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Dartford v Lincoln City

Dartford hope to take their first ever points off Lincoln City on Saturday after a much needed Bank Holiday victory.

The Darts will hope to make amends for last season’s performance against the Imps who did the double over Tony Burman’s men. In the corresponding fixture last term Colin Larkin was the star of the show netting a first half hat-trick. The 31 year old striker is now at Gateshead and has already opened his account for the Heed.

Back in December, the Darts suffered a dreadful start conceding four goals in the opening 45 minutes. Set pieces were problematic with Daniel Gray nodding Lincoln City in front and Larkin getting on the end of a free kick from close range. The away side went three up when a cut back was finished by Larkin and he completed his hat trick on the stroke of half time, following up another set piece. The Darts did manage to win the second half with two goals from the now departed Harry Crawford.

Two months later, up at Sincil Bank, Vadaine Oliver gave the hosts an early advantage but the Imps ended the first half a man short, Jake Sheridan was dismissed for a poor challenge on Lee Noble. It was Noble who levelled the match with fourteen minutes to go, however, it was that man Larkin again who won the encounter with a last minute penalty.

On Bank Holiday, Dartford faced another one of the sides that completed a double over them last term. The Darts travelled up to Tamworth on the back of three straight defeats without a single goal. However the Darts didn’t have long to wait to double their goalscoring tally when Danny Harris slotted the ball in the back of the net after just three minutes played. Impressive centre half Kenny Clark put Dartford two up mid way through the first half connecting with Adam Birchall’s shot across goal. Clark’s diving header is his first in Dartford colours and was enough to secure victory. Triumph at the Lambs Ground has moved the Darts up to fifteenth position.

Victory has given confidence back to the Darts but Tony Burman wasn’t too concerned in first place trusting his squad, he spoke to www.kentonline.co.uk and said: “In this league, you can lose three or four games and then win the next three or four. It happens but you have to move on”, he added: “I felt the players had done well enough to get something out of the other games but it didn’t work for us”.

Opponents, Lincoln City have got off to a great start and sit in the playoff zone a polint behind league leaders Barnet. Although the season is still early Gary Simpson joined the Imps as boss in February and has already made an imapct. This summer he has already made his mark by clearing out the Imps strike force. Larkin, Oliver and Jamie Taylor all left and between them they scored almost half of Lincoln City’s goals last term. The replacements, Danny Rowe from Fleetwood Town, Waide Fairhurst from Macclesfield Town, Nick Wright from Mansfield Town and Ben Tomlinson from Alfreton Town have netted five between them. Whilst defensively Simpson brought in Sean Newton from relegated Stockport County, Nat Brown from Macclesfield Town and Luke Foster from Preston North End the midfield remains much the same.

The result of Simpson’s changes is an opening day goalless draw at Woking followed by two home wins over Macclesfield Town and Forest Green Rovers. Rowe scored against the Silkmen on his début to give the Imps their first three point haul, whilst former Silkman Fairhurst notched a brace in their 2-1 triumph versus Forest Green Rovers as his side came back from a goal down.

On Saturday, Lincoln City visited Cambridge United where they suffered their first defeat of the campaign by a goal to nil, it was the second away match without a goal. On Bank Holiday Monday they hosted Wrexham taking a 2-0 win against the Welsh club with Ben Tomlinson scoring both to seal victory.

Team News

Matt Fry returned to first team action following his injury on the opening day of the season, the left back only lasted fifty one minutes on day one but completed the full ninety against Tamworth. Fry’s return meant Tyrone Sterling played his second match for the Darts, this time as a left midfielder meaning Ryan Hayes was dropped to the bench. Danny Harris made his second start replacing Jason Prior and Alex Woodyard, who previously made four substitute appearances earned a place in the starting eleven at the expense of Max Cornhill. The Darts have no injury or suspension concerns.

Lincoln City will have Alan Power suspended for his dangerous tackle on Cambridge United’s Greg Taylor, the midfielder received a straight red card in that match and serves a three game ban. The Imps also had two strikers, Nick Wright and Adi Yussuf out injured for the 2-0 win versus Wrexham.

Current Form

Dartford (WLLLW) Lincoln City (WLWWD)
Tamworth A 2-0 Wrexham H 2-0
Braintree Town H 0-2 Cambridge United A 0-1
FC Halifax Town A 0-2 Forest Green Rovers H 2-1
Aldershot Town A 0-3 Macclesfield Town H 1-0
Alfreton Town H 1-0 Woking A 0-0

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 0 / Lincoln City wins: 2 / Draws 0

Last Meeting at Princes Park

8 December 2012 –  Dartford 2 Lincoln City 4 – Att: 1466

Goalscorers: Gray (7), Larkin (24, 32, 45), Crawford (49,71)

The Darts Lineup: Bettinelli, Burns, Bonner, Ajayi, Rose, Champion, Bradbrook, Rogers, Noble, Harris, Crawford (subs used: Erskine, Hayes, Wallis)

The Imps Lineup: Preece, Robson, Mills, Miller, Gilbert, Smith, Gray, Nicolau, Fofana, Oliver, Larkin (sub used: Robinson)

Match Stats

dartford v lincoln stats

Previous Meetings

09.02.2013 Lincoln City 2 Dartford 1
08.12.2012 Dartford 2 Lincoln City 4

Stats

0 – Number of second half goals conceded by Lincoln City so far this campaign

30 – Dartford are one of just five teams to have forced 30 corners or more this season, Lincoln City have won 31

61 – The number of fouls conceded by the Imps, only Kidderminster Harriers (70) and Hereford United (64) have given away more free kicks this term

 

Tamworth v Dartford

Dartford will wish for their goal drought to end on Bank Holiday Monday as they seek victory against Tamworth at the Lamb Ground.

When the Darts visited the Lambs in December they suffered a second defeat to their opposition. The home side repeated the opening day scoreline edging out Tony Burman’s men by a single goal in five.

On loan defender Semi Ajayi put the Darts in front with a header on his debut but the tide turned when Tom Bonner was sent off for deliberate handball, Tamworth’s Scott Barrow scored from the resulting penalty. With twenty minutes remaining Danny Harris scored to put the side with ten men ahead. The lead lasted until the final five minutes, Barrow netting his second penalty which Burman felt was ‘a bit harsh’. Tamworth took the lead for the first time that afternoon when the now retired ex Premier League midfielder Lee Hendrie scored the winner two minutes from time.

Adam Birchall remains the only player to have netted for the Darts this season in the opening day victory against Alfreton Town. Yet again Burman’s side failed to breach the opposition defence on the weekend going down to a 2-0 home defeat versus Braintree Town. The loss is Dartford’s third in succession, a run similar to the start they made last term. Alan Massey gave the Iron a second half lead with a header and former Ebbsfleet United striker Liam Enveer-Marum finished the Darts off in the final minute.

Like Dartford, the Lambs lost two players to Cambridge United in the summer. The most influential was Adam Cunnington who scored 21 league goals for the Staffordshire club last term, netting a brace against the Darts in last season’s opener. The 25 year old striker teams up with former Darts, Tom Bonner and Tom Champion.

The Lambs replacement for Cunnington is experienced striker Justin Richards, the new number nine has started three matches but has yet to open his account in front of goal. The 32 year old was part of the Port Vale side that knocked Dartford out of the F.A Cup first round after a replay in November 2010. More experience has been brought to the Lamb Ground with the signings of former Northern Ireland international Tony Capaldi and defender Wayne Thomas.

Another familiar face will be Jack Evans who often came off the substitute bench for the Darts, the defender spent a loan spell at Princes Park last campaign scoring twice in 15 appearances as a midfielder. The former Gillingham youngster was signed by Dale Belford to replace Tait and has so far played all four matches under the Lambs boss.

In their opening four games Tamworth have picked up two more points than the Darts remaining unbeaten at home thanks to two draws. The season started with a 1-0 away victory over newly promoted Salisbury City, Wayne Thomas scoring the winner in the first half. A goalless draw followed at home to Barnet and a creditable 2-2 stalemate versus Wrexham, Jake Jones gave Tamworth the lead and Darren Byfield scored a late equaliser. On Saturday, the Lambs travelled to Hereford United and were beaten by a solitary goal which saw Duane Courtney red carded.

Team News

Dartford were back to full strength on Saturday, Tyrone Sterling made his debut and Ryan Hayes returned to action.

Last Meeting at The Lamb Ground

1 December 2012 –  Tamworth 3 Dartford 2 – Att: 832

Goalscorers: Ajayi (16), Barrow (56 pen), Harris (70), Barrow (85 pen), Hendrie (88)

The Lambs Lineup: Severn, Tait, Courtney, Oji, Taylor, Kelly, Baldock, Kerry, Barrow, Moke, Cunnington (subs used: Till, Wright, Hendrie)

The Darts Lineup: Bettinelli, Burns, Ajayi, Bonner, Rose, Champion, Bradbrook, Hayes, Noble, Harris, Erskine (subs used: Rogers, Crawford, Collier)

Match Stats

tamworth v dartford stats
Stats

3 – The percentage of shots that have turned into goals for Dartford, the lowest ratio in this season’s Conference Premier

29 – Corners won by Tamworth in the first four matches, more than any other side this campaign

318 – Minutes since Dartford’s last league goal

The last time Dartford went three league games without a goal was five years ago during their first Isthmian Premier League season. The barren spell lasted from 16 August 2008 to 23 August 2013 and was broken on Bank Holiday Monday which resulted in a win.

Dartford v Braintree Town

Last season’s two best part time teams go head to head on Saturday when Dartford welcome Braintree Town to Princes Park.

Just over four months ago the two sides couldn’t be separated in a dour 0-0 draw. The Irons came close when Ben Wright fired over the bar and Matthew Paine’s header was cleared off the line. Dartford’s closest attempt from Charlie Sheringham hit the post as the Darts were denied a double over the Essex side. The stalemate featured summer signing Alex Woodyard who came on as a substitute for the Iron in April. At Cressing Road, Tony Burman’s men recorded a 2-0 win with first half goals from Tom Bonner and Jacob Erskine.

Both clubs also met during their Conference South days with Dartford taking four points off the 2011 champions. Braintree Town may well have gained promotion at the end of that season, however a February double header ended with Elliot Bradbrook scoring the winner at home and Jon Main equalising in the away match, the Iron took the lead with a Billy Burgess own goal.

The Darts enter this weekends match on the back of two consecutive defeats without scoring. After an opening day win at Alfreton Town, Dartford were beaten on the road twice against Aldershot Town and FC Halifax Town. Although the defence kept a clean sheet in the home fixture versus Alfreton Town, the back line have conceded five in the last two.

