
Top Scorer: Ben Tomlinson (18)
Average Attendance: 2354
Discipline: 76 Yellow Cards / 7 Red Cards

15th – Macclesfield Town – 61 pts

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Prolific: Jennings was a major hit for the Silkmen

Similar to last season, a couple of goalscorers and a F.A Cup run were the highlights of the Silkmen’s campaign. In 2012/13 the club reached the F.A Cup fourth round losing to the eventual winners. This time they reached the third round going out to Championship side Sheffield Wednesday, after a replay. A year ago, Matthew Barnes-Homer and Wade Fairhurst scored 31 between them, both players left in the summer.  This season Scott Boden top scored with 18 goals and loanee Connor Jennings netted an incredible 14 in 16 appearances, the pair notching more than half the Silkmen’s goalscoring total. It was no coincidence that Macclesfield Town’s best part of the campaign coincided with Jennings breaking into the first eleven. Before the campaign even started the Cheshire club faced difficulties off the pitch announcing they needed £50,000 to keep going, after ending last term half a million pounds in debt. Desperate for cash the Silkmen toyed with the idea of selling a chance to play hoping to raise £20,000, the offer was later withdrawn. When John Askey opened his first full season in charge with no wins in the first nine fixtures, supporters became concerned. Cue the first of Jennings’ goals and a climb up the ladder, until the 22 year old striker left at the end of February. Although safe, March and April just passed the club by. Knowing Conference Premier football was guaranteed the Cheshire side slipped back into their lowest league finish for 21 years.

Did you know…John Askey used just 23 players in this season’s Conference Premier campaign, the least amount of players used by any team. It’s not surprising the Silkmen only had ten different goalscorers, also the fewest.

F.A Cup: Third Round
F.A Trophy: First Round
Top Scorer: Scott Boden (18)
Average Attendance: 1512
Discipline: 71 Yellow Cards / 2 Red Cards

16th – Welling United – 60 pts

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Wings Return: Day secures Welling United’s status

Champions of the Conference South returned to the Conference Premier after a thirteen year spell away from the top flight of non league football. Manager, Jamie Day has now spent almost five years at Park View Road and has improved the Wings league status in every full season he has been in the hot-seat. The Kent club had a steady start including a confidence boosting win against Grimsby Town. In September three consecutive victories left Welling United in a dizzy seventh spot. Over the course of the campaign the Wings on paper were inconsistent, but no more than you would expect for a newly promoted part time side with one of the lowest average attendances. Overall, you could argue results were consistent enough to get the job done to survive and build for next term. So much so that Jamie Day and his squad managed to tail off towards the end without fearing the dreaded drop zone. Welling United’s mission was well and truly accomplished with the added bonus of reaching the F.A Cup second round. Last season’s top scorer Ross Lafayette continued to find the net whilst Kurtis Guthrie impressed. A 5-2 triumph over Forest Green Rovers, reaching sixth in October and Joe Healy’s stunning scissor kick which hit national headlines were all highlights. One blemish on record was a home defeat to the lowest ever points scorers in Conference Premier history. In a midweek January game, the Wings lost 1-0 to Hyde.

Did you know…The Wings won 601 free kicks, more than any other side at an average of 13 a game.

F.A Cup: Second Round
F.A Trophy: First Round
Top Scorer: Ross Lafayette (16)
Average Attendance: 807
Discipline: 79 Yellow Cards / 4 Red Cards

17th – Wrexham – 59 pts

Disappointment: Morrell shares fans frustrations

Disappointment: Morrell shares the fans frustrations

What a come down for the Welsh boys this term, finishing in their lowest ever position. Last season the club visited Wembley twice winning the F.A Trophy and losing out on promotion via the playoffs. Andy Morrell remained in charge with the weight of expectation on his shoulders. After three campaigns finishing in the top five and missing out on a return to the Football League, the Reds came nowhere near this time around. An opening day win against Welling United was the highest position they reached all season, the remainder of the campaign disappeared into obscurity. Wrexham failed to win more than two games in a row and the only consistent spell was a six match winless streak after the opening day victory. The third best supported side in the league were left just as disappointed as Morrell and on 24 February he resigned. The Welsh club took their time with a new appointment and a month later Kevin Wilkin joined after impressing at Nuneaton Town. With the strikers at Wrexham’s disposal it was Johnny Hunt, not your out and out striker that found the net the most. Coupled with the fact the Reds conceded more goals than ever in any of their previous Conference Premier seasons confirmed why Wrexham finished as lowly as they did. The Racecourse Ground will see some rebuilding in the summer as Wilkin looks to stamp his mark on a club desperate to emulate the recent successes of Welsh sides.

Did you know…Leading up to half time, Wrexham lacked concentration conceding the most (16) in the fifteen minutes before the break.

F.A Cup: Second Round
F.A Trophy: Second Round
Top Scorer: Johnny Hunt (11)
Average Attendance: 2993
Discipline: 73 Yellow Cards / 7 Red Cards

18th – Southport – 53 pts

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Survival: Hattersley celebrates one of his ten goals

A home record worthy of the top ten was the main reason the Sandgrounders survived with a game to spare. Southport picked up one win on the road all season against bottom club Hyde. Heavy defeats included 5-1 away to Aldershot Town and 4-1 losses at Tamworth and Hereford United, all teams around them in the league standings. At Haig Avenue, the Merseysiders beat the top five, Luton Town and Cambridge United 1-0 and Gateshead, Grimsby Town and FC Halifax Town 2-1. All was going just swimmingly in the first month with Southport winning four from six and ending August in fifth. Then the next 24 matches yielded just three wins as the club slid into a relegation battle. During that run the club would bid farewell to Alan Wright who lasted just seven months in charge. Southport opted for experience to keep the side afloat and out of harms way, John Coleman who had success with Accrington Stanley. It took a while for Coleman to get his side to gel, picking up one league win in his first nine Conference Premier matches. In February and March the Sandgrounders found form with Dan Hattersley and Karl Ledsham finding the net more regularly. Out of the teams down at the bottom, Southport looked like they had the capabilities to survive but it wasn’t easy. The final month of the campaign started slowly but then a win versus Tamworth edged the club closer to remaining a Conference Premier outfit, a feat confirmed on Easter Monday when they played FC Halifax Town at Haig Avenue.

Did you know…Southport’s home form was their best in any of their previous Conference Premier campaigns. The Sandgrounders picked up 44 points at Haig Avenue and just nine points away from home.

F.A Cup: First Round
F.A Trophy: First Round
Top Scorer: Dan Hattersley  (10)
Average Attendance: 1049
Discipline: 67 Yellow Cards / 5 Red Cards

19th – Aldershot Town – 51 pts

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Shots Secured: Aldershot’s celebrate staying up

It took the Shots seven games to break even after having ten points deducted at the start of 2013/14. That type of form would have had the Hampshire club safe by mid March but that would be too comfortable for their supporters. Two key factors in Aldershot Town’s survival was the goal scoring prowess of Brett Williams, who finished behind Luton Town’s Andre Gray and FC Halifax Town’s Lee Gregory in the goalscoring chart, and a decent goal difference. If the club hadn’t entered administration and suffered a points deduction they would have finished 15th. At home the Shots beat, with the exception of a final day defeat to Hereford United, everyone around them giving Andy Scott’s side an edge in the battle. A second relegation in a row would have been disastrous for Aldershot Town but with a clean slate next term, under chairman Shahid Azeem, who took over the club in August, the Shots can look to the future. The Hampshire outfit will hope that glimpses of that future comes from back to back home games when they beat Southport 5-1, Braintree Town 2-1 and Tamworth 6-0.  Prior the trio of triumphs Aldershot Town lost succesive away matches 4-0 to Cambridge United and FC Halifax Town. As the club was still involved in a battle to stave of Conference South football, in April with four to play they were in the relegation zone. Andy Scott and company showed character in the final stretch with an inspired Williams firing them to within safety. On the final day a bizarre set of results was required to condemn the Shots to the second tier of non league football. Had it not been for a Good Friday win at Woking their final game versus Hereford United would have potentially been win or bust.

Did you know…The Recreation Ground hosted the most Conference Premier goals this season when 80 were scored, the same amount as Luton Town’s Kenilworth Road.

F.A Cup: Fourth Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy: Fourth Round
Top Scorer: Brett Williams (24)
Average Attendance: 1947
Discipline: 57 Yellow Cards / 3 Red Cards

20th- Hereford United – 51 pts

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Fine Margins: Late win keeps the Bulls in the league

For the Bulls instructions for the final day of the season was to win. If ever their was a hero in Herefordshire in 2013/14 then step forward Michael Rankine. After Good Friday, Hereford United were two points behind Chester going into the last match of the campaign. All the club could do was beat Aldershot Town and hope results go their way, anything less then the financial mess would get worse with a drop down a division. At 3.15pm the Bulls looked down and out when news filtered through that Chester took the lead against Salisbury City. Sam Smith gave Hereford United hope with a goal against the Shots and when Salisbury City levelled that hope grew. Chester went ahead once more and even worse the Bulls conceded, the clock ticked down, the direction Hereford United were heading. With four minutes of the season remaining drama unfolded, James White equalised at Chester to make it 2-2. Then, Michael Rankine added his name to Hereford United folklore netting the winner two minutes from time, the Bulls survived. Confidence at Edgar Street had nose dived so quickly in 2014 and the off field problems accelerated the decline. A dozen games without a win included a 7-0 thrashing against champions Luton Town, and five games without a goal. February and March saw Martin Foyle’s side score just three times and poor form ended Foyle’s spell in charge. Caretaker Manager, Peter Beadle saw out the campaign leaving him with plenty to do in the final month of the season. Throughout the last two years the club has struggled financially, so desperate for cash bucket collections were organised and donations accepted. To the teams around them this was a bitter pill to swallow as the club survived on goal difference.

Did you know…The Bulls were the slowest starters this season when they registered just two goals in the opening the fifteen minutes of league games.

F.A Cup: First Round
F.A Trophy: First Round
Top Scorer: Michael Rankine (7)
Average Attendance: 1758
Discipline: 59 Yellow Cards / 1 Red Card

21st – Chester – 51 pts

Gutted: Chester come so close

Gutted: Chester come so close on the final day

After one season the Blues return to the Conference North in heartbreaking circumstances. From the very beginning Chester struggled to adapt to the step up losing their opening five matches. Fans were given an August Bank Holiday to remember as over 6000 turned out at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground to see Chester win 2-0 in the cross border derby. Although in the next four months wins were hard to come by, the defeats were less frequent and the Blues ability to draw kept them within touching distance of safety. Neil Young who had taken Chester up the pyramid left by mutual consent in January with the club third from bottom. Former Kidderminster Harriers boss Steve Burr arrived and made an immediate impact winning his first two games. For the first time the Blues had a long spell out of the relegation zone which lasted 19 matches, the run needed to last just one more. Facing Salisbury City in the final game, the Blues held a two point advantage which increased a couple of times before being pegged back to two points again. Twice Chester took the lead and at 2-1 up with four minutes to go a four point cushion was enough but then Salisbury City equalised reducing the gap to two again. Two minutes later in Hampshire, the favour they wanted from Aldershot Town wasn’t forthcoming and Hereford United’s late winner closed that two point gap. Finishing level on points is a harsh way to go down, the Blues outscored Hereford United throughout the campaign but the extra goals conceded were costly. Chester were relegated on goal difference, a heartbreaking way to drop out of the Conference Premier.

Did you know…Chester picked up the most yellow and red cards this season as they finished bottom of the fair play league. The Blues racked up 95 cautions and 11 dismissals.

F.A Cup: Fourth Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy: First Round
Top Scorer: James Seddon (7)
Average Attendance: 2366
Discipline: 95 Yellow Cards / 11 Red Cards

22nd- Dartford – 44 pts

Dartford v Alfreton Town, 10 August 2013

Sidelined: The Darts missed Ryan Hayes’ trickery

History repeated itself for the Darts as they suffered the second season syndrome becoming synonomous with Conference South playoff winners. Twenty eight years ago, Dartford followed up a third place finish with relegation in the next campaign, this time last term’s eighth place was overshadowed by another relegation. From best part time team in the country to the Conference South, Dartford struggled to attract enough firepower despite the signings of Adam Birchall and Jason Prior in the summer, Birchall’s loan was not renewed and Prior suffered injury. Away from Princes Park goals leaked at the wrong end and by October the Darts were just above water. Tony Burman lost the services of creative winger Ryan Hayes in November, a ten game losing streak that month through to December left the club in perilous trouble. Relying on the loan market for Cambridge United’s Rory McAuley and Luton Town duo Jim Stevenson and Alex Wall temporarily turned fortunes around. In January and February, the Kent side were defeated only once in eight games with their defence tightening up. Crucial dropped points against relegation rivals Aldershot Town, Southport then Chester and with Wall being recalled, hopes of a an escape ended on Easter Monday with the season ending on a four game losing streak.

Did you know…In their 125th year, Dartford equalled a club record of ten defeats in a row. The Darts suffered the same fate in November and December that they did in the 1938/39 and 1952/53 seasons.

