1st – Mansfield Town – 95 pts
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.