At the Shay last weekend Lee Gregory scored against the Darts once more having netted in last season’s F.A Trophy tie. Kevin Holsgrove managed to extend FC Halifax Town’s advantage and seal a 2-0 win for then hosts. Tony Burman was pleased with the first half display but frustrated in the manner of the goals conceded, speaking to BBC Radio Kent he said: “This is a difficult place to come. I felt we handled their threat very well in the first half and probably had the best chance of the game”, he added: “I’m really disappointed because on Tuesday we gave Aldershot a couple of goals and today we committed hari-kari”.

With the experience of last season’s first three games, Burman there is no need to panic, the Dartford boss commented: “You hope it changes and things go in for you. The season’s only a week old and we’ve got three points more than we had last season”.

Braintree Town have a mark in each of the win, lose and draw columns picking up a point on their travels for the first game of the season. In their only away match, the Iron drew 1-1 with Hereford United having taken the lead. At home the Essex side defeated Woking 2-0 with goals from strike duo Daniel Holman and Sean Marks and lost 1-0 to last season’s runners up Kidderminster Harriers in the final minute. In the Irons recent league outing manager Alan Devonshire was disappointed with the first half display, he spoke to BBC Essex and said: “We’ve got to set our own standards and I didn’t think we turned up first half, didn’t play the way we know we want to play”.

Devonshire opted for stability in the summer by not only agreeing a new contract but by keeping the majority of last terms squad. Chez Isaac, who scored against the Darts for Boreham Wood two years ago is one new signing and has started all three fixtures. Former Ebbsfleet United striker Liam Enveer-Marum has made three substitute appearances, the 25 year old scored in Fleets 3-1 defeat on Boxing Day at Princes Park.

Team News

Tyrone Sterling is yet to make a start for his new club, the Dartford defender struggled through pre season with an ankle injury. Fellow full back, Matt Fry missed a second match with a hamstring strain picked up against Alfreton Town on the opening day of the season. Ryan Hayes missed the 2-0 defeat at FC Halifax Town, the winger also suffered an ankle injury. However, Tony Burman confirmed he has a fully fit squad with the addition of new signing Josh Hill, the 21 year old defender impressed in pre season.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 2 / Braintree Town wins: 2 / Draws 2

Last Meeting at Princes Park

11 April 2013 –  Dartford 0 Braintree Town 0 – Att: 1051

The Darts Lineup: Somogyi, Green, Champion, Bonner, Burns, Rose, Bradbrook, Hayes, Noble, Harris, Prior (subs used: Rogers, Sheringham, Collier)

The Iron Lineup: McDonald, Habergham, Paine, Wells, Smith, Symons, Davis, Daley, Mulley, Marks, Wright (subs used: Peters, Sheppard, Woodyard)

Match Stats

dfc v btfc stats

Previous Meetings (FAT = F.A Trophy First Round / Fr = Friendly)

11.04.2013 Dartford 0 Braintree Town 0
25.09.2012 Braintree Town 0 Dartford 2
12.02.2011 Braintree Town 1 Dartford 1
01.02.2011 Dartford 1 Braintree Town 0
20.07.2002 (Fr) Braintree Town 3 Dartford 0
03.11.2001 (FAT1R) Dartford 0 Braintree Town 3

Stats

8 – After eight minutes Braintree Town opened the 2013/14 Conference Premier goalscoring when Hereford United’s Adam Smith scored an own goal

13 – The amount of goals it took for Dartford to finish above Braintree Town last season. Despite being level on points the Darts scored four goals more and conceded nine fewer than the Iron.

53 – The number of fouls won by Braintree Town this season, more than any other club in the Conference Premier

265 – Dartford have gone 265 minutes without conceding against Braintree Town stretching back to the February 2011 meeting in the Conference South. The last goal scored by a Braintree Town player against the Darts was in a friendly eleven years ago

Early goals seem to be the key for Braintree Town having scored all three this season before the 20 minute mark. The two goals the Iron have conceded so far have occurred late on in the 79th and 89th minutes.

FC Halifax Town v Dartford

Dartford will be back at the Shay on Saturday, eight months since last playing FC Halifax Town in the F.A Trophy quarter finals.

In January, the Darts found their trip to the Shay tough with the cup tie ending in a stalemate. Despite the home side being reduced to ten men early on, Chris Worsley was dismissed for his challenge on Mark Arber, the Conference North playoff winners were not deterred when striker Lee Gregory put the hosts one up. A second half substitution was pivotal in the result, Danny Harris pounced from three yards out thus earning the Darts a replay.

At Princes Park a trio of midfielder’s blasted the Darts into the semi-final after falling behind to Dan Gardner’s second minute goal. Lee Noble scored through a crowded box and two minutes later Elliot Bradbrook netted with a well taken finish. The pick of the bunch came courtesy of winger Ryan Hayes who expertly curled his shot beyond Matt Glennon. The Shaymen set up a dramatic finish with Gardner’s second of the match.

Tony Burman started his eighth consecutive campaign in charge with a 1-0 win over Alfreton Town. Adam Birchall’s winner gave the Darts victory in a game they should have finished off sooner according to the Dartford boss. On Tuesday night his side travelled to Hampshire for a fixture against last season’s relegated League Two club Aldershot Town.

With their opponents recovering from financial disarray and assembling a squad with short notice, Dartford failed to capitalise going home with nothing to show. Lee Noble hit the woodwork before the Shots took the lead through Brett Williams, signed from Reading the striker notched his first for the Hampshire side after 18 minutes. It took the home side until the hour mark to double their advantage through Manny Oyeleke and with three minutes remaining Aaron Wickham scored a third.

The Shay Stadium

The Shay: Home of FC Halifax Town

Meanwhile, FC Halifax Town couldn’t have faced a tougher start to their campaign taking on a much changed Cambridge United and one of the promotion contenders Wrexham.

The Shaymen’s return to the top non league division looked good for seven minutes in their televised opener, Gregory turned the ball in to put the visitors in front. Sunday went downhill from there, Danny Lowe was dismissed after conceding a penalty and Adam Cunnington drew Cambridge United level from the spot. FC Halifax Town were reduced to nine men due to Matt Glennon’s professional foul, the goalkeeper was red carded with just 23 minutes played. Ryan Donaldson, a Delano Sam-Yorke brace and another from Cunnington completed the 5-1 defeat.

Like most results this week the Shaymen caused a surprise against Wrexham. New signing and England C International Simon Ainge put through his own net giving the Welsh club a lead. FC Halifax Town hit back when another new signing Lois Maynard heading onto the cross bar and over the line. Former Liverpool defender Stephen Wright conceded a penalty and was dismissed just before half time, Josh Wilson also a summer recruit for the Shaymen, scored from the spot. Gregory scored his second of the campaign on the stroke of half time and Wrexham’s Adrian Cieslewicz netted a consolation.

Over the summer, Neil Aspin lost the services of striker Gareth Seddon who could face the Darts in a Chester shirt next month, Jaso Jarrett moved in the other direction. Experience arrived in midfielder Keith Briggs, the 32 year old featured in the Kidderminster Harriers team which finished runners up last term. Adam Smith joined from Lincoln City, the winger made 30 appearances for the Imps in 2012/13. Aspin also captured Marc Roberts, Kevin Holsgrove and Matt Pearson.

Team News

James Rogers stepped in at left back on Tuesday night due to the ankle injury Tyrone Sterling has been suffering with and the hamstring strain Matt Fry picked up.

Dan Gardner made an appearance in the Shaymen’s win against Wrexham, the midfielder missed the opener through injury. Danny Lowe and Matt Glennon served suspensions for their red cards against Cambridge United.

Stats

2 – The number of meeting between Dartford and FC Halifax Town, both took place last in January.

24 – Number of goals Lee Gregory scored for the Shaymen last season, the clubs top marksman for 2012/13, he’s already hit two goals in as many games this campaign.

The graph below shows Dartford’s steady rise to the Conference Premier against the decline of Halifax Town in 2008, and the rise of the new club FC Halifax Town from the season afterwards.

DFCvFCHT league progress

Aldershot Town v Dartford

Dartford’s opening away day arrives on Tuesday night with a trip to Aldershot Town for the first time in 45 years.

It’s been almost half a century since the Darts last face the Shots in a F.A Cup first round tie. Then of the Southern Premier League, Dartford caused an upset to win 3-1 at Watling Street and progress to the second round.  Aldershot were an established Football League side back then, where they remained until 1992 when the club resigned on financial grounds.

Birchall scored an opening day winner

Birchall netted the winner

A new look Darts warmed up by getting off to the perfect start on the weekend dispatching their visitors Alfreton Town by a single goal. Adam Birchall’s craft three minutes before half time was enough to earn Dartford their first three point haul of the campaign. The striker on loan from Gillingham hassled the Alfreton Town defence putting former Wrexham defender Chris Westwood under pressure, before sneaking down the byline and slotting the ball through Ross Atkins’s legs. Apart from a scare immediately after Birchall’s winner Dartford held on to victory. Alfreton Town’s best effort was ruled out for offside when the assistant referee flagged Paul Clayton who put the ball beyond Julian.

Tony Burman handed out competitive débuts to Alan Julian, Kenny Clark, Mat Mitchel-King and Matt Fry, who marked their first starts together at the back with a clean sheet. Fry was forced to withdraw on 51 minutes through injury and was replaced by James Rogers. Max Cornhill was the only other débutant to play the full ninety minutes and Alex Woodyard made an appearance in the closing stages. Jason Prior and Birchall linked up well, both had previously played for the Darts on loan last season.

The Shots almost saw history repeat itself, this time relegated from League Two the Hampshire side were close to going out of business again. At the beginning of the month a consortium led by former chairman Shahid Azeem became the new owners. Three months ago, the Shots reported debts of £1.4 million and the summer uncertainty has left the phoenix club with a ten point deduction.

Aldershot Town's Recreation Ground

Aldershot Town’s Recreation Ground

Manager, Andy Scott is confident the ten point deficit will galvanise his new look squad which has only just been assembled. In August alone the Aldershot Town boss has signed a teamful of players and included no fewer than seven of them in Saturday’s opener. Returning midfielder Mark Molesley made his third début for the club, Jake Goodman, Adam Webster and former Republic of Ireland international Martin Rowlands also started. Matt Patterson and Chris Barker were other newbies along with Brett Williams who spent time with Woking on loan last season.

The Shots were denied an opening day win by Grimsby Town’s Ross Hannah, the substitute put away a spot kick nine minutes from time. Aldershot Town took the lead at Blundell Park when new signing Joe Oastler put the Hampshire side ahead just before the hour. Scott spoke to BBC Radio Surrey and said: “With what we’ve gone through, and the fact that we’re here with a team on the pitch, is testament to everybody; the fans, the players, the staff, the new consortium”, he added: “We had some very young players on the pitch and I think the two centre-halves were outstanding. The performance was outstanding and we dominated large parts of the game.”