F.A Cup: First Round
F.A Trophy: First Round
Top Scorer: Elliot Bradbrook (9)
Average Attendance: 1251
Discipline: 54 Yellow Cards / 4 Red Cards

23rd – Tamworth – 39 pts

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Down: Tamworth return to the Conference North

A five year stay in the Conference Premier ended before Easter. During their spell in the top tier of non league they never finished higher than 16th. When Tamworth were relegated seven years ago it took the club just two attempts to return, fans will be hoping for a swift comeback. The Staffordshire side once again went through a large turnover of players, stability on the pitch cost Tamworth. An unbeaten run of three matches at the beginning of the campaign was as good as life got for the Lambs, back to back wins only arrived once relegation was confirmed. Dale Belford led the club for a full term having previously been caretaker manager on three occasions. With an experienced front-line in Darren Byfield, Justin Richards and Nick Chadwick the trio failed to score the goals the club hoped. Only Hyde stopped Tamworth from finishing bottom in a few main statistics, the Lambs had the second worst home record, goals scored away from home and overall defence. Only five players started more than 30 games compared to 24 players who managed less than ten starts. From 21 December 2013, Tamworth climbed out of the drop zone once and that was when they drew with Hyde. Belford’s boys soon fell back through the trapdoor and one win in 17 attempts made the Lambs certain for relegation, the poor sequence also included a five match spell without a goal. Last season Adam Cunnington’s goals kept Tamworth up, this time there was no one to make up for a leaky defence resulting in a poor campaign and a bottom four finish.

Did you know…The Lambs conceded 592 free kicks, the most by any Conference Premier side and used the most players (43).

F.A Cup: Second Round
F.A Trophy: Fourth Round
Top Scorer: Richard Peniket (7)
Average Attendance: 965
Discipline: 87 Yellow Cards / 6 Red Cards

24th – Hyde – 10 pts

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At Last: A win after 29 games of waiting

On a Tuesday night down in Kent the team bus of Hyde arrived and a crowd of 436 expected the usual. At most Hyde could come away from Park View Road with a point. #Tigerlove had grown on Twitter to unexpected levels and Jeff Stelling always anticipating the negative scoreline. With a league record of winless games closing in, set by AFC Telford United last season, fans of the Greater Manchester club really had been through the mill. An opening day 8-0 defeat at Forest Green Rovers set the tone and by the time they faced Welling United the club had just four points. Hyde fans had to wait 11 hours for a goal which spanned almost a month, and a run of 12 matches without a point which was ended at home against Nuneaton Town. The Tigers were relegated with just under seven weeks until the end of the season. Scott McNiven’s side had to suffer last minute heartaches and some thrashings on the way, 5-2 versus Wrexham, 6-2 against Forest Green Rovers (the Gloucestershire club rattled a total of 14 past Hyde’s defence), 5-1 at home to FC Halifax Town and a 7-2 home loss against Cambridge United.  Although the Tigers ended with a goal difference of -81, having conceded 119 times, it was that cold Tuesday night worth remembering. Two second half goals from Louis Almond and Connor Hughes gave Hyde their first win of the season after 27 league games, avoiding becoming the first ever team in Conference Premier league history to end a campaign without a win. Throughout the season good humoured Tiger fans watched on in hope, such a rarity was their only win that Jonathan Reynolds, the Labour MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, wrote on Twitter:  “Definitely time to book an open-top bus!”

Did you know…Hyde have set a new unwanted record of lowest points (10) gained in a Conference Premier season breaking the 18 points Leigh RMI managed in 2004/05.

F.A Cup: Fourth Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy: First Round
Top Scorer: Scott Spencer (8)
Average Attendance: 689
Discipline: 72 Yellow Cards / 5 Red Cards

 

Princes Among Men 2009-10 sample chapter

With the publication of ‘Princes Among Men’ rapidly approaching, my co-authors and I are releasing a season’s write-up, free for download in PDF format, on the Pure DFC website. The 2009-2010 season is the chosen season, in which the club won promotion from the Ryman Premier Division.
This chapter will be included in the book, due for release in early December 2013.
‘Princes Among Men’ contains over 500 pages, which includes 250 illustrations, colour and black & white photographs, and will be a hardback publication.
Please feel free to email comments to puredfc@gmail.com regarding this free taster section of ‘Princes Among Men’. You can still receive an advanced subscription for the price of £10 which will include £5 off of the cover price of £30.00, as well as a reserved copy and your name in the Advanced Subscription section of the book. This offer will expire on the 31st August 2013. For more details on this, you can also email puredfc@gmail.com

To download this – please visit http://www.puredfc.com/princesamongmen/0910taster.pdf

Season Review 2012/2013

1st – Mansfield Town – 95 pts

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Credit: Press Association

Paul Cox led the Stags back to the Football League after a five year absence. Mansfield Town put a magnificent run together in the second half of the season to move from outside of the playoffs to the summit. The Nottinghamshire side’s impeccable timing meant they spent just four matchday’s in pole position. Struggling for consistency up until November, the Stags went on a record equalling run of twelve successive wins during which they racked up the back to back mauling of Dartford 5-0 and Barrow 8-1. Backed by owner John Radford, who rewarded Cox with an Aston Martin after the Barrow victory, Mansfield Town also made F.A Cup headlines by bowing out to a controversial Luis Suarez goal in a 2-1 defeat against Liverpool in the third round. A staggering 23 wins from their last 28 fixtures was supported by Matt Green’s 25 league goals in 2012/13, which included seven in his last six games to finish the Conference Premier’s top scorer.

2nd – Kidderminster Harriers – 93 pts

Anthony Malbon celebrates goal_480_Landscape

Picture: Adrian Hoskins

Handicapped by a terrible start to their campaign with five straight defeats and scoring in just one of those matches, Harriers began to click in September. With no wins and rock bottom after ten matches Steve Burr turned the season around. A consistent back four built foundations for the team which kept 16 clean sheets including a period of 416 minutes without conceding. When the goals followed Kidderminster flew up the table with two sequences of seven straight triumphs. Harriers only lost three times in their last 31 fixtures but the title eluded them. Jamile Matt’s short return to Aggborough was a success with eight goals in as many appearances, the striker switched to Fleetwood Town. Anthony Malbon and former Cambridge United striker Michael Gash picked up the scoring baton to secure a runners up place for their club. The disappointment on the final day of the season was compounded when they missed out on a Playoff final appearance in a 5-2 aggregate defeat to fifth place Wrexham.

3rd – Newport County AFC – 85 pts

Credit: Huw Evans Agency

Credit: Huw Evans Agency

Justin Edinburgh hailed this season as his best achievement which is something when you have an F.A Cup winners medal as a player to your name. The Exiles have come on leaps and bounds and a move to Rodney Parade has helped the club push on from the F.A Trophy final defeat last year. Edinburgh rebuilt a team for 2012/13 and visited Wembley for a second time in two season’s for an all Welsh Playoff final. Newport County flew out the starting blocks winning their opening five with Aaron O’Connor scoring six times. The striker continued his good form and when the goals dried up in stepped 24 year old Christian Jolley. The pair netted 31 league goals between them adding to the consistent performances from the rest of the squad, which never saw the Welsh club slip out of the top five. Overseeing Grimsby Town 2-0 in the Playoff semi-final, the Exiles reached Wembley for a successive season. Once again Jolley and O’Connor grabbed the headlines in a 2-0 victory over Welsh rivals Wrexham. The Playoff triumph secured a return to the Football League for the reformed club who last appeared in the old Division Four 25 years ago.

4th – Grimsby Town – 83 pts

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Source: www.metro.co.uk

Difficult to beat and defensively sound, the Mariners kept more clean sheets than anyone else. James McKeown was influential in between the sticks and together with the back four in front of him Grimsby Town failed to concede on 19 occasions. A 12 game unbeaten run had the Lincolnshire club dreaming of a Football League return as they spent three months in the top two. The managerial duo of Rob Scott and Paul Hurst guided the Mariners to Wembley only for their side to lose the F.A Trophy on penalties. A strong squad struggled in March losing four on the bounce. For all their solidity at the back Grimsby Town lacked goals for a team pushing for a return to the Football League. The Mariners missed last seasons top scorer Liam Hearn through long term injury and his gradual return brings hope to a side who have to pick themselves up for a fourth season in the Conference Premier.

5th – Wrexham – 80 pts

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Credit: Press Association

Title contenders until March and two Wembley appearances had last seasons runners up on the verge of a return to the Football League. After forty six gruelling games and F.A Trophy glory, Wrexham lost the Playoff final in the last four minutes. Andy Morrell’s side couldn’t quite achieve the staggering 98 points of last season, enough to take the title this term but the Welsh club are likely to bounce back for 2013/14. Morrell called on the experience of defender Stephen Wright, midfielder Dean Keates and strikers Dele Adebola and Brett Ormerod whilst Danny Wright top scored with 15 goals. Wrexham tasted defeat just once in the first 14 fixtures before hitting a period of inconsistency up to Boxing Day. An unbeaten run of 13 games followed which had the Dragons top of the table, the sequence was ended in a last minute loss at Dartford. From that night at Princes Park, Wrexham picked up just three more wins from their final 11 league matches dropping to fifth. A double win in the Playoff semi-final against runners up Kidderminster Harriers secured a second trip to Wembley, falling short of promotion once more.

6th – Hereford United – 70 pts

www.mobile.herefordunited.co.uk

Source: www.mobile.herefordunited.co.uk

A decent finish from the Bulls in a challenging return to the Conference Premier. Relegated from the Football League a year ago, Hereford United found life back in non league football tough at first. Unbeaten and second after four matches the Bulls struggled in September and October. Chugging along in the echelons of mid table Martin Foyle’s side moved into the top half and can take heart from a strong finish to the season, where the Bulls scored in 13 consecutive matches. There is no getting away from the fact the club has been in plight and failure to pay players wages in March and April causes concern. This summer will be crucial in determining where the Bulls stand in next seasons pecking order. Keeping hold of Lee Graham, 15 goal striker Ryan Bowman,  Player of the Year Sam Clucas and Josh O’Keefe will certainly give supporters more faith.

7th – Luton Town – 67 pts

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Source: www.bbc.co.uk

Season number four for the Hatters ended with the club finishing outside of the Playoffs for the first time in the Conference Premier. With big support comes big pressure and Paul Buckle became the fourth manager in as many seasons to fail to get Luton Town back to the Football League. An average crowd of 5882 were comforted by a tremendous F.A Cup run which saw the Hatters become the first side in 24 years to knockout top flight opposition in Norwich City. The fifth round tie against Millwall was a step too far and then Buckle departed.  Up until October, Buckle was moving towards the promised land but shock defeats at home to Braintree Town and Dartford made life difficult. In the New Year seven games without a win and a host of draws thereafter meant the Hatters slipped out of Playoff contention, so John Still picked up the reigns in February. The former Dagenham and Redbridge boss was defeated just twice making his side harder to beat. With the exception of Andre Gray, the Hatters couldn’t decide who was best to lead the line whilst the impressive Alex Lawless performed excellently in midfield. One senses Still will use his lower league managerial experience in the Summer ready for season number five.

8th – Dartford – 66 pts

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Picture: Dave Adkins

The Darts were crowned the best part time team in the country which surprised the Conference Premier. With very little change and a small squad Dartford’s hard work and commitment paid off recording a second highest finish in club history. At the start of the season three straight defeats left the Kent side playing catch up. From then on eight wins in ten gave the players belief they can compete. Home form was key in the four months they failed to record a victory on their travels, a sequence stretching to a dozen games. The club finished strongly and will fondly remember a double over Luton Town and having the best home record against the top half of the table. Tony Burman used the loan market wisely by bringing in goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli and Csaba Somogyi from Fulham, whilst Charlie Sheringham retuned to the club with a few goals to replace top scorer Harry Crawford. The occasional blip at Mansfield Town and Kidderminster Harriers can be forgiven as the Darts beat the two sides earlier in the season. Burman will have to work hard to keep his squad in tact and help avoid second season syndrome.

9th – Braintree Town – 66 pts

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Picture: Stephen Brading

Alan Devonshire continued to work wonders in Essex leading the Irons to a top ten finish. In their second season at Conference Premier level Braintree Town set a new record by finishing in their highest ever position, the points accumulated this term exceeded the 62 earned in 2011/12. In contrast to last season when the Iron reached second before sliding down the ladder, in 2013 they started the year in the drop zone. Struggling to find the net at the tail end of 2012 the tide turned with improved performances including seven wins in ten from January to mid-March. Sean Marks, Dan Holman and Kenny Davis all surpassed ten goals which helped to replace the summer loss of Jai Reason. Devonshire also continued to get the best out of defender Dean Wells who became the Supporters Player of the Year. A third season awaits Braintree Town in the Conference Premier as the club continues with their steady progress.