Team News

Tyrone Sterling has struggled through pre season with an ankle injury and was unavailable against Alfreton Town. New signing Matt Fry was substituted early in the second half on the weekend cutting his first match for the Darts short.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 3 / Aldershot Town wins: 5 / Draws 5

Last Five Meetings (*F.A Cup)

16.11.1968* Dartford 3 Aldershot Town 1
18.11.1964* Aldershot Town 1 Dartford 0
14.11.1964* Dartford 1 Aldershot Town 1
07.04.1939 Dartford 3 Aldershot Town 2
04.09.1937 Dartford 1 Aldershot Town 1

Stats

14 – Dartford had the second most attempts at goal on the opening day of the season joint with Kidderminster Harriers. Still that’s nine shots behind Forest Green Rovers who thumped Hyde 8-0. Cambridge United played the following day and recorded three more than Rovers.

4037 – The biggest crowd of matchday one was at Blundell Park where Aldershot Town visited Grimsby Town to witness a 1-1 draw

A View From The South Coast

Happy 125 year anniversary – but is there much to celebrate with second season syndrome looming?

It’s great to be back, new players, new teams, new optimism, and new start. Welcome to the 2013/14 Conference Premier season and Dartford’s 125th year as a club. Only time will tell if the Darts can set a record third successive year in the top non-league division but what chances do we have?

Twenty seven years ago, Evertonians cursed their rivals Liverpool who pipped them to the league and F.A Cup, England were cheated by Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ and Dartford suffered the dreaded second season syndrome.

In the Watling Street days, John Still led the Darts to the Southern League Championship. Momentum took the club to third in the Alliance Premier League, today’s equivalent of the Conference Premier. The following year relegation back to the Southern League was confirmed. John Still departed in February 1986 and will meet the Darts again next month.

The thing is, second season syndrome just seems to be a coined phrase and is really nothing to fear. Since the beginning of the Conference Premier, North and South leagues eight years ago, just under one in four clubs have returned to their former division two years later. In fact, if you want numbers then that’s 22% of the promoted teams returning to the North or South after a couple of seasons.

Amongst those is our local rivals Ebbsfleet United, who along with AFC Telford United were the latest clubs to suffer the three S’s. Southport were the first since the Conference reconstruction with Stafford Rangers, St Albans City and Bath City in between.

Okay, so what if second season syndrome is defined slightly differently, to mean a club who finishes higher in their first campaign than their second season?

With the exception of the Conference South play-off winners, sorry readers, it’s pretty much a 50/50 split. Overall eleven clubs improved their final standings in season number two and a dozen finished lower.

Only Hayes and Yeading United negotiated the Conference South play-offs to promotion then bettered their first season’s position, albeit by one. Salisbury City and Eastbourne Borough declined whilst the last two winners Bath City and Ebbsfleet United perished and were sent packing back to the Conference South.

Positive cases from North and South include Fleetwood Town who are the only club to take the championship and enter the Football League, it helps when money talks. AFC Wimbledon moved from eighth to second, but the biggest mover was Southport who improved a whopping fourteen places. The Sandgrounders finished in the bottom four when they returned to the Conference Premier, surviving thanks to the decline of Rushden and Diamonds, then followed up with a seventh place placing.

On average clubs that make improvements gain four positions, whilst going in the other direction costs an average of seven places. At least that makes Dartford safe based on these statistics.

Dartford v Alfreton Town

A long awaited second season in the Conference Premier begins for the Darts at home to Alfreton Town on Saturday.

Almost a year ago, Harry Crawford’s hat trick ensured Dartford recorded their joint biggest win in the top non league division for 27 years.

ghghghg

Harry Crawford’s low drive hits the back of the net

Crawford, who top scored for the Darts in 2012/13 started the goal rush with a low drive from the edge of the box. Jacob Erskine’s strength played a part in the second, the striker shrugged off Adam Quinn before neatly finishing. On the stroke of half time Elliot Bradbrook headed Dartford into a 3-0 half time lead, arriving at the far post the captain nodded home a Ryan Hayes corner.

Hayes began the second half setting up the fourth with a clever free kick. The wingers chip into the box was met by a looping Bradbrook header, however Crawford stole the last touch before the ball crossed the line. Alfreton Town pulled a late goal back with ten  minutes on the clock, Daniel Meadows tidily placed his shot in the corner of the Dartford net. Searching for his hat trick, Crawford found a third to secure a 5-1 victory. The now Barnet striker pounced on Darren Kempson’s error and needed two attempts to take the match ball home.

Tony Burman has had to rebuild part of his squad for the forthcoming campaign after some major departures in defence and attack. Lee Burns is the only defender remaining at the club whilst up front Burman has signed two loanee’s from last season. Adam Birchall impressed in only six games during September and October scoring one goal, the 28 year old joins from League One side Gillingham. Prior is likely to partner Birchall in attack, the former AFC Wimbledon striker was with the Darts in March and April featuring nine times scoring once.

summer activity

Dartford squad numbers for 2013/2014

Local lad Matt Fry comes to Princes Park with Football League experience, the 22 year old defender helped Concord Rangers into the Conference South last season but has played for West Ham United, Charlton Athletic, Gillingham and Bradford City. Burman also raided Conference South side Chelmsford City for defender Kenny Clark and midfielder Max Cornhill, Dover Athletic for full back Tyrone Sterling and promoted Newport County for goalkeeper Alan Julian.

Burman used pre season wisely to assess a number of trialists and academy players. Tom Wellham, Jay Porter, George Monger, Ronnie Vint and Mohamed Eisa were all given squad numbers whilst Alex Woodyard, Uche Ibemere and Mat Mitchel-King also impressed boosting the senior squad for this season to twenty three.

Woodyard had been with Southend United since the age of sixteen and spent time on loan at Braintee Town last term. Mitchel-King also has Football League experience with Crewe Alexandra and AFC Wimbledon. Meanwhile Uche Ibemere will not feature on Saturday as the former VCD Athletic player has joined Cray Wanderers on loan.

Over pre season the senior team have failed to pick up a win, losing four matches and drawing with AFC Wimbledon, Dagenham and Redbridge, Ebbsfleet United and on Saturday a Fulham XI. The Cottagers included goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli who was on loan with the Darts last season, however his presence couldn’t stop Lee Noble from scoring the equaliser in a 1-1 stalemate.

Alfreton Town ended in thirteenth spot last term and missed out on an F.A Cup third round appearance after defeat at Leyton Orient. The Reds have reverted back to part time football in order to cut their cloth accordingly. The Derbyshire club’s mid table finish was their highest final position achieved in a 54 year history.

Manager, Nicky Law has been highly praised by Alfreton Town’s chairman Wayne Bradley who believes the 51 year old is ‘worth four places in the league table’. Law’s first summer job was to keep Paul Clayton, the Reds top scorer from last season who totalled 17 league goals. Arrivals at the Impact Arena include former Wrexham defender Chris Westwood and ex Cambridge United midfielder Tom Shaw. John McGrath has also moved in at the Impact Arena, the experienced midfielder was released by Burton Albion at the end of last season. A notable departure from Alfreton Town includes the impressive Nathan Arnold who has moved to Shaw’s old club where former Darts, Tom Bonner and Tom Champion will feature.

The Reds were also without a victory during pre season as they took on a number of Football League teams. Loses at home to Birmingham City, Walsall, Sheffield United and Port Vale were accompanied with defeat at Worksop Parramore and draws against Burton Albion and Matlock Town.

Last five season openers

5 seasonopener

Last Meeting at Princes Park

1 September 2012 – Dartford 5 Alfreton Town 1- Att: 1145

Goalscorers: Crawford (11), Erskine (37), Bradbrook (45), Crawford (48), Meadows (80), Crawford (82)

The Darts Lineup: Bettinelli, Burns, Bonner, Arber, Rose, Champion, Hayes, Rogers, Erskine, Crawford, Bradbrook (subs used: Noble, Collier, Wallis)

The Reds Lineup: Stewart, Law, Kempson, Quinn, Franks, Taylor, Bradley, Brown Russell, Clayton, Tomlinson, (subs used: Arnold, Meadows, Worsfold)

Match Stats

Conference Premier Season Preview 2013/2014

Aldershot Town | Alfreton Town | Barnet | Braintree Town | Cambridge United | Chester | Dartford | FC Halifax Town | Forest Green Rovers | Gateshead | Grimsby Town | Hereford United | Hyde FC | Kidderminster Harriers | Lincoln City | Luton Town | Macclesfield Town | Nuneaton Town | Salisbury City | Southport | Tamworth | Welling United | Woking | Wrexham

Aldershot TownAldershot Town FC

Formed: 1992  Ground: The EBB Stadium, Recreation Ground

One of many phoenix clubs taking part in this season’s Conference Premier, the Shots return to the level they were at in 2008. After dropping out the old Fourth Division as Aldershot eleven years ago, the Hampshire club will hope history doesn’t repeat itself. Struggling financially, it will be challenging starting the season ten points adrift.

Last Season
Final Standing 2012/13 24th – League Two
F.A Cup Fourth Round
League Cup First Round
County Cup Third Round
Top League Scorer 2012/13 Craig Reid (11 goals)
Most League Appearances 2012/13 Sonny Bradley (42 appearances)
Av. / Highest Home Attendance 2304 / 3699 v AFC Wimbledon

Football League’s basement boys will not remember 2012/2013 in a hurry. With the club “haemorrhaging money” off the field the players and Dean Holdsworth failed to lighten the mood on the terraces. Six straight defeats at the end of September and into October set the tone. Although inconsistency kept the club above water over the festive season, the Shots were back in the mire by February costing Holdsworth his job. Andy Scott picked the Hampshire side up again before sinking into the bottom two for the final five weeks of the season.

The Summer

Five days after relegation out of the Football League the Shots announced the club would enter administration to help clear debts totalling £1 million. With £300,000 owing to football creditors Quantuma Restructuring made 13 players redundant leaving just six on the club’s books. Acceptance into the Conference Premier was confirmed at the league’s Annual General Meeting  with the club accepting a ten point deduction. As a result of the financial strains the Shots have lost key players all over the park including strikers Danny Hylton and Craig Reid, defender Doug Berqvist and winger Alex Rodman. But at least a deal in principle was agreed by August as the Shots clutched onto life.

The Manager – Andy Scott

Mainly synonymous with Brentford the former striker spent eight years at Griffin Park as a player and manager. Brother of Grimsby Town’s boss Rob, the Shots man in charge faces his toughest managerial challenge. At Brentford, a caretaker role five years ago proved successful and the League Two title followed in Scott’s first full season, then his sacking in 2011 came as a surprise.  His spell at Rotherham United was short lived having spent eleven months in charge. After almost a year out of managerial hotseats Scott returned to the dugout with Aldershot Town in February and hopes the points deduction will galvanise his squad.

Expectations

Lightening doesn’t strike twice, well that’s what Aldershot Town fans hope. Seeing their club falter and rise only for history to repeat itself would be disastrous. Survival as a club is the only achievement worth thinking about at this stage.

Best Performances

League:              6th – League Two (2009/10)

F.A Cup:              Fourth Round (2012/13)

F.A Trophy:        Semi Finalists (2003/04 & 2007/08)

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Alfreton Townatfc

Founded: 1959   Ground: The Impact Arena, North Street

Credit is due to the Derbyshire club for cutting their cloth, for the up and coming season the Reds revert back to part time. Chairman, Wayne Bradley made the call despite Alfreton Town reaching their highest ever finish last campaign. The playing budget will be cut by a quarter making life in the Conference Premier even tougher.

Last Season
Final Standing 2012/13 13th – Conference Premier
F.A Cup Second Round
F.A Trophy First Round
County Cup Semi-Final
Top League Scorer 2012/13 Paul Clayton (17 goals)
Most League Appearances 2012/13 Nathan Arnold (45 appearances)
Av. / Highest Home Attendance 747 (22nd) / 1537 v Mansfield Town

In similar vein to their début season Alfreton Town were stronger towards the end. A slow start included four defeats in six, including a 5-1 hammering at promoted side Dartford. The Reds were soon back on track becoming harder to beat, losing just three matches throughout September to November. Although the Derbyshire club racked up their highest win of the season in February, the month itself was far from impressive. Defensively, Alfreton Town kept half of their eight clean sheets in the final two months as points picked up again.

The Summer

Leading scorer Paul Clayton signed a new two year contract along with regulars Dan Bradley and Connor Franklin. Right back Bradley Wood was Alfreton Town’s first signing from Grimsby Town whilst  centre-half Kristian Ramsey-Dickson signed a one-year contract, the 23 year old played basketball for Great Britain and turned down a move to League Two side Chesterfield.  Tom Shaw made 37 appearances and Michael Wylde just eight for Cambridge United in 2012/13, both players team up with the Reds. Heading in the other direction will be Nathan Arnold who signed a two year deal with the U’s. Derby County goalkeeper Ross Atkins will continue to train with the Rams but he will be playing on loan at the Impact Arena. Coming in from across the border is 36 year old defender Chris Westwood from Wrexham and adding more experience at the back will be Nick Fenton, following his release from Morecambe.  Anton Brown and Theo Streete left the club for Harrogate Town and Nuneaton Town respectively.

The Manager – Nicky Law

Bradley’s first task was to keep manager Nicky Law and with a reduced budget the Chairman believes Law has “nous and an eye for bringing in talent”. Law is so regarded by Bradley that he thinks he is “possibly worth four places in the league table”. The former defender was appointed six years ago and helped his side step up from the Conference North in 2011. Prior his good work at the Impact Arena, the 51 year old impressed at Buxton leading the club to back to back titles and two cup triumphs, his former club remain in the Northern Premier League.

Expectations

Three years experience and a good showing from other part time teams last season will not deter Alfreton Town. To set another personal best finish will be tricky, another mid table season will be satisfying for the club.

Best Performances

League:              13th – Conference Premier (2012/13)

F.A Cup:              Second Round (2008/09 & 2012/13)

F.A Trophy:        Fourth Round (2002/03 & 2004/05)

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BFCBarnet

Founded: 1888   Ground: The Hive Stadium, Canons Park

Returning to the Conference Premier for the first time since 2004/05 the Bees were unable to stave off a fourth successive relegation battle. Barnet will participate in their third spell in the top non league flight with a touch of Champions League experience at the helm and a new stadium.

Last Season
Final Standing 2011/12 23rd – League Two
F.A Cup First Round
League Cup First Round
County Cup Second Round
Top League Scorer 2011/12 Jake Hyde (14 goals)
Most League Appearances 2012/13 David Stephens & Graham Stack (42 appearances)
Av. / Highest Home Attendance 2439 (19th) / 6001 v Wycombe Wanderers

A dreadful start to 2012/13 with three points out of an available 36 left Barnet fans scratching their heads. Truth is, in the end it was the away form which let down the Bees. In their last season at Underhill, Barnet had the tenth best home record. At the foot of the Football League, throughout the majority of the 2012 part of the campaign it looked unlikely there would be a fourth successive final day finale. However, Barnet didn’t disappoint taking their fate to the very end thanks to a win in their penultimate game versus Wycombe Wanderers, leaving the club above the drop zone. A 2-0 defeat at Northampton Town ended the Bees stay in the Football League after eight years.

The Summer

Following relegation 13 players were released by Edgar Davids including John Oster, Michel Kuipers and Craig Beattie. Top goalscorer, Jake Hyde submitted a transfer request after netting 14 times last season and behind the scenes an appointment was made in the coaching department. Dick Shreuder is now Barnet’s Head of Coaching having gained experience as a player with PSV Eindhoven, Sparta Rotterdam, FC Groningen and Stoke City. Davids has made Keanu Marsh-Brown’s loan spell from last term into a permanent deal and has signed Welling United defender Anthony Acheampong, who helped the Wings clinch the Conference South title. Winger Ricky Holmes will remain in League Two with south coast side Portsmouth.

The Manager – Edgar Davids

Known as ‘The Pitbull’ the combative and skilful midfielder won 74 Netherland caps, played in one World Cup, three European Championships, won the Champions League, UEFA Cup, three Eredivisie titles and a trio of Scudetto’s. After representing Ajax, AC Milan, Juventus, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Tottenham Hotspur, the dreadlocked 40 year old is a novice as a coach in comparison. Davids started his coaching career only two years ago at his first club Ajax and joined Barnet in October playing 28 times for the club.

Expectations

Away form will need to improve as Davids has a chance to put his attacking mark on the team. If the Bees settle at their new home and deal with the huge amount of publicity then they can look a good prospect for the playoffs or more.

Best Performances

League:               24th – Division Two (1993/94)*

F.A Cup:              Fourth Round (2006/07 & 2007/08)

F.A Trophy:        Runner Up (1971/72)

* Now League One

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Braintree TownBTFC

Founded: 1898   Ground: Amlin Stadium, Cressing Road

When the Irons were promoted in 2011 not many pundits gave the Essex club a chance. Braintree Town have had other ideas finishing in their highest ever league position in their début season then breaking that record last term. Only goal difference prevented the Irons earning the crown of best part timers of 2012/13.

Last Season
Final Standing 2011/12 9th – Conference Premier
F.A Cup First Round
F.A Trophy First Round
County Cup Third Round
Top League Scorer 2011/12 Sean Marks (12 goals)
Most League Appearances 2012/13 Dean Wells (42 appearances)
Av. / Highest Home Attendance 689 (23rd) / 1755 v Mansfield Town

It wasn’t all plain sailing, in the first half of last season Braintree Town hovered over the relegation zone at the end of 2012. Victories picked up between November and March during a period in which the Iron failed to draw a league match in 18 attempts. Goals were spread between Sean Marks, the impressive Kenny Davis and Dan Holman, the trio scored more than half of the clubs league total. Form at Cressing Road wasn’t particularly great, so making the most of their travels helped the Iron secure a third successive campaign in the Conference Premier. If it wasn’t for the treacherous condition of Gateshead’s pitch, it is likely that Braintree Town would have finished bottom of the attendance league making a ninth place finish an excellent second season.

The Summer

Two of the most important signings involved new contracts rather than new players. Alan Devonshire committed his future to the Cressing Road dugout and skipper Kenny Davis put pen to paper for the new campaign. Chez Isaac has been brought in from Conference South side Boreham Wood, the young midfielder captained Watford’s youth side.

The Manager – Alan Devonshire

The former West Ham United F.A Cup winner spent 14 years at the Hammers making over 350 appearances. Capped by England on eight occasions Devonshire has made successful work of management too. The 57 year old led Hampton and Richmond from the Isthmian Division One South to the Conference Premier claiming the Isthmian Premier title in the process. He may not have won promotion with Braintree Town to the Conference Premier but Devonshire has been responsible for keeping the clubs place in the top non league division setting new best finishes for the club.

Expectations

On the basis that it will be difficult for a part time outfit to reach the top five then mid table security will be welcomed. Whether the Irons can beat their highest ever finish for a third year in a row remains to be seen.

Best Performances

League:               9th – Conference Premier (2012/13)

F.A Cup:              First Round (2005/06 & 2012/13)

F.A Trophy:         Fifth Round (2001/02)

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Cambridge Unitedcufc

Founded: 1912   Ground: R Costings Abbey Stadium

Two time Conference Premier runners up during their eight year quest to return to the Football League, The U’s are determined to gain promotion at the ninth attempt. The club spent 35 years in the Football League and reached the second flight of English football two decades ago. In the non league world Cambridge United have found life tougher than expected.

Last Season
Final Standing 2011/12 14th – Conference Premier
F.A Cup Fourth Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy Second Round
County Cup
Top League Scorer 2012/13 Tom Elliot (15 goals)
Most League Appearances 2012/13 Rory McAuley (42 appearances)
Av. / Highest Home Attendance 2281 (7th) / 3304 v Wrexham

Hot and cold would be words that described Cambridge United’s 2012/13 campaign. Two wins in the opening 11 fixtures left the club in nineteenth place. Back to back 4-1 triumphs away to Barrow and home to champions Mansfield Town lifted the side. Sandwiched between those matches manager Gez George returned to his Director of Football role making way for Richard Money. After a 6-2 defeat at Newport County, Cambridge United came to life going nine matches unbeaten which coincided with Tom Elliot’s and Michael Gash’s strike partnership blossoming. From February the rest of the season petered out and the departure of Gash in March saw the goals column dry up.

The Summer

Disappointed by last seasons fourteenth place finish, the U’s squad has been completely restructured. Six players were released before Dartford duo Tom Bonner and Tom Champion were snapped up. The pair impressed Money in their début Conference Premier season with the Darts. Richard Tait comes in from Tamworth after completing 33 appearances last season and following Tait is Lambs top scorer Adam Cunnington, the 25 year old netted 21 times in 2012/13. Pacey striker Delano Sam-Yorke scored 41 goals for Conference South side Basingstoke Town in over 90 appearances, the 24 year old hopes to continue his scoring feats for the U’s. Australian, Mitch Austin leaves Conference North outfit Stalybridge Celtic and Ryan Donaldson arrives from Gateshead after netting eight last term. Ian Miller was captured having formerly captained Grimsby Town, defender Greg Taylor joins from Luton Town and Nathan Arnold from Alfreton Town. James Brighton and Jonathan Thorpe leave the U’s whilst striker Sam Smith moves to Hereford United and Blaine Hudson to Welling United, both on loan.