10th – Forest Green Rovers – 65 pts

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Source: www.clickgreen.org.uk

Pre season promise captured the imagination of the Gloucestershire club and they started extremely well topping the table by the end of September. After just one defeat in the first dozen matches Rovers dropped off the pace rapidly losing four consecutive matches. It took a while to challenge again but due to the incredible form shown by other clubs the title was never really on. February and March signalled the end of the automatic promotion dream. An end of season slump of five straight defeats left Forest Green Rovers in a lower position than expected. With their season finishing on a whimper, Rovers support in the league increased from last season by 13%. Chairman Dale Vince believes with more fans coming through the gate  this will only aid the clubs ambitions to reach the Football League. David Hockaday with a decent set of players to choose from such as Jan Klukowski, James Norwood and goalkeeper Sam Russell would have at least hoped for a top five finish.

11th – Macclesfield Town – 63 pts

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Source: www.mtfc.co.uk

After relegation from League Two, the Silkmen had a massive clear out led by manager Steve King. The huge turnover of staff looked to have paid dividends despite an opening day defeat. Macclesfield Town went on to win six out of seven to top the standings. The form of striker Matthew Barnes-Homer was phenomenal netting 11 goals in the first 15 matches and ending the season on an impressive 18 league strikes. Unfortunately in six of those games the Silkmen were winless dropping to ninth where they ended 2012. King took the Cheshire club to the F.A Cup fourth round by shocking Championship champions Cardiff City 2-1 in the third round, then finally losing out to finalist Wigan Athletic. January to April didn’t quite see the return to form as the first eight games but defeats were less frequent. An inconsistent season ended with victory which broke a sequence of five straight losses. An uninspiring return to non league has left Macclesfield Town without a manager because King was sacked with a month to go. Former Silkman John Askey was put in charge until the end of the campaign.

12th – Woking – 62 pts

Source: www.wokingnewsandmail.co.uk

The champions of the Conference South will be pleased with their return to the Conference Premier. Three years away hadn’t worried the Surrey club whose fans got to witness a staggering 154 goals in games involving the Cards. Like fellow newboys Dartford, home form more than compensated for poor away results. A stable squad and few changes in the Summer has shown the Conference South has produced reliable teams to stay in the top flight of non league. At the Kingsfield Stadium results included the 6-1 thrashing of Nuneaton Town, a 5-2 beating of AFC Telford United and an astonishing 5-4 triumph versus Macclesfield Town, in which Woking were leading 5-0 just past the half hour mark. On their travels Garry Hill’s men were embarrassed 7-0 at Hyde after a 5-1 loss at Grimsby Town. Bradley Bubb (19 goals), 35 year old midfielder Kevin Betsy (13 goals) and Jayden Stockley all ended with ten goals or more. Joe McNerney and Adam Newton featured consistently in defence with combative midfielder Mark Ricketts holding in front. Woking used few players throughout the season, a testament to the commitment shown by the small squad.

13th – Alfreton Town – 60 pts

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Picture: Laurence Griffiths (Getty Images)

A much more comfortable ride than their début season, the Reds started slowly and a 5-1 defeat to newboys Dartford sprung them into action. Alfreton Town became difficult to beat picking up plenty of draws but more importantly more wins than defeats. With the exception of a poor February the Derbyshire club never looked likely to battle the drop. Nicky Law’s side never reached higher than thirteenth so finishing in that very position shows the Reds experienced a decent ending to the 2012/13 season. Helped out by Paul Clayton’s 17 league goals and Ben Tomlinson’s 11 strikes Alfreton Town gained six more points than last campaign and two places. The Derbyshire club also reached the second round of the F.A Cup for only the second time in their history. The televised fixture at North Street ended in a 4-2 win for League One side Leyton Orient. The Reds who turned professional after promotion two years ago plan to tighten their strings with a move back to part time football. For now, the club can revel in the fact they have achieved their highest ever final league standing.

14th – Cambridge United – 59 pts

Source: www.cambridge-united.co.uk

Source: www.cambridge-united.co.uk

When pundits say the Conference Premier is the hardest league to get out of then Cambridge United should know. With their eighth successive season completed only Forest Green Rovers have served longer in current spells at the top of non league. Expectant fans will be disappointed with a fourteenth place finish. A draw to Nuneaton Town and defeat at home to Dartford at the end of August started an eight game barren spell where the U’s picked up three points from 24.  Although Jez George’s poor run of results was halted in victory at Barrow the manager stepped down in October paving the way for Richard Money. The new boss failed to find consistency with results and his squad using the third most players in the division. However, one consistent performer was striker Michael Gash whose 13 goals earned him a move to runners up Kidderminster Harriers in March, where he added six more to his tally. Josh Coulson, Rory McAuley and Rossi Jarvis continued to get picked most weeks but Money will have to have his squad more settled next term if he wants to meet the clubs high expectations. Tom Elliott’s contract renewal could be key next term.

15th – Nuneaton Town – 57 pts

Source: www.nuneaton-news.co.uk

Source: www.nuneaton-news.co.uk

It took a long time for Nuneaton Town to settle into their new surroundings after promotion via the Conference North Playoffs. Boro shipped in nine goals in their opening two games including an enthralling 5-4 opening day defeat to Ebbsfleet United. In September, Kevin Wilkin witnessed his side lose 6-1 to fellow newboys Woking. The loss at Kingsfield Stadium signalled the start of an eleven game winless streak as goals were really at a premium all season. No surprise then that 19 goal striker Andy Brown won the clubs Player of the Year. Nuneaton Town never left the bottom five from 8 September 2012 to 19 March 2013.  Wilkin managed to organise his starting eleven as Boro got to know the division better and in the final 15 games the defence kept nine clean sheets. Ending with a three match winning streak left the Warwickshire club jumping six places up the standings.

16th – Lincoln City – 56 pts

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Source: www.thisislincolnshire.co.uk

The Imps were consistent in the fact they finish sixteenth on home and away form as well as the final standings. Lincoln City lost just three matches against teams below them and these results along with doubles over Dartford, Braintree Town and the odd win at Wrexham and home to Kidderminster Harriers kept the Imps afloat. Seven games without a win after the opening day triumph was broken at home to Hyde. A spell of inconsistency was followed by a purple patch of six matches unbeaten then the club went back to their early season form. David Holdsworth left in February and Gary Simpson was appointed to help the club steer away from the drop zone. Simpson didn’t get results until March winning just over half of the remaining 11 fixtures. The Imps won their penultimate game of the season and were guaranteed status on the final day beating Hyde in style 5-1. Jamie Taylor and Vadaine Oliver reached double figures in the goal scoring charts leaving Simpson content with his side’s end of season form.

17th – Gateshead – 55 pts

Picture: Steven White

Picture: Steven White

Spare a thought for die hard Heed fans who spent more time away from home than any other set of supporters. Gateshead, Hartlepool, York, Blyth, Carlisle, Middlesbrough and Boston all hosted the Tynesiders in 2012/2013 due to drainage issues at the International Stadium. Ian Bogie couldn’t recapture the form of last season which saw Gateshead finish a respectable eighth with 74 points. The side struggled in their 23 scheduled away matches with only relegated Ebbsfleet United gaining fewer points. Steady to early November, the Heed parted company with Bogie a month later. Anth Smith took the hot seat and had to endure five straight losses leaving the club second from bottom by March. Smith guided the Tynesiders to safety by making his side a tighter unit and harder to beat. A tough and challenging season for a squad who racked up more miles than any other club and unsurprisingly played in front of the lowest average attendances.

18th – Hyde – 55 pts

Source: www.hydefc.co.uk

Source: www.hydefc.co.uk

Scott McNiven’s first full season with the Tigers ticked the survival box off the list, after promotion from the Conference North as champions. Hyde didn’t do things in half measures when they were on or off form the Tigers were capable of stringing sequences together. Two points from the first seven matches had the club at the foot of the table and then Hyde demolished Hereford United 5-2. Another five matches winless ended at home to Tamworth in October then results propelled McNiven’s team up to the dizzy heights of ninth, the Tigers took 25 points from 33 including a 7-0 trouncing of Woking. The New Year had the Greater Manchester club looking over their shoulder again as they lost four in a row, but a fortnight later started a run of six consecutive defeats with a solitary goal scored. No panic though as five victories on the bounce in March pulled Hyde clear for another season in the Conference Premier. Experienced striker Phil Jevons scored 15 with his last arriving in February whilst defenders Luke Ashworth and Josh Brizell put in reliable performances at the back. Midfielder’s Alex Brown and Liam Tomsett also impressed their peers.

19th – Tamworth – 55 pts

Source: www.thisistamworth.co.uk

Source: www.thisistamworth.co.uk

After four games the Lambs started full of promise taking ten points and occupying third position. That was as good as it got for Tamworth who really shouldn’t have been fighting for a place in next season’s Conference Premier on the final day of the season. Adam Cunnington top scored with an impressive 21 goals, a third of which came from the penalty spot. The Staffordshire side used a staggering amount of players throughout 2012/2013 but one who stood out alongside Cunnington was defender Duane Courtney. With the Lambs in eighteenth place by the end of January, the 4-1 defeat at home to Braintree Town meant the end of Marcus Law’s reign as boss. Dale Belford was put in charge for the remainder of the season where he picked up enough points to stave off a return to the Conference North.

20th – Southport – 54 pts

Picture: Gareth Jones

Picture: Gareth Jones

Last season was always going to be difficult to replicate as the Sandgrounders were the surprise package by almost gatecrashing the Playoffs. This season Southport showed the form more akin to their 2010/2011 campaign. For seven months of the season the Merseysider’s didn’t win, lose or draw more than two games in succession showing their erratic form. March proved to be a disappointing month when the Sandgrounders lost six successive fixtures but Liam Watson’s team managed to rack up seven more points from the final 12 available. Overall Southport struggled at Haig Avenue however their mid table away form ensured they stayed out of trouble in Watson’s last season as boss.

21st – Stockport County – 50 pts

Credit: Action Images

Credit: Action Images

In 2001/2002 the Hatters were part of the second tier in English football which included Manchester City. Eleven years on Stockport County will start in the sixth tier against teams like Northern Premier Champions North Ferriby United. Despite reaching 50 points, the highest total by any side relegated from the Conference Premier (excludes demotions) the Greater Manchester club still fell through the trap door. Occupying ninth on the first weekend of November five straight defeats followed heeding warning signs. Off the field things went from bad to worse, if it wasn’t for AFC Telford United’s abysmal season Stockport County would have got through the most managerial changes. Jim Gannon left in January after seven defeats in nine and a mini revival took place lasting five fixtures with Darije Kalezic in charge. Kalezic left the club by mutual consent with a month to go giving the uphill task of survival to former Gateshead manager Ian Bogie. On the final day at Kidderminster, a number of fans took out their frustration in unsavoury scenes which held up play for half an hour, resulting in Harriers defender Lee Vaughan being assaulted.

22nd – Barrow – 46 pts

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Source: www.nwemail.co.uk

Five years at the top of non league football came to an end for Dave Bayliss and his Barrow squad. With the lowest tally in the goal scoring column and the second worst record in the conceded column, the Bluebirds struggled all season. Hammering’s away from Holker Street included the biggest defeat in the league as they suffered an 8-1 humiliation against champions Mansfield Town. Three days later the club lost 5-2 at Southport and a month before 6-1 away to Luton Town. On only four occasions Barrow scored more than two in a game and they failed to hit the net more than any other Conference Premier club. Adam Boyes still managed to find the target on 13 occasions supported by midfielder Richie Baker who managed ten goals. Highlights included a 2-0 away win against Playoff winners Newport County and a 1-0 home triumph over Luton Town. A tough season for the Cumbrians who will begin life in the Conference North once more.

23rd – Ebbsfleet United – 39 pts

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Source: www.gravesendreporter.co.uk

In a season where more talk has been made off the pitch than on. The Fleet will hope their next spell in the Conference South is as swift as their last in 2010/11. MyFC is a hot topic and with a potential takeover looming Fleet fans will be pleased to see the back of this season. A lack of subscriptions being sold and a hefty tax bill put the Kent club in as much jeopardy as their Conference Premier status. England C International Goalkeeper Preston Edwards and the strike partnership of Nathan Elder and Liam Enveer-Marum were Fleets only bright sparks. Elder and Enveer-Marum shared 26 of the 55 goals scored by Liam Daish’s squad. Ebbsfleet United spent the last five and a half months in the drop zone picking up just three wins in that time, the Fleet ended the season winless in ten and with the most goals conceded.

24th – AFC Telford United – 35 pts

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Source: www.shropshirestar.com

Up until playing Dartford away on 9 October their season could have gone either way with five wins, six draws and only three defeats. Then the Bucks’ season slid down a slippery slope back to the Conference North. AFC Telford United failed to win since victory at Dartford until 13 April which set a Conference Premier record of 30 games without a win. Andy Sinton left on 31 January 2012 and was replaced with Mark Cooper. Meanwhile Graham Hyde remained as assistant manager but he got his chance when Cooper joined Swindon Town as an assistant himself on the first day of March. In the space of 39 days since Sinton’s departure, Hyde decided to resign and John Psaras took charge, with four games remaining the Bucks were relegated in a dismal 2012/13.

Double Signings for The Darts

At last the patient wait is over as the first of Tony Burman’s summer signings have been confirmed.