The Manager – Richard Money

He may have been an unused substitute for Liverpool but Richard Money is one of two Conference Premier managers with a European Cup winners medal. Starting life as a manager with Scunthorpe United, the U’s boss has picked up experience in Sweden with AIK and Vasteras SK. Off down under to the newly formed A-League in 2005 he reached the Grand Final with Newcastle United Jets. Back on these shores Money spent two years at Walsall then led Luton Town to a Conference Premier runners up place in 2009/10. Resigning from the Hatters the following season the 57 year old joined Cambridge United in October. Over the summer, Money turned down a job to manage Indian side Jindal Vijayanagar Steel in their I-League début season.

Expectations

With major activity in the transfer market Cambridge United will be pushing for promotion in whichever form they can. Pressure at home and getting the players to gel is a challenge for Richard Money to deal with.

Best Performances

League:               23rd – Division One (1992/93)*

F.A Cup:              Quarter Finals (1989/90, 1990/91)

F.A Trophy:         Quarter Finals (2011/12)

*now The Championship

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ChesterCFC

Formed: 2010  Ground: The Exacta Stadium

The youngest club to take part in the Conference Premier 2013/14 season has only known success since its formation three years ago. When Chester City were dissolved after 125 years the newly formed Chester started a new journey in 2010. The Cheshire club have won a trio of back to back titles smashing records along the way.

Last Season
Final Standing 2012/13 1st – Conference North
F.A Cup Third Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy Third Qualifying Round
County Cup Winners
Top League Scorer 2012/13 Nathan Jarman (14 goals)
Most League Appearances 2012/13 Nathan Jarman (42 appearances)
Av. / Highest Home Attendance 2583 (1st) / 3685 v Boston United

Chester dominated the Conference North last term amassing a staggering 107 points, 33 wins, 103 goals and racking up a +71 goal difference, along with the fewest defeats and the longest unbeaten run of 30 games, the Blues set six records. Winning streaks included seven at the start of the season, a dozen between October and January and eight during February, March and April. The Cheshire club’s three successive promotions as champions is a first in English football. Although the club remain part time a healthy average crowd would have placed them sixth in the Conference Premier attendance league so the foundations have been set for the fledgling club.

The Summer

Chester’s first foray in the Conference Premier has led to manager Neil Young looking for more quality and experience. Using the transfer market for freebies in comes midfielder Kevin McIntyre who played at League Two’s Rochdale, the 35 year old played for Chester under their former guise a decade ago. Fellow promotion side FC Halifax lost the services of Jason Jarrett, the 33 year old has experience from a host of Football League clubs joining up with McIntyre in the middle of the park. At the other end of the age scale 20 year old Lee Pugh completes a trio of midfield signings having played with Clitheroe last term. On the wing former Liverpool youth teamer Craig Lindfield relishes a step down from Accrington Stanley and James Seddon arrives from fellow promotion side FC Halifax Town, the 33 year old netted 18 times to help the Shaymen up. Former Tranmere Rovers defender Michael Kay has signed a one-year contract and twins Nathan and Lewis Turner play at the Shay again after completing a loan deal from Leeds United. Alex Titchener joins from Fleetwood Town on a loan deal until January and defender Joe Heath who spent last season with Hereford United also joins the ranks. One key player to leave this summer is Antoni Sarcevic who has moved to Fleetwood Town. Last season’s top scorer, Nathan Jarman was instrumental in Chester’s title winning season but was unable to commit to travelling up and down the country. For the same reason Dave Hankin joins AFC Fylde whilst Matthew McGinn and Scott Brown also depart. Striker, Tony Gray switches to relegated AFC Telford United.

The Manager – Neil Young

Conference North’s Manager of the Year led Chester to the Conference North title and Conference Team of the Year. When the Cheshire club newly formed Young was chosen to take the managerial role which meant dropping down two levels from where he left. Formerly of Colwyn Bay, who he guided to the Northern Premier league, Young has swept all before him with an incredible win ratio of almost 70% in his last two managerial jobs. Not only has the former midfielder taken league titles he also added last seasons Cheshire Senior Cup to the cabinet defeating Stalybridge Celtic. Set for his biggest challenge yet Young has excellent foundations to build on his success.

Expectations

Although part time Chester have a fan base worthy of the top end of the league. The history of Chester City and recent success should attract enough quality to see the newly promoted side comfortably remain in the Conference Premier next season.

Best Performances

League:              1st – Conference North (2012/13)

F.A Cup:              Third Qualifying Round (2012/13)

F.A Trophy:        Second Round (2011/12)

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Dartforddfc

Founded: 1888   Ground: Princes Park

Officially crowned the highest placed part timers in the country in 2012/13, the Darts had an exceptional experience back in the top flight for the first time in 26 years. Previously Dartford spent one single campaign and a two year spell at this level during the early and mid eighties. Restarting homeless in 1993, a new stadium in 2006 and three promotions since has put the Darts back on the non league scene.

Last Season
Final Standing 2011/12 8th – Conference Premier
F.A Cup Fourth Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy Semi-Final
County Cup Second Round
Top League Scorer 2011/12 Harry Crawford (13 goals)
Most League Appearances 2012/13 Lee Burns & Ton Bonner (44 appearances)
Av. / Highest Home Attendance 1366 (14th) / 3116 v Ebbsfleet United

Three games into the season and the Darts were second from bottom, the fourth fixture resulted in a maiden win against bottom side Kidderminster Harriers. From that day Dartford may have found the belief required to compete but were not quite expecting what was to follow. A month later the Darts flirted with the playoffs thanks to 25 points taken from 33. Home form continued to be the foundation for the club to build, which was fortunate when their away form dipped, at one stage going four months without victory. A double over Luton Town, victory against champions Mansfield Town, runners up Kidderminster Harriers, promoted Newport County and F.A Trophy winners Wrexham added an extra gloss.

The Summer

Sometimes success can lead to your own downfall and this has been shown when Dartford’s defence was obliterated in the summer. Richard Rose was released and joined Conference South Whitehawk, influential centre back Mark Arber couldn’t agree a contract and will play at Corby Town, Tom Bonner and Tom Champion left for Cambridge United. The core of the squad has remained with Ryan Hayes, Lee Burns, Danny Harris, Lee Noble and captain Elliot Bradbrook signing new contracts. Holes have been filled though with Alan Julian joining from promoted Newport County, the goalkeeper replaces released Louis Wells and made just ten starts last season. Ex Chelmsford City duo Max Cornhill and Kenny Clark move across the River Thames to step up from the Conference South.  Tyrone Sterling helps restructure the Dartford defence by signing from Kent rivals Dover Athletic. Completing the rebuilding at the back Matt Fry was captured from Concord Rangers. Fry looks to restart his fledgling career after spells with West Ham United, Gillingham, Charlton Athletic and Bradford City.  Lewis Smith is seen to have potential and his signing from AFC Hornchurch took a bizarre twist when the striker decided to take a job opportunity in Australia. Instead the club have turned to Jason Prior and Adam Birchall. Both players spent time on loan last season and whilst Prior signs a permanent deal, Birchall will be on loan until January 2014. Off the field a deal has been struck with Greenwich Borough to allow the Kent Premier league side to play home matches at Princes Park.

The Manager – Tony Burman

Now in his eighth consecutive year as Dartford boss, Burman has seen plenty of positive changes. On the bench he has led the Darts to two titles, a playoff victory and a county cup. Fans have also been treated to a F.A Cup first round appearance in 2011 for the first time in 22 years and last term reached the F.A Trophy semi-final for the first time since 1989. In his third spell managing Dartford and with the Kent club’s homecoming almost seven years ago, the 55 year old epitomises stability within the club. Burman has only ever managed one club and in his previous spells he won promotion from the Kent League in 1996 and a Kent Senior Trophy.

Expectations

Second season syndrome is a phrase often banded about at the start of the season. Dartford have never spent more than two consecutive years at the top of non league football and will be delighted to break this record.

Best Performances

League:               3rd – Alliance Premier League (1984/85)*

F.A Cup:              Third Round (1935/36, 1936/37)

F.A Trophy:         Runner Up (1973/74)

*now Conference Premier

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FC Halifax TownFC Halifax Town

Formed: 2008  Ground: The Shay

Five years ago the taxman ended 97 years of AFC Halifax Town and in its place, down in the Northern Premier League Division One North, FC Halifax Town started their climb. The Yorkshire clubs rise to the Conference Premier has been almost as rapid as Chester’s, nonetheless the Shaymen will feel they belong at the top of non league.  A début season beckons for the new club and a new chapter in their relatively short story.

Last Season
Final Standing 2012/13 5th – Conference North
F.A Cup Fourth Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy Quarter Final
County Cup Winners
Top League Scorer 2012/13 Lee Gregory (22 goals)
Most League Appearances 2012/13 Matt Glennon (42 appearances)
Av. / Highest Home Attendance 1222 (2nd) / 1611 v Bradford Park Avenue

A strong defence gave the Shaymen a foundation to build, the back line conceded just 38 times with the tightest defence on the road. A steady and reliable season ensured FC Halifax Town made the top five to reach the playoffs. Cup successes and harsh weather made the Yorkshire clubs fixture list lop sided. Throughout the campaign the Shaymen handed out two 5-1 beatings, two 5-0 thrashings, a 6-0 win to go with a 7-0 triumph.  It was all too much in April when they played a dozen league games winning just twice. Overcoming Guiseley and Brackley Town to clinch promotion they also reached the last eight of the F.A Trophy losing to Dartford after a replay.

The Summer

It took a while for the club to announce a signing as the club focused on retaining key players. New signings Liam Hogan has made the step up to League Two by moving to Fleetwood Town whilst Jason Jarrett joins from fellow newboys Chester with striker Gareth Seddon moving the other way. Keith Briggs arrives from runners up Kidderminster Harriers, the midfielder turned out 33 times for the Harriers in 2012/13. Former Lincoln City winger Adam Smith will also ply his trade at The Shay having made 30 appearances last season for the Imps. Marc Roberts was named in the Northern Premier League team of the year and joins FC Halifax Town alongside Josh Wilson, Kevin Holsgrove, Matt Pearson and Lois Maynard, who was named supporters’ player and players’ player of the season at North West Counties Premier Division side Winford United last term.

The Manager – Neil Aspin

One of the catalysts in getting FC Halifax Town into the Conference Premier, Neil Aspin achieved his third promotion last season with the first arriving in his début campaign with the Shaymen. The Northern Premier League Division One North title was won with 100 points and the following year the Premier division clinched with 98 points. The former Leeds United defender led FC Halifax Town to an F.A Cup first round tie with Charlton Athletic and won a third promotion via the Conference North playoffs. Prior his great work at The Shay, the 48 year old gained experience from Conference North side Harrogate Town.

Expectations

Another club with a huge reputation, who have perished and started over again, FC Halifax Town will be looking to solidify their position on non league’s top table.

Best Performances

League:              3rd – Conference North (2011/12)

F.A Cup:              First Round (2011/12)

F.A Trophy:        Quarter Finals (2012/13)

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Forest Green Rovers fgrfc

Founded: 1890 Ground: The New Lawn

Currently the longest serving club in the Conference Premier, Forest Green Rovers have shown ambitions of going an extra step further. Investment hasn’t quite been enough to propel the club into the higher reaches of the division. Off the field Rovers are driving a positive message for the environmentalists. The New Lawn has its organic pitch prepared by a robot lawnmower powered by solar panels.

Last Season
Final Standing 2012/13 10th – Conference Premier
F.A Cup Fourth Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy Second Round
County Cup Quarter Finals
Top League Scorer 2012/13 James Norwood (15 goals)
Most League Appearances 2012/13 Sam Russell (42 appearances)
Av. / Highest Home Attendance 1179 (15th) / 2332 v Newport County

After the first dozen fixtures Forest Green Rovers showed why they were amongst the favourites for the title. One defeat in 12 left Rovers in pole position and then October arrived. During the tenth month of the year Forest Green Rovers lost all four league matches and despite signs of recovery the title dreams evaporated from February onwards. Defensively the Gloucestershire club ranked fourth and attacking wise they were on course with a couple of months remaining. Those final 14 matches from mid February saw just two more wins and in half of those games Rovers failed to score. For a tenth place finish Forest Green Rovers had an impressive goal difference but finishing the campaign with five straight loses is no way to give your fans a send of for the Summer.

The Summer

Rovers swooped to sign Wrexham’s Danny Wright in a two year deal. The 28 year old top scored for the Welsh club with 15 goals in 41 league appearances last term. Striking options were assessed and with that in mind Andy Mangan returns to the New Lawn. Signed from Fleetwood Town, the 26 year old striker scored four goals for the Cod Army in 2012/13. Following the striker from Highbury is midfielder Anthony Barry who has suffered a long term injury resulting in his release after three and a half years. Marcus Kelly will strengthen midfield joining from Tamworth where he made 35 appearances last season. Jamie Collins has moved to Conference South side Eastleigh, James Rowe joins Tranmere Rovers in League One and Ben Wright will start the new campaign at Salisbury City.

The Manager – Dave Hockaday

Still in his first managerial job Dave Hockaday joined Forest Green Rovers in September 2009. It hasn’t been perfect for the former Blackpool, Hull City and Swindon Town player as his first season ended in a bottom four finish. Normally relegation to the second tier of non league football awaits, however the club were reinstated due to the misfortunes of Salisbury City. Goal difference kept Rovers out of the bottom four the following campaign by two goals. Over the last two years Forest Green Rovers have found stability in successive tenth place finishes making sure Hockaday has another crack at the league in 2013/14.

Expectations

Rovers have spent a long time in the Conference Premier and will be desperate for a change of scene. One of the favourites at the start of last season and one of the favourites at the start of this season.

Best Performances

League:              8th – Conference Premier (2007/08)

F.A Cup:              Third Round (2008/09)

F.A Trophy:        Runners Up (1998/99 & 2000/01)

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Gatesheadgfc

Founded: 1889 Ground: Gateshead International Stadium

The Heed finally return home after a rough winter and a tour of the North. Having hosted matches in seven different postcodes the pitch at Gateshead International Stadium has been mended. Now competing in their fifth campaign in the Conference Premier, Gateshead have mainly kept just above water with the exception of reaching eighth two years ago.

Last Season
Final Standing 2012/13 17th – Conference Premier
F.A Cup Fourth Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy Third Round
County Cup Semi Finals
Top League Scorer 2012/13 Josh Gillies (15 goals)
Most League Appearances 2012/13 Adam Bartlett & Phil Turnbull (46 appearances)
Av. / Highest Home Attendance 502 (24th) / 803 v Lincoln City

You would have thought that so much practice away from home would help improve your form on the road. When the International Stadium was deemed unfit for the beautiful game the Heed played in Hartlepool, York, Blyth, Carlisle, Middlesbrough and Boston. Officially classed as home matches Gateshead only lost five times as hosts and yet suffered the second worst away record in the league. Ian Bogie left the managers post in December whilst the Tynesiders slumped to fourteenth and in came Anth Smith. The new boss struggled initially having a torrid February but once the small squad settled again safety was secured.

The Summer

Chairman Graham Wood made returning home his number one priority this summer for Gateshead. Meanwhile, seven players were released as Smith looks to stamp his mark on the Tynesiders squad. Colin Larkin was the first to arrive from Lincoln City, the 31 year old striker netted eight times in 29 matches for the Imps last season. Smith is determined to add more goals to the squad by signing Richard Brodie from Grimsby Town, after missing a penalty in the F.A Trophy final the 25 year old will play for his hometown. Adam Boyes impressed at relegated Barrow last season where he scored almost a third of their league goals, he could partner Brodie. Joe Tait steps up from Northern League champions Darlington, at 23 years old Tait came through Hartlepool United’s ranks impressing Smith at the Quakers last season. Craig Baxter strengthens the back line by rejoining the Heed, the favoured full back has spent playing time with Bedlington Terriers. Luke O’Brien joins Baxter at the back arriving from Oxford United, the left back rejected a six month contract with the U’s in favour of a one year deal at Gateshead.

The Manager – Anth Smith

Injury cut short Smith’s career at the age of just 24 years old. The defender turned out for Sunderland in the early to mid nineties, had a loan spell at Hartlepool United and finished at Northampton Town. Altogether the former defender made under 30 appearances as a professional footballer retiring in 1995. His managerial career has been even shorter taking over Northern League club Chester-Le-Street Town in 2011 before replacing Ian Bogie last season at Gateshead. Initially drafted in as caretaker manager Smith did enough to impress and has been rewarded with a full time position.

Expectations

Fans will expect to complete a whole season at the International Stadium this time round. In their current spell at this level Gateshead have breached the top ten once, it’s likely a comfortable mid table season will ensue.

Best Performances

League: 6th – Division Two (1921/22)*

F.A Cup: Quarter Final (1952/53)

F.A Trophy: Semi-Final (2010-11)

* Now The Championship

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Grimsby Towngtfc

Founded: 1878 Ground: Blundell Park

A club which played the majority of the nineties in the second tier of English football, the Mariners are about to embark on their fourth season in the fifth tier. Grimsby Town will be spurred on by a strong support who suffered with the club’s decline throughout the new millennium. The Mariners were also runs last season which may well spread optimism around Blundell Park.

Last Season
Final Standing 2012/13 4th – Conference Premier
F.A Cup Fourth Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy Runners Up
County Cup Winners
Top League Scorer 2012/13 Ross Hannah & Andy Cook (11 goals)
Most League Appearances 2012/13 James McKeown & Andy Cook (43 appearances)
Av. / Highest Home Attendance 3813 (2nd) / 7405 v Lincoln City

A tight back line led to Grimsby Town’s success last term especially goalkeeper James McKeown who was inspirational between the sticks, the club conceded just 38 goals. Unbeaten in 12 matches mid term and top in the early part of February, the Mariners ran out of steam in March. The club secured a playoff spot by winning five of their last seven fixtures to end on a undefeated streak, but were denied a second Wembley appearance of the season by losing to eventual playoff winners Newport County. For the first time Grimsby Town reached a F.A Trophy final where they took Wrexham to penalties after a 1-1 draw. Whilst the Welsh side scored all four from twelve yards, the Mariners missed two out of three, losing 4-1 on spot kicks.

The Summer

After a shattering end to last season, Grimsby Town parted company with eight players. One promising deal was struck early on to secure the future of Craig Disley who made 40 league appearances in 2012/13. Joint manager, Rob Scott revealed a tighter squad of 18 players will take part in the Conference Premier in contrast to the 30 used last campaign. Free agent Scott Kerr decided to agree a deal at Blundell Park after his release from League Two side York City, the 31 year old will provide experience in midfield. Also joining from the Minstermen is 22 year old midfielder Patrick McLaughlin on a two year deal and defender Chris Doig, who becomes a player coach. Alex Rodman will face his former club on the opening day after switching from Aldershot Town, the 26 year old also spent time at York City. Following his release from Luton Town, winger Scott Neilson will play at Blundell Park again after a loan spell earlier last term. Paul Bignot failed to make a first team appearance at Blackpool and with former Port Vale defender Clayton McDonald arrives at the Mariners. Former captain Ian Miller switched to Cambridge United after turning out 26 times for Grimsby Town in 2012/13.

The Managers – Paul Hurst & Rob Scott

Since 2008 the duo have worked together starting out at Ilkeston Town. Paul Hurst played over 400 games as a player with Rotherham United and between 1998 and 2005 Rob Scott played alongside Hurst making under 200 appearances. The pair helped Ilkeston Town into the Conference North via the playoffs and repeated that feat the following season with Boston United. The opening day of the Conference Premier season will see Rob Scott pit his wits against brother Andy who is in charge at Aldershot Town.

Expectations

Since relegation to non league the Mariners have improved each year. A F.A Trophy final and playoff qualification has raised expectations but a smaller squad could mean a top five finish again.

Best Performances

League: 5th – Division One (1934/35)*

F.A Cup: Semi Final (1935/36, 1938/39)

F.A Trophy: Runners Up (2012/13)

* Now The Championship

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Hereford Unitedhereford united

Founded: 1924 Ground: Edgar Street

Last season marked the Bulls second spell in the Conference Premier following six years away. Financial difficulties towards the end of 2012/13 mean their second attempt for promotion may be hindered. Hereford United spent nine years at this level before so they will not expect a return to the Football League to be easy.

Last Season
Final Standing 2012/13 6th – Conference Premier
F.A Cup Second Round
F.A Trophy Second Round
County Cup  –
Top League Scorer 2012/13 Ryan Bowman (15 goals)
Most League Appearances 2012/13 Luke Graham (43 appearances)
Av. / Highest Home Attendance 1752 (10th) / 2902 v Kidderminster Harriers

Home defeats to the top five were one of the reasons the Bulls fell short of the playoffs by ten points. Another was their sloppy September of four defeats in seven. Most of the season was spent hanging around the top ten until an end of season spurt of one defeat in eight pushed the club into sixth place. Ryan Bowman took the plaudits by netting 15 goals and Josh O’Keefe scored a dozen from midfield. More importantly, the news that the club were beginning to struggle financially raised concerns at Edgar Street as the players were paid late for April and May. Despite the difficulties, the Bulls can be satisfied with a respectable sixth place finish.