Mark Arber will be a new addition from League Two side Dagenham and Redbridge after impressing in friendly wins against West Ham United XI and Leyton Orient. Nathan Collier will also play in a Dartford shirt next season and has played in every pre season match so far.

Mark Arber puts pen to paper to become Tony Burman's first summer signing

Arber tweeted on Saturday: “In keeping with family tradition, following in the footsteps of my Father Bobby, I am pleased to say I shall be wearing the white shirt of Dartford FC this season. I look forward to the challenge ahead”.

The 34 year old started out at Tottenham Hotspur as a youngster and was loaned out to Barnet where he made the loan spell permanent in 1998. The defender played almost 200 games for The Bees and reached the playoffs in his second season. Arber experienced relegation to the Conference Premier in 2001 and a year and a half later he moved to Peterborough United.

Four years at The Posh in total was interrupted by a spell at Oldham Athletic in where he featured a handful of times. Peterborough United then loaned the South African out to Dagenham and Redbridge before he signed on a free with Stevenage and missed out on a Conference Premier playoff spot.

Nathan Collier in action with Hampton and Richmond

Arber returned to The Daggers for a second loan spell which turned into a permanent deal.  In 2010 he reached Wembley in his third playoff attempt and this time was the victorious captain. Under former Dartford manager John Still he completed four seasons with Dagenham and Redbridge.

His father Bobby Arber played for The Darts during the John Still era which resulted in Dartford’s last promotion to the Conference Premier, known as the Gola League back then.

Nathan Collier featured in a struggling Hampton and Richmond side last season scoring three times. Whilst The Beavers dropped a division, to the Isthmian Premier League, Collier will be moving up a step.

 

 

Class of 86 – Where are they now?

Dartford FC are on a crest of a wave and for the third time in six years tasted glory by clinching promotion, this time to the Conference Premier League. Reaching the top flight of non-league for only the third time The Darts will start 2012/13 in their fourth ever season at the pinnacle.

A lot can change in twenty six years, promotion, relegation, reformation and liquidation, even experimentation with the points system. So where are the opponents of 1986 now?

Enfield (now Enfield 1893)

Champions of the Gola League in 1985/86 by seven points amassing 76 of them, the club were at its peak in the mid-eighties.

In the days of three points for an away win, two for a home victory and one for a draw, the Essex club had won the Alliance Premier League (now the Conference Premier) three years earlier and the F.A Trophy, the year when Dartford experienced the top flight for the first and only time before 1986.

Enfield 1893 back to winning ways lifting the Essex Senior title

The E’s were more successful than the experimental points system which ended the following season after a three year trial. Enfield triumphed in the F.A Trophy again in 1988 defeating Telford United in the final. After a goalless draw at Wembley the two sides battled out a replay at The Hawthorns which ended 3-2. Even though relegation beckoned in 1990, by the end of nineties Enfield were well and truly on the non-league map.

Twice Conference and F.A Trophy winners and after seven Isthmian titles an eighth was added in 1995 but this was to be a turning point in their history. Denied a place back into the top flight because the Conference were not satisfied with their finances the club sold Southbury Road.

Two successive relegations in 2003 and 2004 and liquidation three years later finished the club as Enfield. A new club was reformed in 2007 under the guise of Enfield 1893 and they now ply their trade in the Essex Senior League which they won in 2011.

The E’s need ground improvements before making their way up the ladder again. This season a seventh place finish ensured another season at step 5.

Frickley Athletic

Runners up in 1986, Sean Marshall won Gola’s Manager of the Year. Remarkably the Yorkshire club reached the F.A Cup Third Round for the first and only time, losing to Rotherham United.

The Blues failed to repeat their highest ever position and followed the success up with a disastrous season in 1986/87. Frickley Athletic were relegated to the Northern Premier League in their seventh Alliance Premier campaign only finishing above Gateshead.

Spending most of their Northern Premier League days in the lower regions of the division they did lose a playoff final in 2006.

After relegation in April on goal difference, The Blues will now take part in the First Division.

Kidderminster Harriers

Top scorers in 1985/86 with 99 goals they are one of a host of clubs that made it into the Football League.

The following season The Harriers experienced F.A Trophy glory by winning against Burton Albion in a replay. After a 0-0 draw at Wembley the Worcestershire club triumphed 2-1 in a replay.

The Harriers pulled West Ham out of the velvet bag

In 1994 Kidderminster Harriers had a tremendous adventure reaching the F.A Cup Fifth Round. After qualification to the First Round they disposed of Kettering Town, the dominant Woking side of the mid-nineties, shocked Division One side Birmingham City and Division Three’s Preston North End.

The non-leaguers bowed out with dignity finally stopped by Premier League’s West Ham United in a 1-0 defeat. Not only that, they went on to take the Conference title but league football had to wait as ground improvements were required.

Enter the new millennium and finally Aggborough hosted league football for five years. The club struggled with life in League Two and with the collapse of ITV Digital relegation became a reality in 2005.

Two years later The Harriers made history becoming the first side to play in an F.A Trophy Final at the new Wembley.  A record 53,262 supporters turned out to see Stevenage Borough take the honours in an entertaining game ending 3-2. The defeat came twelve years after losing the F.A Trophy Final 2-1 to Woking.

Now coming up to their eighth successive Conference Premier season, Kidderminster Harriers finished sixth last time out missing out on the playoffs by five points.

Altrincham

Twenty six years ago The Robins had a fine season finishing fourth, it was the third season in a row they ended up in top five. Even better, the Cheshire club were victorious in the F.A Trophy when they beat Runcorn by a solitary goal. It was the second time the club had won the honours and it was to be their last.

The Robins were a strong force in the eighties having been crowned champions in 1979/80 and retaining the title the following season. It wasn’t until 1997 that the northern side fell out of the top flight and into the Northern Premier League.

Two seasons were spent at the second tier but they soon returned. Promotion as champions in 1999 was followed by relegation the season after.

When non league football was restructured The Robins started in the Conference North and in the inaugural season won the playoffs. Altrincham spent five struggling years in the Conference Premier and finished in the drop zone three years in a row between 2005 and 2008, sure it is an unwanted record but thanks to the troubles at Scarborough, Canvey Island, Boston United and Halifax Town the club were reprieved on each occasion.

Finally luck run out and in 2011 when the club finished third from bottom, a position higher would have seen another reprieve due to the demise of Rushden and Diamonds. However, they spent 2011/12 back in the Conference North finishing eighth.

Weymouth

Representing Dorset in 1986, Weymouth were about to bid farewell to the Recreation Ground after 89 years. In the last season at their former home The Terras finished fifth. Ron Greenwood had the honours to open the Wessex Stadium and the club beat Manchester United that same night in a friendly.

Steve Claridge helps promote Ian Ridley's book

Since Weymouth’s new home was opened they have flirted between Southern League divisions. Relegated from the Conference Premier in 1989, another drop in 1991, back up to the Southern League Premier (1992), then straight down to the Southern League South (1993).

Former Dart Graham Carr took charge in May 1995 but resigned in September and three years later The Terras were back up to the Southern League Premier.

Famous journalist and author Ian Ridley took control of the Dorset club and in 2004 finished second to win promotion to the Southern Premier League under Steve Claridge. Chasing the top flight football Ridley’s club went professional after winning the Conference South in 2006. Since then it has been all downhill.

Financial problems struck Weymouth three years ago and they suffered a 9-0 defeat against Rushden and Diamonds. The Terras could only field an under 18’s side and the inevitable slide began. Relegated to the Conference South then back to the Southern Premier in successive seasons, the Dorset side were in another battle to avoid the drop in 2011/12.

Runcorn (then Runcorn Halton)

When The Darts first made it to the top of the non league pyramid for the 1981/82 season Runcorn won the league by seven points. In 1986 the Cheshire club finished sixth and lost in the F.A Trophy Final to fourth place Altrincham.

In fact The Linnets were the bridesmaids in the F.A Trophy again in 1993 and 1994 losing to Wycombe Wanderers and Woking. After their third trophy defeat disaster struck at Canal Street the following season. In a cup match against Hull City the perimeter wall collapsed, a roof blew off one stand and the main stand was damaged by fire. The maintenance was too costly and relegation for the first time in 1996 did not aid matters, the ground was sold in 2000.

The club renamed Runcorn Halton, played at the Halton Stadium in Widnes and in the first Conference North season were relegated to the Northern Premier League. Fans became disgruntled as the club looked to move out of Halton and by 2006 Runcorn Linnets were formed by the disatisfied supporters.

Meanwhile Runcorn Halton suffered a succesive relegation before folding completely.

Stafford Rangers

Promoted to the Gola League the season before Stafford Rangers spent ten seasons in the top flight. During that time they got through six managers in seven seasons and sold Stan Collymore to Crystal Palace.

Palace took a chance with Stan Collymore

The Rangers were relegated to the Southern Premier League and then the Southern League (Midland) division a season later.

It took the Staffordshire club four years to return when they won the Southern League (West), then automatic promotion from the Premier League earning them a place in the Conference North.

Stafford Rangers returned to the top flight after eleven years beating Droylsdon in a Playoff Final on penalties.

The brief stint lasted two seasons and club went through more managers and financial problems. Former Wolverhampton Wanderers and England striker Steve Bull spent ten months in the managerial hot seat but could not stop the slide.

In 2011 they headed back to the Northern Premier League where they finished sixteenth last season.

Telford United (now AFC Telford United)

A story all to familiar in recent times, Dartford and more succesfully AFC Wimbledon were saved by the people who cared the most.

Telford United were a famous non league outfit back in the day, known for F.A Trophy successes in 1970/71 and 1982/83 and were runners up in the first ever final back in 1969/70.

The Bucks registered another second place in the trophy in 1987/88 and were successful for a third time in 1988/1989 defeating a Macclesfield Town side who knocked Dartford out of the semi-finals.

For the new milenium the club went full time and four years later Telford United were liquidated. On the same day of the fateful news the Supporters Trust formed AFC Telford United and started again.

As AFC Telford United the club is not adverse to a bit of playoff action. In 2005, their first season, a playoff final victory versus Kendal Town promoted the club to the Northern Premier League. Two years later they were back for more drama beating Witton Albion 3-1 to win a place in the Conference North.

Over the first two seasons The Bucks reached the playoffs again but fell short succumbing to Barrow in the 2008 semi-final and Gateshead in 2009’s final. Finally they triumphed in the final defeating Guiseley 3-2.

Last season was their first back in the Conference Premier and they managed to finish five points above the drop zone.

Kettering Town

The Poppies came so close to triumphant seasons in the last 26 years but have been rewarded with two titles. Runners up in the 1979 F.A Trophy losing to Stafford Rangers they returned as the losing side again in 2000 when Kingstonian lifted the trophy. On top of those near misses they ended up second in the top flight on four occasions in 1981, 1989, 1994 and 1998.

The Poppies moved in to Nene Park after Rushden and Diamond's demise

After 30 years at the top their reign ended in 2001 with a final day relegation but the club bounced back a year later taking the Southern League title, also on the final day. Kettering Town were demoted to the Isthmian League in 2002/03 season in time to take part in the inaugral Conferernce North.

For thirty nine days Paul Gascoigne managed the Northamptonshire side in 2006 and then they went full time. Defeat in the Conference North Playoff Final against Farsley Celtic was followed up the next year with a league title success.

Three years ago the club reached the F.A Cup Fourth Round for the first time since 1989, the season they knocked out Dartford. A creditable 4-2 defeat at the hands of Premier League Fulham ended the great run.

The demise of neighbours Rushden and Diamonds last season meant Kettering Town were able to move across to Nene Park for the latest Conference Premier season. Financial troubles this season have been well documented as The Poppies will be playing outside of step 2 next campaign in the Southern Premier League.

Wealdstone

The Stones entered the 1985/86 season as the defending champions and holders of the F.A Trophy, the first non league club to complete the ‘double’.

A strong force in the mid eighties they applied for election to the Football League but were denied becuase thier ground did not meet the requirements. The club had also produced the talents of Stuart Pearce and Vinnie Jones, the latter playing in the 1986 season.

It was in 1988 when the Middlesex club dropped to the Southern League and when finances were stretched Wealdstone moved out of Lower Mead. Since then they have never been close to replicating the glorious early to mid eighties.

Seventeen years homeless and a voluntary demotion across and down to the Isthmian Division Three saw the club fall down the pyramid. The Stones have been back on the up winning promotion in 1997 and again in 1998. A third succesive jump was denied after a third place finish but the ground at Edgware was not suitable.

Wealdstone returned to the second flight of non league football in 2004 after a playoff win beating Dulwich Hamlet on penalties. Last season they made headlines again in the F.A Trophy causing upsets on the way to the semi-finals, including a win against The Darts.

Cheltenham Town

The season before The Robins were promoted from the Southern League then they spent seven years in the top flight before relegation.

In 1997 fortunes turned, guided by Steve Cotterill Cheltenham found their way back to the Conference at the expense of Gresley Rovers, who did not meet ground requirements.

Steve Guinan scores in the 2006 Playoff Final

The Gloucestershire club surprised their opponents in their first season back by finishing runners up and lifting the F.A Trophy defeating Southport 1-0 at Wembley. The club went one step further the following season and won the Conference title.

Since the turn of the millennium the Robins have ‘yo-yo’d’ between what is now League Two and One. Three years in League Two under Cotterill ended in a playoff win and their best F.A Cup run to the fifth round in 2002. The following season they were relegated under Graham Allnar and Bobby Gould.

Three seasons in the last tier of the football league and another playoff victory, this time under John Ward in 2006 earned The Robins a second promotion. Ward then guided them to seventeenth in League One their highest ever finish.

In 2009, after another three seasons the club were relegated again with their worst ever goal difference and win ratio. The Robins have just completed their third season in League Two reaching Wembley in yet another playoff, unfortunately losing out to Crewe Alexandra.

Bath City

Finishing a position below their fellow West Country rivals the club continued with mid-table finishes until 1988 when they were relegated to the Southern League.

At the second attempt City bounced back and survived relegation the following season. Once again Bath City continued with mid-table finishes until 1997 until they returned to the Southern League.

City reached the Southern League Playoff final in 2006 losing out to Bedford Town but they won the title the following year to reach the Conference South. Success arrived again three years later when this time they won a playoff final defeating Woking to reach the Conference Premier.

Last season Bath City ended fifteen points from safety and so they will return to the Conference South.

Boston United

The Pilgrims have had a colourful recent history reaching the Football League, bosses causing controversy and then falling back down the non league scene.

York Street has seen its fair share drama

Before 1986 Boston United had just finished runners up in the F.A Trophy, losing to Wealdstone in the 1985 final, and three years later finished third in the league. The club were unable to capitalise on their successes and in 1993 dropped down to the Northern Premier League.

The Lincolnshire club moved across to the Southern League and took the title in 2000 then turned professional the following season. The decision to go full time was rewarded with the Conference title and promotion to the Football League under Steve Evans.

Controversy followed when Steve Evans and then Chairman Pat Malkinson were charged by the Football Association for failing to abide by player registration rules. Had the points deduction counted from that season then Dagenham and Redbridge would have gone up.

The Pilgrims dropped back out of the Football League in 2007 on the final day, another ten points were deducted when they entered a Company Voluntary Agreement and Steve Evans departed. To add insult to injury Boston United were then ordered to play in the Conference North because of the financial situation.

The club remain in step 2 of non league finishing mid-table last season. The Pilgrims also lost to Dartford 4-2 in an F.A Trophy match back in January and are managed by former Forest striker Jason Lee.

Barnet

The Bee’s have had more ups and downs than a roller coaster, out of the class of 86. Barry Fry had left the season before to manage Dartford’s rivals Maidstone United, in came Roger Thompson.

Stan Flashman became Chairman of Barnet and on a number of occasions came close to the Football League before the nineties. Barry Fry returned after a season and incredibly led the team to second place in three of the next four seasons. Finally in 1991 Barnet celebrated the Conference title and two years later were up again into today’s equivalent of League One. Barry Fry left in 1993.

The club returned to the bottom flight of the Football League and after ten years returned back to Conference football in 2001. Four years back in non league was enough for the club and another title was clinched by twelve points.

Barnet have just completed their seventh season back in League Two but are flirting with non league again after three successive seasons facing the drop on the final day but surviving.

Scarborough (now Scarborough Athletic)

One of the oldest football clubs in England finally hung up their boots in 2007. It was in the seventies The Seadogs blossomed winning the F.A Trophy three times in five years. The North Yorkshire club won at Wembley in 1973 beating Wigan Athletic 2-1, in 1976 defeating Stafford Rangers 3-2 and in 1977 triumphing 2-1 over Dagenham.

Scarborough F.C step on the famous Wembley pitch

A fifteenth place finish in 1986 was followed up by a newly appointed manager who led Scarborough to the Conference title and promotion, that man was Neil Warnock.

The Seadogs stayed in the bottom flight of the Football League until an incredible final day in 1999. A point ahead of Carlisle United they just needed to better their score. Scarborough drew 1-1 with Peterborough United and with the scores the same at Plymouth’s Home Park Carlisle were doomed. In injury time Carlisle goalkeeper Jimmy Glass went up for a last ditch corner, he became an instant hero when he scored, relegating Scarborough to the Conference.

With in a space of two seasons between 2005 and 2007 the demise of The Seadogs was all but confirmed. Relegated to the Conference North due to their financial position was one thing but the following season was worse. Ten points were deducted and the club finished third from bottom which would have meant a further drop had they not dissolved after 128 years.

The Seadog Trust were formed in 2006 and decided to form Scarborough Athletic ready for the 2007 season. They now play in the Northern Counties East Premier League after winning the Northern Counties East Division One title in 2009.

Northwich Victoria

Until recently Northwich Victoria were guaranteed fixtures of Conference football. From 1979 to 2005 The Vics spent twenty six uninterrupted seasons at the top of non league and finished runners up in the F.A Trophy back in 1983, losing to Telford United.

Perennial struggler’s to mid-table finishes then into the top half of the table by the mid to late nineties, the Cheshire club became F.A Trophy runners up for a second time in 1996 losing 3-1 to Macclesfield Town.

Since the turn of the millennium The Vics slipped back to troublesome times ending up in the bottom half of the table finally propping up the rest in 2004. Relegation was spared as Telford United and Margate dropped down the ladder instead.

In September 2004 the club entered administration, lost ten points and were relegated to the Conference North. Under new ownership they opened their new Victoria Stadium and won the Conference North championship to bounce straight back. Three years later they were back in the Conference North for a season but at the end of 2010 were expelled from the Conference North for the following campaign.

The Vics now play in the Northern Premier League finishing second last season seventeen points behind Chester and losing in the playoffs.

Maidstone United

The Stones were on the brink of reaching their peak but you wouldn’t have guessed it at the end of the 1986 season. Maidstone United’s London Road ground was not suitable if they wanted promotion so they moved in to Dartford’s home at Watling Street and bought the ground.

Maidstone United's new Gallagher Stadium under construction

Maidstone United went on to win the 1989 Conference title reaching the Football League for the first and only time in their history. In their old Division Four début season The Stones reached the playoffs losing to Cambridge United after extra time in a semi-final, thanks to Dion Dublin’s strikes. This was as good as it got for the Kent club when they went on to finish seventeenth and eighteenth thereafter.

Disaster struck in 1992 when the club collapsed. It was the chase of reaching the Football League that turned out to be The Stones downfall. The vast sums of money spent to get to the promise land and maintain their position added to Maidstone’s woe. Watling Street was sold leaving no Maidstone United and no home for Dartford.

Reformed as Maidstone Invicta in 1993 The Stones entered the Kent County League Fourth Division and have been using grounds at Sittingbourne and Ashford ever since. Successive promotions in 1994 and 1995, the Division One title in 1999 and the Kent County Premier League championship in 2001 secured a place in the Kent Premier League.

Another league triumph earned promotion in 2006, followed by the Isthmian League Division One South in 2007 leading to the club reaching their highest position since their collapse. Four years in the Isthmian Premier League ended in 2011.

Despite all the recent successes to climb back up the pyramid the best news for the Kent club is next season’s opening of a brand new home. The Gallagher Stadium will open on 14 July 2012 as The Stones return to Maidstone for the first time in 24 years.

Nuneaton Borough (now Nuneaton Town)

If the phrase ‘back to square one’ could be dedicated to a football club it would be Nuneaton Town. In 1937 the club were disbanded, Nuneaton Borough were formed and were renamed in 1991 as Nuneaton Borough AFC. In 2008, the club were liquidated and the non league scene welcomed Nuneaton Town.

The Boro were runners up the two seasons before 1986 but this time round were unable to continue pressing for the title. The season after they were relegated to the Southern League due to problems off the field. One season in the Southern League and another relegation confirmed the clubs rapid drop.

As Nuneaton Borough AFC they won the Southern League Midland Division in 1993 but returned a year later when they couldn’t stay up. The Warwickshire club came back again with promotion in 1996 and climbed to the top flight three years later to reach the Conference.

Seven years in the Conference ended in 2003 on the final day and just six and half years ago they held the then Premier League club Middlesbrough in the F.A Cup Third Round before losing the replay.

Nuneaton Borough AFC were liquidated in 2008 but were allowed to reform under a different name by the Football Association in addition to a double relegation. Now playing as Nuneaton Town, The Boro have returned to the top flight after two successive playoff wins against Chasetown in 2009 and Chippenham Town in 2010. Last season despite a six point deduction they completed a hat trick of playoff promotions defeating Gainsborough Trinity 1-0.

Dagenham (now Dagenham and Redbridge)

Winners of the 1980 F.A Trophy, The Daggers were hoping for good things in the eighties, by the end of the decade they were playing in the Isthmian Premier League after relegation in 1988.

The Daggers celebrate promotion at Wembley

Four years later everything changed, Dagenham merged with Redbridge Forest who had just been promoted to the Conference. Although suffering an initial setback in 1996 when they were relegated to the Isthmian Premier League, The Daggers have been one of the most successful clubs out of the class of 86.

It was the turn of the millennium where it all started twelve years ago. The Essex side won promotion to the Conference and became a consistent force knocking on the Football League door. In their first three seasons they never finished outside the top five and controversially came runners up in 2002, finishing behind Boston United.

A slight slump in the mid-noughties ended when the club won the Conference five years ago. A year at the bottom end of the table and a campaign of solidity was followed with a 3-2 playoff win at Wembley in 2010. The step was too far and they returned straight back to League Two where they survived a second relegation battle under former Dart John Still.

Wycombe Wanderers

Out of the class of 86, The Chairboys are the most successful having spent the most amount of time in the Football League.

However, twenty six years ago it was not all plain sailing when in 1983 the club rejected an invitation to the top flight of non league for a third time in four years.

The seven times Isthmian Champions finally joined in 1985 and slugged it out with Dagenham. Finally Wycombe Wanderers were relegated on goal difference. An eighth Isthmian title followed the year after and since then they have never looked back.

In 1990 the Football League dream began, step one appoint Martin O’Neill, step two move to Adams Park, step three start winning competitions. The F.A Trophy was won twice in three attempts, in 1991 The Chairboys beat Kidderminster Harriers 2-1 and in 1993 they breezed past Runcorn 4-1. In between those triumphs they finished runners up on goal difference as Colchester United won the Conference title.

Martin O’Neill used the near miss to spur on his side and became the third club to complete the non league double in 1993, the dream came true with promotion to the Football League. In their début season up they went again, this time with a 4-2 playoff win versus Preson North End. Martin O’Neill left in 1995 but Wycombe Wanderers are now an established football league team.

Ten seasons in the third tier of English football ended in 2004 and during that time the Buckinghamshire club experienced heroics under Lawrie Sanchez. In 2000/2001 Wycombe Wanderers reached the F.A Cup Semi-Finals getting past first division sides such as Grimsby Town, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Wimbledon. In the Quarter-Finals they were paired with Premier League’s Leicester City. The cup tie will be remembered by an injury time winner at Filbert Street by Roy Essandoh. Liverpool ended the fairytale.

Between 2004 and 2009, Wycombe spent time in League Two before winning automatic promotion. Over the last four seasons The Chairboys have become a ‘yo-yo’ club with two promotions and two relegations, now playing in League Two.

Barrow

A former Football League club until 1972, Barrow were promoted the same season as Dartford also spending two years in the Conference.

Three years later The Bluebirds were back winning the Northern Premier League in 1989. The following year the Cumbrian’s made their way to Wembley and took home the F.A Trophy beating Leek Town 3-0. Inspirational manager Ray Wilkie led the club to success and when he resigned in 1992 the club fell.

Barrow lift the F.A Trophy for the second time in their history

Relegation to the Northern Premier League in 1992 was forgotten about by 1998 when they returned to the Conference. However, their success was masked by what was to follow, due to financial backing being withdrawn The Bluebirds were thrown out of the top flight the following season.

The club were pretty much on their deathbed but they battled on in the Northern Premier League and in 2003 the Football Association allowed for membership to be transferred to a new company.

Since then the Cumbrian club became founder members of the Conference North narrowly escaping the drop in 2007. The next campaign looked to be much of the same but David Bayliss and Darren Sheridan guided the club from twentieth when they took over in November 2007 to fifth. Competing in the playoffs, The Bluebirds won the final against Stalybridge Celtic.

Barrow are now entering a fifth consecutive season in the Conference Premier and during that time they reached the third round of the F.A Cup in 2009, losing 2-1 to Middlesbrough then again the next season this time losing 3-0 to Sunderland.

Just two years ago The Bluebirds won the F.A Trophy for the second time in their history winning 2-1 after extra time against Stevenage Borough and last season they finished thirteenth.