The Summer

The busiest pair in the league, Martin Foyle and chairman David Keyte needed the summer to rebuild following the loss of many key players. Cashflow issues put the Bulls in a tough financial position and to help with cost cutting measures players Luke Graham and Rob Purdie have taken coaching roles and remain part of the playing squad. With finances in mind top scorer Bowman transferred to League Two side York City prompting Foyle to stress the difficulties in attracting new players. Marley Watkins, Stefan Stam, Sam Clucas and James Bittner also left meaning a squad rehaul was necessary. Luton Town’s former striker Dan Walker was the first signing, Sam Smith agreed a loan deal and left back Chris Bush comes in after being released by Gateshead.  Danny Pilkington joins from Kidderminster Harriers whilst defender Dominic Collins leaves Conference North champions Chester for Edgar Street.  Potentially replacing Bittner in goal is youngster Daniel Lloyd-Weston who was at Leek Town and Market Drayton Town last term. Joel Edwards comes back to Hereford United, Jon Brown arrives on a three month loan and former Aldershot Town striker Michael Rankine links up with Foyle again. Kingsley James, Rhys Evans, Danny Leadbitter, Frankie Artus and Sam Gwynne take the squad to 19 players.

The Manager – Martin Foyle

As the Bulls were relegated in 2012, Martin Foyle became boss at the end of that season. He has already seen some of his first signings leave in Bittner, Watkins and Bowman and the forthcoming campaign will be his toughest managerial challenge yet. The former Port Vale striker has managed the Valiants as well as standing in at Wrexham five years ago. The 50 year old took York City to Wembley in 2009’s F.A Trophy and again in the 2010 playoff final, on both occasions the Minstermen were beaten. Spells at Bristol Rovers and Northwich Victoria has added to Foyle’s experience off the field to go with his 20 years of life on the pitch.

Expectations

The core of Hereford United’s squad has left to relieve the financial burden, a repeat of 2012/13 will be all the more difficult. The higher end of mid table is likely for the Bulls.

Best Performances

League: 22nd – Division Two (1976/77)*

F.A Cup: Fourth Round (1971/72, 1973/74, 1976/77, 1981/82, 1989/90, 1991/92, 2007/08, 2010/11)

F.A Trophy: Semi Final (1970/71, 2000/01)

* Now The Championship

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Hyde FChfc

Founded: 1885 Ground: Ewen Fields

When the Tigers took the Conference North championship the club entered into new footballing territory. No matter how Hyde FC fared it was guaranteed the Greater Manchester club would finish in their highest ever league position. Having spent most of their life no higher than the Northern League, the Tigers had a decent debut Conference Premier season and earned a second year at the top of non league.

Last Season
Final Standing 2012/13 18th – Conference Premier
F.A Cup Fourth Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy First Round
County Cup Second Round
Top League Scorer 2012/13 Phil Jevons (15 goals)
Most League Appearances 2012/13 Luke Ashworth (45 appearances)
Av. / Highest Home Attendance 809 (21st) / 2540 v Stockport County

It took a while for Hyde FC to find their feet at a new level winning once in their opening 13 encounters. Rock bottom and struggling for form the Tigers turned the tables. Eight wins from the next 11 including a 7-0 thrashing of Woking lifted the club to ninth by the end of the year. The early season form returned with four points from 36 but five straight wins moved Hyde FC away from danger. It was like the Tigers had a split personality, putting together sequences of winning and losing but rarely sharing the spoils. Overall the club will be proud of what has been achieved having competed in the Conference Premier for the first time.

The Summer

The Tigers rewarded boss Scott McNiven and his assistant Gavin McCann with new two year deals after an excellent season for the part time club. McNiven looked across to Oldham Athletic tempting midfielder Connor Hughes to Ewen Fields, the 20 year old was released by the League One side. Striker, Scott Hogan scored three in 11 appearances for Hyde FC last term and has joined Rochdale in League Two. In replacement of Hogan is former Stockport County forward Tom Collins, the 20 year old leaves Edgeley Park following their relegation to the Conference North. The club have also re-signed Liam Tomsett on loan from Blackpool, the youngster featured 38 times in the league with Hyde FC last season.

The Manager – Scott McNiven

McNiven has 16 years on field experience with seven of those in the Oldham Athletic team. The former defender is in his first managerial post and making a fine job of the task. At the end of the 2010/11 campaign McNiven was appointed joint caretaker manager alongside Steve Halford. McNiven lost his position to Gary Lowe but when he left at the end of 2011/12 the current Tigers boss returned on a full time basis. At only 35 years old, he guided Hyde FC to an 18th place finish in his first season as the sole manager.

Expectations

A second season in the Conference Premier will be difficult for the Greater Manchester club. Remaining part time and with so many local league sides Hyde FC will do well again to stay in the league.

Best Performances

League: 18th – Conference Premier (2012/13)

F.A Cup: First Round (1955/56, 1983/84, 1994/95)

F.A Trophy: Semi Final (1988/89, 1994/95, 1995/96)

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Kidderminster HarriersKHFC

Founded: 1886 Ground: Aggborough

Harriers are hoping to get back to the Football League having spent five years in the bottom tier. Until the new millennium Kidderminster Harriers spent 17 uninterrupted seasons in the Conference Premier and since their return another eight years. The Worcestershire club have plenty of experience and their ability to not press the panic button so early on last campaign is refreshing in this modern age.

Last Season
Final Standing 2012/13 2nd – Conference Premier
F.A Cup First Round
F.A Trophy Second Round
County Cup Semi Final
Top League Scorer 2012/13 Anthony Malbon (19 goals)
Most League Appearances 2012/13 Anthony Malbon (46 appearances)
Av. / Highest Home Attendance 2197 (8th) / 6453 v Stockport County

Five games, five defeats and rock bottom. Five more games and five draws and still rock bottom. That was the sequence of Kidderminster Harriers first ten fixtures. What happened next was incredible, Harriers spent a further seven matches fine tuning and then they hit top gear. A solid defence and Anthony Malbon’s 19 goals led the Worcstershire club to 25 wins in 29 matches taking the title to the final game of the season. A comfortable victory to send Stockport County down wasn’t enough to overturn Mansfield Town’s charge to the trophy, who themselves won 20 of their last 23. Unfortunately a semi final defeat to Wrexham ended an outstanding season.

The Summer

Striker Michael Gash scored six in 11 games whilst on loan and has now signed a new two-year deal. James Dance was released by Luton Town and takes an opportunity at Aggborough for the forthcoming season, the winger also spent time on loan at Nuneaton Town. Former Doncaster Rovers midfielder Lee Fowler signs after his release, the 30 year old was loaned out to Forest Green Rovers last term. Twice promoted Jamie Tolley leaves champions Mansfield Town and is added to the Kidderminster Harriers midfield. Teenager Dior Angus arrives from Solihull Moors where he made 30 Conference North appearances. The Harriers take an educated gamble on youngster Joe Lolley, the prolific striker scored 88 goals in 83 games for Midlands Combination side Littleton. Winger Ricky Shakes has joined Conference South side Boreham Wood and midfielder’s James Vincent and Keith Briggs have both left Aggborough. Off the field Jon Harris becomes the clubs new Chief Executive.

The Manager – Steve Burr

The 50 year old former Macclesfield Town striker has spent a dozen years as a manager including a spell as England C assistant boss. Starting in the dugout at Nuneaton Borough was a tough place to begin as the club were relegated from the Conference Premier. After his sacking,  Burr bounced back with the Northern Premier League title at Hucknall Town which caught the eye of Northwich Victoria. Not helped by a ten point deduction, the Vics were relegated but the following season the Conference North title was claimed. After taking Stalybridge Celtic to the Conference North playoff final, Burr joined Kidderminster Harriers in 2010.

Expectations

A consistent back line together with Gash, Malbon and Ryan Rowe up front plus superb form from last season, Kidderminster Harriers will want to keep the momentum going and aim for the Football League.

Best Performances

League: 10th – League Two (2001/02)

F.A Cup: Fifth Round (1993/94)

F.A Trophy: Winners (1986/87)

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Lincoln Citylcfc

Founded: 1884 Ground: Sincil Bank

Out of the former Football League clubs, Lincoln City have spent the fewest number of years in the Conference Premier. Their last spell was 26 years ago when they returned to the Football League at the first time of asking, now the Imps will start their third consecutive season. This time around Lincoln City having already found life in non league tougher than their championship side of 1987/88, finishing in their lowest ever position then just escaping with setting that record again.

Last Season
Final Standing 2012/13 16th – Conference Premier
F.A Cup Second Round
F.A Trophy First Round
County Cup Runners Up
Top League Scorer 2012/13 Jamie Taylor (13 goals)
Most League Appearances 2012/13 Jamie Taylor & Andrew Boyce (41 appearances)
Av. / Highest Home Attendance 2181 (9th) / 5702 v Grimsby Town

Lincoln City followed up their 17th place finish two years ago by moving up one position. Starting 2012/13 with David Holdsworth in charge, even a change of management had little impact. Although the Imps were consistent, finishing in 16th across the home and away tables,  signs of unbeaten sequences were short lived. In a run of 15 games, over a three month period Lincoln City only managed a double over Dartford. In the F.A Cup the Imps narrowly missed out on a dream tie against Premier League side Liverpool thanks to a replay defeat at Mansfield Town.

The Summer

The Imps released seven players and saw Colin Larkin switch to Gateshead, top scorer Jamie Taylor move to Conference South side Sutton United and Vadaine Oliver to Crewe Alexandra. Between the trio of former players, Lincoln City benefited from almost half of their league goals last season.  To fill the voids, striker Danny Rowe moves in at Sincil Bank following his release from Fleetwood Town, Rowe was also previously out on loan at relegated side Barrow. Wade Fairhurst will get a chance in the forward line having scored 13 times for Macclesfield Town last term. Sean Newton became the first signing having been on loan at Stockport County and Jon Nolan follows the defender from Edgeley Park. A further two strikers have been added to the squad, Adi Yussuf from Burton Albion on a free transfer and  former Mansfield Town striker Nick Wright on a one-year contract. Nat Brown rejoins Lincoln City after leaving Macclesfield Town, he made 107 appearances for the Imps between 2005 and 2008. After a successful trial Bohan Dixon has earned a deal at Lincoln City.

The Manager – Gary Simpson

A change in the guard in February means Simpson will start what hopefully is his first full campaign for the Imps. The former midfielder gained a wealth of non league experience during the eighties and nineties. The 52 year old is in his second spell as a manager, the first as player manager of Gainsborough Trinity between 1991/93. He had been number two supporting the late Keith Alexander at various clubs and stepped up at Macclesfield Town after Alexander passed away in 2010. Simpson stood down from the Silkmen two years later and almost a year on he replaced David Holdsworth at Sincil Bank.

Expectations

Lincoln City will be hoping their new strike force gel and fire on all cylinders to make sure they have a more stable season in the Conference Premier.