Team P W D L F A Pt GD
1 Enfield 42 27 10 5 94 47 76 +47
2 Frickley Athletic 42 25 10 7 78 50 69 +28
3 Kidderminster Harriers 42 24 7 11 99 62 67 +37
4 Altrincham 42 22 11 9 70 49 63 +21
5 Weymouth 42 19 15 8 75 60 61 +15
6 Runcorn 42 19 14 9 70 44 60 +26
7 Stafford Rangers 42 19 13 10 61 54 60 +7
8 Telford United 42 18 10 14 68 66 51 +2
9 Kettering Town 42 15 15 12 55 53 49 +2
10 Wealdstone 42 16 9 17 57 56 47 +1
11 Cheltenham Town 42 16 11 15 69 69 46 0
12 Bath City 42 13 11 18 53 54 45 -1
13 Boston United 42 16 7 19 66 76 44 -10
14 Barnet 42 13 11 18 56 60 41 -4
15 Scarborough 42 13 11 18 54 66 40 -12
16 Northwich Victoria 42 10 12 20 42 54 37 -12
17 Maidstone United 42 9 16 17 57 66 36 -9
18 Nuneaton Borough 42 13 5 24 58 73 36 -15
19 Dagenham 42 10 12 20 48 66 36 -18
20 Wycombe Wanderers 42 10 13 19 55 84 36 -29
21 Dartford 42 8 9 25 51 82 26 -31
22 Barrow 42 7 8 27 41 86 24 -45


Club by Club: 2011-2012 Review

Woking

F.A Cup 4th Qualifying Round County Cup Winners
F.A Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round Top Scorer 19 – Giuseppe Sole

The Cards enjoyed an exceptional season winning the Conference South by nine points. Having gone 17 matches unbeaten from 10 September 2011 to 1 January 2012, including six away wins on the spin many tipped Garry Hill’s side to win the title by early March. However the Surrey club were pushed until the final two weeks of the season.

Woking players celebrate a title winning season

During January and February Woking showed signs of dropping points but then came Giuseppe Sole. The striker netted in the final 12 matches amassing 15 goals, the most prolific spell of any Conference South player this season.

Deservedly the Surrey club lifted the trophy with consistent performances and the best away record, equalling Grays Athletic’s Conference South record of 15 away victories in 2004-05. At home they matched the number of wins whilst having the tightest defence conceding just 18.

Up front Garry Hill’s squad scored 92 goals, 49 as visitors. Four players scored over ten goals with Giuseppe Sole top scoring with 19, Paris Cowan-Hall found the net 14 times, Moses Ademola scored 13 and the experienced Elvis Hammond netted ten.

At the back The Cards kept the most number of clean sheets with 16, nine away from home.  Their efficiency in attack and solidity in defence resulted in the best goal difference of +51 and best away goal difference of +26.

To add to the league title Woking also took home the Surrey Senior Cup defeating Sutton United 3-1 in the final.

Did you know…

Woking scored 17 league goals between 31-45 minutes the most during this period of the game.

The Cards scored 47 first half goals more than any other Conference South club this season.

Dartford

F.A Cup 3rd Qualifying Round County Cup Runners Up
F.A Trophy Third Round Top Scorer 15 – Danny Harris

Dartford finished nine points behind the league champions but justice was done in the playoffs as the runners up earned promotion. Lee Noble may go down in Dartford history for netting the playoff winner against Welling United but excellent form at Princes Park, where they won 15 games, contributed to their return to the top flight of non-league football for the first time in 26 years.

Elliot Bradbrook lifts the playoff trophy for The Darts

Despite the loss of last season’s top scorer Charlie Sheringham, The Darts did not struggle for goals scoring in 90% of league games and all but one match at home.  Princes Park witnessed 52 goals, the highest home total of this campaign.

Tony Burman’s side ended up the best home team of 2011/12 winning eight in a row from 2 January 2012 to 31 March 2012, the start of that run included three consecutive clean sheets.  At home The Darts had the best goal difference of +33 and conceded the fewest goals (40) home and away.

Danny Harris top scored with 15 and was aided by the midfield support from Captain Elliot Bradbrook who netted 14. Charlie Sheringham managed 11 goals with his replacement Jacob Erskine matching the AFC Bournemouth striker. In the second half of the season loan signings Conor Essam then Luke Wilkinson complimented an ever present Adam Green, Tom Bonner and Lee Burns in defence as Burman tightened his defence.

For all the good work at home, Dartford had the second best away record which the club would have settled for at the start of the season when the playoffs were targeted. Tony Burman’s men accrued nine fewer points than Woking on their travels, those nine points turned out to be crucial.

Did you know…

Dartford scored in 21 consecutive games from 29 August 2012 to 28 January 2012.

The Darts scored 18 goals between 16-30 minutes and 52 second half goals, the most during these periods of the game.

Welling United

F.A Cup 2nd Qualifying Round County Cup Quarter Final
F.A Trophy First Round Top Scorer 16 – Andrew Pugh

Jamie Day has worked wonders against financial difficulties but his side fell short losing the playoff final. Even still The Wings continue to impress on the field and their performances at Park View Road where they went 19 games unbeaten helping the Kent club counteract an inconsistent away record.

Andy Pugh top scored despite leaving the club

Welling United were challenging for automatic promotion during parts of the season and topped the Conference South at the early stages thanks to an opening day draw followed by six consecutive wins.

Andy Pugh left in January and he still finished the clubs top scorer. Although Jamie Day couldn’t find a prolific replacement, Loick Pires waded in with a dozen goals and Luis Cumbers netted 11.

The Wings stopped conceding goals in the second half of the season as they dried up at the other end. From 20 March 2012 to 14 April 2012 Welling did not concede a goal in 533 minutes of football and ended their away form with four clean sheets in a row.

During the whole season at home the Kent club kept the most home clean sheets (8) and conceded the fewest times joint with Woking (18).

Did you know…

The Wings scored 21 goals between 61-75 minutes the most during this period of the game.

Sutton United

F.A Cup 2nd Round County Cup Runners Up
F.A Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round Top Scorer 16 – Craig Watkins

Sutton United can be proud of their first season back in the Conference South. The Surrey club erased memories of their last campaign at this level when they were relegated with just five wins.

The U's take on Nott's County in the F.A Cup

Paul Doswell’s experiences at Eastleigh helped The U’s to promotion last season and a playoff spot this time round. Unfortunately they missed out on a playoff off final showdown when they lost to Welling United 2-1 on aggregate.

Defensively The U’s were as good as any team keeping an impressive 16 clean sheets equal with champions Woking. Like the champion nine of those shut outs happened away from Ganders Green Lane.

Paul Doswell’s side were difficult to beat in general losing just eight times and drawing 14 including 8 on their travels. The U’s played decent football, even when losing Doswell would continue with his philosophy proven by a 5-0 defeat to Woking and 6-1 loss at Dartford.

Sutton United have good foundations to build on next season with reliable striker Craig Watkins and midfielder Harry Beautyman. The Surrey side also reached the second round of the F.A Cup losing to Nott’s County 2-0 and finished runners up in the Surrey Senior Cup.

Did you know…

In their last 42 home league games The U’s have won 29, drawn 10, lost 3, scored 87, conceded 40.

Basingstoke Town

F.A Cup 1st Round County Cup 3rd Round
F.A Trophy 2nd Round Top Scorer 14 – Delano Sam-Yorke

The Stokes gate crashed the playoffs and entered the season finale in their best form. Basingstoke Town were going steady in fifth spot in the opening ten fixtures but their mid-season slump saw them laying in tenth at the start of February.

The Camrose fills up before a Conference South fixture

Frank Gray was sacked by Chairman Rafi Razzak on 20 February 2012 and in came Academy Manager Jason Bristow. The new boss experienced mixed results in his first five games but then everything on the field clicked. Four straight wins either side the loss at home to Woking earned the Hampshire club 24 points from 27 available.

The Stokes made it to the playoffs in the final week of the season. An eighth win in nine against Hampton and Richmond put them ahead of Chelmsford City. On the final day a goalless draw was enough to stave off The Clarets.

Basingstoke Town could not overcome playoff winners Dartford in the semi-final going down 3-1 on aggregate. The Hampshire club did reach the first round of the F.A Cup when they fell to a solitary Brentford goal. All in all, a great season for The Stokes.

Did you know…

The Stoke scored 18 goals between 16-30 minutes the most during this period of the game.

Chelmsford City

F.A Cup 2nd Round County Cup 4th Round
F.A Trophy 1st Round Top Scorer 11 – Dave Rainford

Playoff losers in the past two seasons The Clarets missed out this time round. Chelmsford City are guaranteed to be challenging the top five and will be disappointed not to have finished in the playoffs.

Dave Rainford top scored for The Clarets from midfield

Glenn Pennyfather’s squad excelled away from the Melbourne Stadium and went 14 away matches without defeat, a Conference South record. In addition to this they conceded just 19 times on the road.

At the same time Woking were unbeaten from 10 September 2011 to 1 January 2012 Chelmsford City were also racking up an incredible 17 games without defeat. In fact the Essex club looked a certainty for at least a playoff spot.

The excellent form carried over to the F.A Cup when they reached the second round. Macclesfield Town needed two attempts to knock out The Clarets eventually prevailing in a 1-0 win.

Chelmsford City were a tough nut to crack, not only did they draw the most away games (8), suffer the least away defeats (3), kept the most clean sheets at home (8), they never lost by more than a goal.

The wheels started to fall off at the beginning of 2012 and completely came off by March. Glenn Pennyfather managed just three victories from March in the final dozen fixtures in a disappointing finish.

Did you know…

The Clarets are one of five teams who managed to keep 3 consecutive home clean sheets.

Chelmsford are one of 12 teams who failed to score in 3 consecutive games.

The Clarets scored 19 goals between 0-15 minutes the most during this period of the game.

Dover Athletic

F.A Cup 4th Qualifying Round County Cup Quarter Final
F.A Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round Top Scorer 15 – Billy Bricknell

It is safe to say that Dover Athletic had an inconsistent season which has left supporters slightly frustrated. Martin Hayes was expected to get the Kent club to the playoffs at least.

Ex Dart loanee George Purcell

By September Hayes was gone and Chairman Jim Parmenter appointed Nicky Forster. Although The Whites barely lost games they failed to pick up wins as well. At The Crabble they equalled the Conference South record for most consecutive home draws set by Bognor Regis Town in 2005-06 and Bromley in 2010-11.

In all fairness if Dover converted some of the 15 draws into wins they would have made the top five. The reason the club did not achieve more three point hauls were down to the failure to score at home on nine occasions, including a run of four consecutive games.

Nicky Forster’s side were better away from The Crabble, maybe due to the supporter’s expectations. Only three teams topped Dover’s away record and so they will try again next season.

Did you know…

Billy Bricknell and George Purcell scored 43.5% of Dover’s league goals this season, netting 27 between them.

Boreham Wood

F.A Cup 2nd Qualifying Round County Cup 2nd Round
F.A Trophy 1st Round Top Scorer 12 – David Bryant

Ian Allinson continues to work wonders at the Hertfordshire club. On one of the lowest budgets The Wood rely on loan signings and for the second successive season achieved their highest ever finish.

Ian Allinson

At Meadow Park they guaranteed goals scoring in 20 consecutive home matches, only Havant and Waterlooville on the opening day stopped Boreham Wood.

It took a 3-1 win versus Dartford in October to kick start a floundering start to the season, prior the match they had only recorded two victories. Ian Allinson’s side went on a six match winning streak before showing typical mid-table form.

The Wood ended in a comfortable eighth place but it will be difficult to repeat this season’s success with a small budget and the lowest average attendance of 243, but when has that stopped the Hertfordshire club.

Did you know…

Boreham Wood had 23 different goal scorers, the most by any Conference South club this season.

Tonbridge Angels

F.A Cup 2nd Qualifying Round County Cup Quarter Final
F.A Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round Top Scorer 29 – Frannie Collin

The Angels enjoyed a pleasing debut season in the Conference South having won promotion via the playoffs last season.

Frannie Collin the Conference South's top goal scorer

Tommy Warrilow can thank the scoring prowess of Frannie Collin who ended up with the Conference South golden boot. Collin netted 29 times for the Kent club and was the only Angels player to reach double figures.

The Angels played a more open game at Longmead and at their home ground 75 goals were scored for and against, more than any other venue. The club seemed to be more cautious on their travels picking up 8 draws and only once did they win by more than a goal.

One of Tonbridge’s strengths was to never give up; they scored 24 goals in the final 15 minutes of games. However, The Angels made it difficult for themselves by letting in 20 goals in the opening quarter of an hour of their matches, more than any other Conference South club.

Did you know…

Frannie Collin scored 41.43% of Tonbridge’s goals – the highest ratio by any Conference South player in 2011/12.

Salisbury City

F.A Cup 3rd Round County Cup Finalist – to be played
F.A Trophy 2nd Round Top Scorer 10 – Marvin Williams

Salisbury City also achieved Conference South football via the playoffs but they have far more experience this level. Demoted to the Southern League from the Conference Premier in 2010 the Wiltshire club have started to rebuild.

Salisbury City: Raymond McEnhill Stadium

Darrel Clarke led The Whites to a top ten finish in their first season back at this level closing the season with four straight wins. A poor middle patch of the season between September and February prevented Salisbury pushing for the playoffs but overall a steady league season ensures another crack at step two next campaign.

The Whites had the most average record winning the same amount as losing with a goal difference of +1. To sum 2011-12 they drew five consecutive away games, a Conference South record, amassed the most away draws (8) and the most consecutive draws home and away (4).

In the cups the club performed admirably reaching the second round of the F.A Trophy, the final of the county cup (yet to be played) and impressively mixed with the big boys in the F.A Cup. Arlesey Town were beaten in round one then Grimsby Town were defeated in a dramatic replay ending 3-2. In round three The Whites drew out Sheffield United at Bramall Lane losing 3-1.

Did you know…

Salisbury City will take on Swindon Supermarine in the Wiltshire Premier Shield Final.

Dorchester Town

F.A Cup 2nd Qualifying Round County Cup Winners
F.A Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round Top Scorer 8 – Ashley Nicholls

Dorchester Town finished in their highest position since 2006 which was a brilliant achievement for current boss Alan Knight. The former Portsmouth goalkeeper steered The Magpies to a respectable eleventh.

Alan Knight led The Magpies to cup victory

Former boss Ashley Vickers tenure ended in October and after 15 matches the club were seventeenth and looking set to repeat last season’s relegation battle.

Alan Knight made the squad more solid and after The Magpies drew their first game of the season on match 17, the side kept four straight clean sheets. Away from The Avenue Stadium the defence racked up nine clean sheets.

Down the other end of the field goals were difficult to come by with their top scorer Ashley Nicholls netting just eight. Prior an end of season mini slump Alan Knight was defeated only twice in seventeen. The Magpies did end up with some silverware beating Weymouth 6-2 in the Dorset Senior Cup.

Did you know…

Dorchester Town scored 9 penalties in the Conference South this season, the most goals from the spot this season.

Eastleigh

F.A Cup 3rd Qualifying Round County Cup Winners
F.A Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round Top Scorer 10 – Bradley Bubb

After six seasons in the Conference South, The Spitfires went full time in the summer and at the early stages of the season looked like they had made a mistake. The idea was to have younger players on full time contracts so the squad could gel over time.

Bradley Bubb top scored

Eastleigh showed their potential in fits and starts, after three fixtures The Spitfires were bottom but peaked at the end of February as they reached sixth. At home they were excellent until there was nothing to play for, Ian Baird’s squad put in an 11 match unbeaten run to propel the club up the table to finish twelfth, not quite what they hoped for but the squad has time.

 

The issue facing the Hampshire club is their inability to perform away from the Silverlake Stadium and finish in front of goal. Twice Eastleigh failed to score in an away match in four consecutive attempts. Furthermore they recorded the most blanks in the season (17) with 12 of them on the road.

Did you know…

Eastleigh won the Hampshire County Senior Cup beating AFC Totton 2-0 in a final which trialled goal line technology.

Weston Super-Mare

F.A Cup 4th Qualifying Round County Cup Winners
F.A Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round Top Scorer 15 – Sahr Kabba

Craig Laird showed his faith in his players by keeping most of last season’s squad together. After four years fighting down the wrong end of the table Laird has managed a second mid-table finish in a row.

Nat Pepperall chipped in with ten goals

Stability in Somerset was really achieved in the first half of the season as The Seagulls flirted with the idea of reaching the playoffs. By mid-January Weston Super-Mare hit the heights of sixth place which had supporters dreaming of what could have been.

 

A run of seven straight defeats which included five blanks in front of goal, a solitary win, then a poor haul of four points from 24 saw The Seagulls slump down the pecking order into thirteenth. A county cup victory put the gloss on a floundering second half of the season but at least all the good work was already completed.

Did you know…

Weston Super Mare beat Clevedon 2-1 in the Somerset Premier Cup to retain their title after defeating Yeovil Town 1-0 last season

Truro City

F.A Cup 3rd Qualifying Round County Cup Quarter Final
F.A Trophy 1st Round Top Scorer 13 – Scott Walker

A testing season for the rise and rise of Truro City because the Conference South has been a baptism of fire after a recording five promotions in six years, to go with a F.A Vase victory in 2007.

Treyew Road: home of Truro City

Manager Lee Hodges has not only had to put up with rumours of Plymouth Argyle’s apparent interest in his Chairman Kevin Heaney but also the clubs legal wrangling over unpaid tax. The rumours were dismissed whilst the tax bill was settled and so a debut season in the Conference South turned out satisfactory.

 

The White Tigers were quick out of the blocks almost leading the table after three games. Thereafter supporters didn’t know what side would turn up, the team that thrashed Farnborough 8-2 the highest score of the Conference South season or the players that lost 5-2 to Basingstoke Town a fortnight earlier.

One thing for sure is goals were guaranteed when the Cornwall club took to the field. Lee Hodges’ defence conceded 80 times, only Thurrock shipped in more. The White Tigers conceded in 37 matches and whilst they let in goals on 19 occasions on the road they scored in 20 of them, including finding the net in 16 consecutive away games.

This season has left some fans wondering if the club have peaked especially with the off field concerns but at least the supporters have been entertained.

Did you know…

Truro City scored 9 from the penalty spot, the most in the Conference South this season along with Dorchester Town.

The Cornwall side conceded 45 second half goals, the most by any club this season in the league.

Staines Town

F.A Cup 4th Qualifying Round County Cup 2nd Round
F.A Trophy 2nd Round Top Scorer 9 – David Wheeler and Ali Chaaban

Staines Town finished fifteenth for the second year running. Last season they looked comfortable until they ended the campaign with six straight defeats and a final day draw. That type of form continued this season in Steve Cordery’s ninth and final year in charge.

Steve Cordery's final season

The Swans won two of their first 18 fixtures and up until the turn of the year looked certainties for the drop. The Middlesex club failed to keep a clean sheet and in their 23rd game faced high flying Woking. Staines Town caused an upset and won 1-0, two weeks later they repeated the score line at Chelmsford City. Perhaps this gave the squad the belief as points started to add up.

 

Steve Cordery will not be at Wheatsheaf Park next season, instead The Swans will be under the stewardship of former Wimbledon midfielder Marcus Gayle. Next season they will be hoping for a steadier campaign.

Did you know…

The Swans went 19 games without a home clean sheet and 11 without an away clean sheet.

Staines kept just one clean sheet at Wheatsheaf Park and that was in their penultimate home match.

Farnborough

F.A Cup 2nd Qualifying Round County Cup 2nd Round
F.A Trophy 1st Round Top Scorer 12 – Reece Connolly

For a side that finished sixteenth, The Boro had some ups and downs in the Conference South this season. Another Hampshire club who went full time in the summer hoped to capitalise on last year’s runners up spot and push for the Conference Premier.

Spencer Day stopped the rot

Steve King was replaced by Garry Haylock and whilst the first eight games were steady Farnborough went nine matches without a win including a run of seven straight defeats, five at home as well as two absolute beatings within four days. After losing 8-2 at Truro City they were defeated 5-0 at Havant and Waterlooville, the club looked doomed.

 

Garry Haylock was sacked and Spencer Day appointed. The new boss recruited from his old club Chertsey Town and within a few weeks turned results around.  A run of six consecutive wins lifted the club up the table then two victories in the last ten saw them drop again. To cap off a topsy-turvy season the club were deducted five points for financial irregularities costing them two places.

Did you know…

The Boro did not manage a single draw at home, only Histon have gone a whole Conference South season without a draw in 2006-07.

Farnborough conceded 18 goals between 32-45 minutes and 45 times in the first half more than any other club.

The Hampshire side lost 12 times at Cherrywood Road the most home defeats in the league by any club.

Bromley

F.A Cup 1st Round County Cup 2nd Round
F.A Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round Top Scorer 13 – Hakeem Araba

A familiar tale for Bromley occurred when Hayden Bird resigned in the summer. Mark Goldberg returned for a third spell at the Kent club this time coinciding with new Chairman Ashley Reading taking over.

Hayes Lane: Home of Bromley FC

Up until October, The Lillywhites were inconsistent to say the least but eventually consistency settled in albeit the wrong type. Bromley went on a disastrous 14 match streak without victory picking up a meagre five points and so a relegation battle ensued.

 

At Hayes Lane they drew ten times and kept eight clean sheets, hardly a place if you wanted to see goals, the fewest at any venue this season. However it was their solidity which steered them to safety because from 21 January 2012 they won five, drew nine and lost just three.

The clubs highlight of the season was reaching the F.A Cup first round where they went out at Leyton Orient.

Did you know…

Bromley had the lowest average attendance of 483 out of the Kent clubs.

Eastbourne Borough

F.A Cup 4th Qualifying Round County Cup Semi Final
F.A Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round Top Scorer 11 – Ben Watson

Another club whose inconsistency ran up until October until their form took a turn for the worst. Sitting in mid-table The Sports embarked on a run of one win in 14 up to the end of January.

The Sports finished eighteenth

Garry Hill was sacked and along came former Southampton midfielder Tommy Widdrington. The Sussex club were left repairing a poor first half of the season to avoid a relegation tussle.

With wintry conditions halting much of the football played in February the following month was the most productive points wise. It was this form that kept The Sports from potential drama at the wrong end of the table although they tried their best.

 

In the final seven games they lost six and failed to score in four of them. Not quite the return to the Conference South expected by Eastbourne Borough fans.

Did you know…

The Sports conceded 18 goals between 45-60 minutes, the most by any club during this period.

Havant and Waterlooville

F.A Cup 3rd Qualifying Round County Cup Semi Final
F.A Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round Top Scorer 13 – Ollie Palmer

Havant and Waterlooville were involved in the most dramatic of endings to a Conference South season to survive on the final day. Entering their final match at home to Staines Town, The Hawks sat above Maidenhead United by a point.

The sun shined on Westleigh Park on the final day

After twenty minutes the Hampshire side looked in severe danger when news filtered through to Westleigh Park that Alex Wall and Reece Tison-Lascaris put Maidenhead two up against Eastleigh. To make matters worse Ali Chaaban scored for Staines Town as well.

Typical of the afternoon Havant and Waterlooville equalised courtesy of Scott Jones but straight from kick off Kyle Vassell had Staines back in front. Afterwards it looked like nothing would go right for Havant and Waterlooville when Christian Nanneti missed a penalty and so as it stood Maidenhead United were in the driving seat.

In the space of two minutes a glimmer of hope shone on Westleigh Park when Ollie Palmer equalised. A minute earlier Eastleigh’s Lee Peacock and pulled a goal back at York Road. Seven goals and a missed penalty in the first half meant the scores were Havant and Waterlooville 2 Staines Town 2 and Maidenhead United 2 Eastleigh 1.

If you thought the first half was enthralling then think again. With half an hour played the tides turned swiftly within four minutes. Eastleigh went in front with goals from Sam Wilson and Mitchell Nelson only for Tison-Lascaris to net one for Maidenhead United two minutes later, Maidenhead were all level but The Hawks were safe.

Incredibly in injury time, Staines Town fans started to taunt their opposition with news of a Paul Semakula goal to put Maidenhead United 4-3 up. The Hawks applied more and more pressure and with the last kick of the season an unlikely winner was struck by Joe Dolan, The Hawks stayed up.

Did you know…

Havant and Waterlooville conceded 18 goals between 45-60 minutes, the most in the Conference South during this period of the match.

Maidenhead United

F.A Cup 1st Round County Cup Semi Final
F.A Trophy 1st Round Top Scorer 10 – Alex Wall

Maidenhead United didn’t start too bad this campaign winning five of their first nine. Then the bad habits come back from last season in an atrocious winter.

The Magpies look down and out

Between mid-September and mid-December The Magpies picked up two points from 36, including a run of seven straight defeats and six consecutive away from home.

At home the Berkshire club had the worst defence conceding 41 times. Although form picked up after the terrible mid-season run Maidenhead United went on to lose one in eight, the final stretch put the club in a precarious position.

The heart-breaking end to the season serves as a warning to the club who were reprieved following the demise of Kettering Town and Darlington in the Conference Premier. They won’t want to go this close to relegation next time.

Did you know…

Maidenhead United went 14 matches without an away draw, the longest sequence in the Conference South this season.

The Magpies also conceded 18 goals between 16-30 minutes and between 61-75 minutes, the most during these periods.

Hampton and Richmond

F.A Cup 2nd Qualifying Round County Cup Winners
F.A Trophy 3rd Round Top Scorer 10 – Dave Tarpey

Hampton and Richmond will be plying their trade in the Isthmian Premier League next season because they never got going this season.

Jacob Erskine: Now at The Darts

The Middlesex outfit spent one week out of the bottom five and that was after the opening day of the season. In fact after 33 of their 42 matches they were in the relegation zone.

It took Hampton and Richmond ten attempts to record their first victory and a lack of fire power hindered their chances of survival. When Jacob Erskine left for playoff winners Dartford the task became harder.

Their downfall was really on their own patch where they won just three matches. Away from The Beveree Stadium an average record of tenth best in the Conference South was not quite enough.

Did you know…

Hampton and Richmond conceded in 37 out of 42 games, the most amount of games conceded in.

The Beavers scored 17 goals between 46-30 minutes, the most by any of the Conference South club this season during this period.

Thurrock

F.A Cup 3rd Qualifying Round County Cup 3rd Round
F.A Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round Top Scorer 10 – Lee Boylan

Thurrock were given a second bite of the cherry when they were reprieved last season and may have been better off in the Isthmian Premier.

Ship Lane will be hosting Isthmian Premier games next season

The Fleet set or equalled three unwanted Conference South records. The Essex club went 16 matches without a win, recorded the fewest number of victories in total and at home. Ship Lane didn’t welcome a triumph for six months going 17 without a win.

At home they failed to score in nine games, suffered 12 loses, scored a meagre 13 goals and had a goal difference of -23. Away, they went 12 without a win, 11 without a clean sheet, suffered 14 loses, netted just 20 times and conceded 40, ending up on a goal difference of -28. All of which were the worst records in the league during the 2011-12 season.

To compound the clubs misery The Fleet failed to score in 17 matches, had the worst attack scoring 33 (the least), conceded 84 (the most) and ended with a goal difference of -51. It’s safe to say that Thurrock didn’t enjoy the Conference South this time round.

Did you know…

Thurrock conceded 18 goals between 16-30 minutes and 22 goals between 76-60 minutes, the most during these periods.

 


March Review

Dartford marched on to another Kent Senior Cup final and have so far won every league game at home this year but will they topple Woking as the final month of the season approaches.

Tom Champion nods his second league goal of the season

The Darts started the month at Longmead having defeated their fellow Kent club at home and after extra time in the Kent Senior Cup Quarter Final. In a very scrappy match Tom Champion headed in a goal from an eighteenth minute corner. Tony Burman described the 1-0 win as “a massive result” and recognised the importance of grinding out results, he told PURE DFC: “It wasn’t the most pleasant game on the eye, it was an awful game of football but having said that we battled away” he added: “If you keep clean sheets then you win games and we’ve done that, I thought the players were superb”.

In a month which involved two games a week the players returned to Princes Park with opponents Farnborough waiting. The Hampshire side were in form having won a season’s best six in a row. Dartford themselves had won eight of their last nine so a tight encounter was expected. However, The Darts swept aside Farnborough in a convincing 3-0 triumph. Jacob Erskine put in a man of the match display with well taken goals in the 18th and 52nd minutes. Substitute Tony Garrod compounded Farnborough’s misery with a goal against his former club two minutes from time.

Maidenhead United were next up at York Road in the first of two games against The Magpies. Unfortunately two dropped points meant league leaders Woking increased a six point lead to eight. Alex Wall broke the Dartford defence with a fortunate deflection and became the first player to score past Louis Wells in 227 minutes of football. Fifteen minutes later Danny Harris managed to stoop low to complete an excellent diving headers and tie the match. Maidenhead’s Reece Tison-Lascaris was dismissed on the stroke of half time for an altercation with Wells but Dartford couldn’t take advantage of the extra man.

Luke Wilkinson powers in a header for his first ever Dartford goal

In the space of three days Dartford were to go on the rampage at Princes Park but only after a scare against struggling Havant and Waterlooville. The Hawks went in front early on when Sam Pearce neatly finished a move that started from a corner in the eighth minute. To make matters worse the away side won a penalty with quarter of an hour played. Luckily Steve Ramsey failed to take his chance and blasted the spot kick over.

Once again The Darts showed character and fitness and were back on level terms with a flowing move that started with Jon Wallis in midfield. Wallis kept possession releasing Harris who found Jacob Erskine. The striker put in a low cross and Lee Noble made sure.

It wasn’t until the final ten minutes of the league encounter that Dartford could think about the three points. Ryan Hayes made an impression having come off the subs bench, his toe poked cross was flicked towards goal by fellow substitute Tony Garrod but Harris got the final touch from close range. With three minutes remaining the game was settled by defender Luke Wilkinson who headed home a Hayes corner for his first goal in a Darts shirt and secure a 3-1 win against Havant and Waterlooville.

Noble celebrates his delightful goal against Sutton United

Keeping in touch at the top was about to become challenging with the visit of fourth place Sutton United. For the majority of the 1022 fans that turned up they were about to witness one of the best nights at Princes Park. Noble opened the Dartford goal scoring for a successive league match when he tackled Paul Telfer and expertly chipped Sutton’s goalkeeper. Four minutes later Adam Green scored his third league spot kick of the season to double the lead. Harry Beautyman pulled a goal back for the play off contenders and so The Darts had a 2-1 advantage at the break.

The second half was breathtaking for Dartford fans as the players stunned The U’s with four unanswered goals. Harris scored his 14th league goal of the season with another diving header just before the hour. Luke Wilkinson powered in a header for his secong goal in as many games. Top scorer Elliot Bradbrook got back on the score sheet with an effort from 25 yards and to cap it all off Jacob Erskine made it 6-1 five minutes from time. Burman was impressed by his players work rate and told PURE DFC after the game: “I’m pleased, we have been a bit renowned for being slow starters. I thought it was an excellent game first half but again we’ve shown our fitness in the second half”.

A trip to Dorset was next on the agenda with a journey to Dorchester Town and it was a weekend that conjured up an interesting set of results. Whilst The Darts come home with nothing due to Ryan Dovell’s winner in the fifty fourth minute, Woking and Chelmsford City were beaten, and Sutton United drew with Welling United. Dartford may have missed an opportunity to close the gap at the top but at least they had not lost ground.

An anticipated cup tie was a welcome break from Conference South football and for some first team players a much needed rest. For the Kent Senior Cup semi final tie against League One’s Charlton Athletic, Tony Burman selected Deren Ibrahim, Paul Goodacre, Ryan Hayes, Tony Garrod and Jack Pallen who have had limited chances to complete 90 minutes recently. The Addicks included a mixture of first team, reserve and academy players but most notably Andy Hughes, Bradley Pritchard, Cedric Evina and Jason Euell started.

The Darts hope to repeat last season's Kent Senior Cup win

A healthy crowd of 1062 watched Jack Pallen slide in the opening goal just after half hour. The lead did not last long though when Evina centred for young striker Adebayo Azeez to equalise. Lee Noble scored his third goal of the month and put The Darts ahead for the second time with a long range shot, six minutes into the second half. With four minutes remaining progression to a second final in a row was clinched by Elliot Bradbrook’s close range effort. The win was well deserved and The Darts will face Isthmian Division One South side Hythe Town in the final.

To end a pleasing March Dartford secured their eighth league win in a row at home. In similar fashion to the previous meeting a fortnight ago between Dartford and Maidenhead United the two sides battled on the pitch. It wasn’t a pleasant game and only came to life when three goals occurred in the space of nine second half minutes. Excellent play between James Rogers and Adam Green set up Erskine to curl in the first. Lee Noble’s free kick was missed by Maidenhead’s goal keeper and Wilkinson pounced for his third in a Dartford shirt. Paul Semakula halved the deficit for The Magpies when he was left unchallenged. The match was soured by the two harsh red cards for each side. Harris was dismissed for two cautions and Maidenhead substitute Jermaine Hinds left the field without touching the ball.

It has been an incredibly tough month for Dartford trying to keep pace with Woking at the top. The title is still on with only six matches to go but an eight point turnaround will be difficult. Over the last month the squad has been stretched with the injuries of Paul Goodacre, Elliot Bradbrook, Jon Wallis, Richard Graham, Matt Jones, Jacob Erskine and Deren Ibrahim. Although Bradbrook returned mid way through the month and Erskine only missed the semi final against Charlton Athletic, Tony Burman recognised the task that lies ahead and signed Tony Stokes from Concord Rangers and Sam Higgins from East Thurrock United. The two strikers have been signed on dual registration but have yet to feature.

Race for the prize

The top six remained unchanged from the beginning of the month. Woking continue to lead by eight points and have five fixtures remaining. Next up for The Cards is Basingstoke Town who have won their last four matches and could be a surprise entrant into the playoffs. Woking face Chelmsford City on the final day who may need a win to stave off Basingstoke Town. Woking regained their form in March winning five of their last six games, scoring 19 times. Giuseppe Sole managed to net in all six of those matches notching an impressive nine.

Date Woking Dartford
3 April 2012 Eastbourne Borough (a)
6 April 2012 Basingstoke Town (a)
7 April 2012 Chelmsford City (h)
9 April 2012 Tonbridge Angels (h) Bromley (a)
14 April 2012 Maidenhead United (a) Sutton United (a)
21 April 2012 Truro City (h) Boreham Wood (h)
28 April 2012 Chelmsford City (a) Truro City (a)

Playoff run in

Welling United’s defeat at Woking has left Jamie Day’s team settling for the playoffs as The Wings dropped thirteen points behind the league leaders. However, Welling will have an eye on the runners up spot as this will mean home advantage should they reach the play off final.

Despite Sutton United’s trouncing at Princes Park the Surrey club have a nine point cushion on sixth place. The U’s remain tough to beat having tasted defeat just twice in nineteen games and regardless of how they finish the season have had an impressive debut in the Conference South.

Out of the teams currently in the playoff Chelmsford City look the most vulnerable. The Clarets lost four out of seven in March to teams close to them. They have now failed to score in their previous two matches despite the signing of Eastleigh’s Jamie Slabber. Challenging the Essex side are Dover Athletic who themselves have started to destruct, The Whites have failed to capitalise on Chelmsford City’s poor form with three straight defeats without scoring. This leaves Basingstoke Town an outside bet who play three of the bottom four in April and are very much in form.

Date Sutton United Chelmsford City Dover Athletic Basingstoke Town
6 April 2012 Woking (h)
7 April 2012 Bromley (h) Dartford (a) Tonbridge Angels (a)
9 April 2012 Dover Athletic (a) Eastbourne Borough (h) Sutton United (h)
14 April 2012 Dartford (h) Salisbury City (h) Havant & Waterlooville (a) Thurrock (a)
16 April 2012 Havant & Waterlooville (a)
21 April 2012 Salisbury City (a) Eastleigh (a) Maidenhead United (h) Eastbourne Borough (h)
24 April 2012 Hampton & Richmond (a)
28 April 2012 Farnborough (a) Woking (h) Weston Super-Mare (a) Welling United (a)

Relegation battle

Mid table has chopped and changed subtly with few teams making an impression which leaves the relegation battle which is hotting up. Thurrock at last managed their very first home win when they beat Dorchester town 2-0. The Fleet managed to secure victory at Ship Lane for the first time in 18 attempts. However the Essex club are on the verge of relegation after a woeful season and cannot drop a single point in April.

At the start of March Eastbourne Borough were involved in the battle but three wins on the spin and an unbeaten run of five has seen them pull six points clear. Which leaves four points covering 17th to 21st with two of the five clubs heading to the Isthmian or Southern League.

Bromley have been flirting with the bottom three since November but have only spent three weeks in the dreaded drop zone. In March they lost just twice, went three games without a goal and picked up four draws. The Ravens face two of the top six over Easter (Sutton United and Dartford) but also have relegation bound Thurrock to play on the penultimate weekend.

Maidenhead United are becoming notorious for their barren spells. Last season they went 17 matches without a win over a three month period. This season it was only 12 games that put The Magpies into the position they are in now. March started of with a shock 2-0 win away to Woking but since then they have scored just twice, both against Dartford, picking up two more points. The Berkshire club are two points from safety with a crucial scrap at Staines Town next.

Hampton and Richmond have been in the bottom three virtually all season but The Beavers have suddenly found belief. It is not as if the Middlesex club had been getting severely beaten all season as nine of their fifteen defeats have been by a solitary goal. Unbeaten in six, until Monday night The Beavers overcame Truro City in a seven goal thriller, Weston Super-Mare and Dover Athletic whilst picking up points against Dover Athletic at The Crabble, Maidenhead United and Sutton United. With away fixtures at Farnborough and Eastbourne Borough follwed by three home games, Hampton and Richmond end their season away to Thurrock.

Staines Town are separated by just two goals from safety but have failed to get out of the bottom five since the second week of the season. The Swans could drag Maidenhead United further into the mix on Saturday and take on Havant and Waterlooville on what could be dramatic final day.

Havant and Waterlooville played their last match of March under manager Shaun Gale for the final time. The sacking of The Hawks boss came after a tremendous slump which has seen the Hampshire side enter the drop zone for the first time all season. Havant and Waterlooville are leaking goals picking up one win in thirteen but are only a point behind Hampton and Richmond.

Date Bromley Maidenhead Utd Hampton & Richmond Staines Town Havant & Waterlooville
7 April 2012 Sutton United (a) Staines Town (a) Farnborough (a) Maidenhead Utd (h) Truro City (a)
9 April 2012 Dartford (h) Farnborough (a) Boreham Wood (a)
10 April 2012 Salisbury City (h)
14 April 2012 Truro City (a) Woking (h) Eastbourne Boro (a) Dorchester Town (a) Dover Athletic (h)
16 April 2012 Basingstoke Town (h)
17 April 2012 Salisbury City (h)
21 April 2012 Thurrock (h) Dover Athletic (a) Welling United (h) Weston Super-Mare (h) Farnborough (a)
24 April 2012 Basingstoke Town (h)
28 April 2012 Dorchester Town (a) Eastleigh (h) Thurrock (a) Havant & Waterlooville (a) Staines Town (h)