Best Performances

League: 5th – Division Two (1901/02)*

F.A Cup: Fifth Round (1993/94)

F.A Trophy: Winners (1986/87)

* Now The Championship

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Luton Townltfcv

Founded: 1885 Ground: Kenilworth Road

Former League Cup winners, F.A Cup runners up and top flight side, the Hatters have pedigree and a large fan base. A dramatic fall from the Championship to the Conference Premier in consecutive seasons had Luton Town in need of repair. Always keen to be an attacking force, the Hatters have registered three playoff spots in their four years at this level. Twice runners up in the finals, the Bedfordshire club continue to push for a return to League Two.

Last Season
Final Standing 2012/13 7th – Conference Premier
F.A Cup Fifth Round
F.A Trophy Quarter Finals
County Cup First Round
Top League Scorer 2012/13 Andre Gray (17 goals)
Most League Appearances 2012/13 Andre Gray (44 appearances)
Av. / Highest Home Attendance 5882 (1st) / 6744 v Woking

The Hatters finished in their lowest position since 1920 missing the playoffs for the first time in their current Conference Premier spell. Striker Andre Gray shined with a fine haul of goals and by the end of October, Luton Town were second in the table. Shock defeats at home to Braintree Town, Dartford and Hyde together with an inconsistent 2013 meant the Hatters slumped to outside the playoffs by the end of the season. In place of a decent league position was an incredible F.A Cup run to the fifth round. A Scott Rendell winner knocked out Premier League opposition Norwich City in round four. In a historic day at Carrow Road, Luton Town became the first non league side to defeat a top flight side since 1989.

The Summer

John Still’s first summer in charge of the Hatters has brought Luton Town winger Shaun Whalley and defender Andrew Parry from Southport. Whalley won his former club’s Player of the Year award scoring nine times from right wing. Jim Stevenson and Danny Fitzsimons signed  from Histon FC. From the Hatters to the Hatters, via Hull City comes in Mark Cullen who spent time on loan at Stockport County last term. Still has used his non league knowledge by snapping up East Thurrock United goalkeeper Elliot Justham, the 22 year old kept 13 clean sheets last season in the Isthmian Premier League. Released from Plymouth Argyle, Anthony Charles is hoping for a third promotion to League Two after achieving this feat with Barnet and Aldershot Town. Former Northampton Town player Luke Guttridge has played over 400 Football League games and his experience in midfield will be welcome. Scott Neilson has left Kenilworth Road to join Grimsby Town, striker Dan Walker moves to Hereford United and defender Greg Taylor has switched to Cambridge United. Meanwhile, goalkeeper Dean Brill will play for Inverness Caledonian Thistle on loan until January.

The Manager – John Still

Probably the most experienced manager in the division, John Still took a step down from League Two’s Dagenham and Redbridge to take charge at Kenilworth Road in February. At the time of his move to the Hatters, Still held the title for the longest serving Football League manager with the Daggers. The 63 year old has tasted promotion six times with former clubs Leytonstone and Illford, Dartford, Maidstone United, Redbridge Forest and Dagenham and Redbridge. Promotion matches Still’s ambition, however he is prepared to ‘build a club’ and in return fans will need to be patient.

Expectations

Always amongst the favourites at the start of the season because of the clubs pedigree and large support. With that comes pressure but there is no doubt the fans want promotion.

Best Performances

League: 7th – Division One (1986/87)*

F.A Cup: Runners Up (1958/59)

F.A Trophy: Semi Finals (2011/12)

* Now Premier League

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Macclesfield Townmtfc

Founded: 1874 Ground: Moss Road

It seemed like Macclesfield Town missed the boat when they won the Conference Premier in 1995. Denied promotion due to ground regulations, the Silkmen had to wait two more years to join the Football League where they stayed for 15 seasons. One of only three teams at this level to have won this division twice alongside Kidderminster Harriers and Barnet, the Cheshire club returned to non league only a year ago.

Last Season
Final Standing 2012/13 11th – Conference Premier
F.A Cup Fourth Round
F.A Trophy First Round
County Cup Second Round
Top League Scorer 2012/13 Matthew Barnes-Homer (18 goals)
Most League Appearances 2012/13 Craig Braham-Barrett, John Paul Kissock & Waide Fairhurst (40 appearances)
Av. / Highest Home Attendance 1670 (12th) / 4027 v Stockport County

Early form and a re-hauled squad had the Silkmen in top spot on 8 September 2012. The rest of the season went by on an inconsistent wave. When hopes faded of a Football League return a needed distraction arrived, enter the magic of the F.A Cup. Qualifying with a win over Marine earned a first round tie against Paulo Di Canio’s high flying Swindon Town. A shock away victory against the League One side was followed by a replay triumph versus Barrow. The biggest upset arrived when a Matthew Barnes-Homer inspired side beat Championship leaders Cardiff City. The Silkmen can be proud to have been knocked out in round four with a respectable 1-0 loss to eventual F.A Cup winners Wigan Athletic, but this did not stop the sacking of manager Steve King.

The Summer

Dropping out of League Two has its financial difficulties and in June the club revealed they needed £50,000 to keep going after ending the season 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. The Cheshire club also finalised an agreement to be owned by members of the local community. With all the action going on behind the scenes, Chief Executive Jon Harris leaving for Kidderminster Harriers, the squad eventually began to take shape. Chris Holroyd spent five months on loan at Moss Rose scoring six times, he has permanently signed. Ex Stockport County captain Joe Connor leaves the Hatters following relegation and the defender/midfielder joins the Silkmen. Arriving on loan is striker Connor Jennings who scored once for Scunthorpe United in 18 games. Scott Boden turned his trial into a deal after the forward’s release from Chesterfield. Other players impressed in pre season with Danny Andrew, Steve Williams and Paul Turnbull all signing up. Sam Wedgbury rejected a new Macclesfield Town contract to switch to League One outfit Stevanage, the 24 year old made 38 appearances last season. Waide Fairhurst was another to leave Moss Rose joining Lincoln City whilst defenders Carl Tremarco and Thierry Audel move on to Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Crewe Alexandra respectively.

The Manager – John Askey

A one club man and Macclesfield Town legend, John Askey was filling in back in 1984 when the club were short of players. Almost 700 appearances later Askey can look back on a fond career. As a player he won the Northern Premier League, the Conference Premier twice and the F.A Trophy in 1996, although he missed the final through injury. When the Silkmen reached the heights of League Two he was part of the promotion side of 1997/98. Askey bowed out with a final day goal ten years ago against Rochdale to cap off some great memories. Afterwards, the 48 year old took over the Moss Rose dugout and was later replaced by Brain Horton, however the former striker is back to lead his beloved Macclesfield Town this term.

Expectations

If the Silkmen win a record third Conference Premier title it will be some feat. Another side finding the drop harder financially and as a result are likely to repeat last season’s performance.

Best Performances

League: 24th – League One (1998/99)

F.A Cup: Fourth Round (2012/13)

F.A Trophy: Winners (1969/70 and 1995/96)

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Nuneaton Townntfc

Founded: 1889 Ground: Liberty Way

Still known as the Boro despite reforming as Town, Nuneaton managed to keep a club in return for a double relegation five years ago. Formerly playing under the guise of Nuneaton Borough the club liquidated and so started the rise back up to the top level of non league. The Warwickshire side have taken three playoff titles to get where they are now and face a successive season in the Conference Premier.

Last Season
Final Standing 2012/13 15th – Conference Premier
F.A Cup First Round
F.A Trophy First Round
County Cup Second Round
Top League Scorer 2012/13 Andy Brown (19 goals)
Most League Appearances 2012/13 Andy Brown (46 appearances)
Av. / Highest Home Attendance 974 (17th) / 1543 v Wrexham

For a team finishing in sixteenth, Nuneaton Town gave very little away at home losing just six and only once were beaten by a margin more than a solitary goal. Away from Liberty Way the Boro were hammered 6-1 on two occasions and struggled to find form for the majority of the campaign. Despite having rarely left the bottom five, Nuneaton Town will be content with their achievements after promotion from the Conference North. Top scorer and ever present Andy Brown was key to the Warwickshire clubs success by scoring a third of the teams league goals. An end of season surge pushed the Boro up to sixteenth as the defence tightened up too, the final three games resulted in wins moving the newly promoted side up six spots.

The Summer

Boro’s Player of the Year, Andy Brown importantly signed a new contract and his goals will be vital again. Theo Streete has arrived from Alfreton Town, the defender appeared 37 times for the Reds last season. Also at the back, 19 year old Amari’i Bell is on loan from Birmingham City for the first half of the new season. Youngster, Connor Taylor spent time at Liberty Way last October and the striker has earned a permanent deal signing from Walsall. In 2009, Phil Trainer was targeted by Nuenaton Town as a potential signing and they finally have their man following AFC Telford United’s relegation to the Conference North. The 32 year old started all of the league matches for the Bucks last term. Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Dimitar Evtimov will be representing the Boro for at least three months in another loan deal for the club. Louis Moult ended last season with Nuneaton Town and he will be back again, the striker turned out 17 times last season and arrives from Northampton Town. Another addition up front is Greg Pearson who left Grimsby Town after scoring twice in a dozen matches. Former Oxford City and Bedford winger Mark Bell arrives on non-contract terms and British Universities goalkeeper James Belshaw has signed.

The Manager – Kevin Wilkin

The man behind Nuneaton Town’s recent success is Kevin Wilkin. The 45 year old was a player for Nuneaton Borough and was there when the club ceased. When the Boro reformed, Wilkin moved into a management position shortly afterwards due to the sacking of Roger Ashby in 2006. The former Northampton Town player has led the Warwickshire side to three playoff promotions rising from the Southern League Division One Midlands through the Conference North and into the Premier. Nuneaton hadn’t had a club in the Conference Premier for nine years and with loyalty and backing  Wilkin made it happened for the town.

Expectations

Bookies are putting Boro amongst candidates for relegation and a battle is highly possible. A mid table finish will be exceptional but they will not expect more than that.

Best Performances

League: 2nd – Alliance Premier League (1983/84 and 1984/85)*

F.A Cup: Third Round (1949/50, 1966/67 and 2005/06)

F.A Trophy: Quarter Final (1976/77, 1979/80 and 1986/87)

* Now Conference Premier

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Salisbury CitySalisbury

Founded: 1947 Ground: The Raymond McEnhill Stadium

Almost four years ago Salisbury City faced bankruptcy and when they equalled their highest ever league finish they were demoted to the Southern League. Saved by a takeover, the Wiltshire club climbed back up one division courtesy of a playoff triumph. In the Conference South a mid table finish was followed up by another playoff victory and so the Whites return.

Last Season
Final Standing 2012/13 2nd – Conference South
F.A Cup Third Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy First Round
Top League Scorer 2012/13 Jamie White (23 goals)
Av. / Highest Home Attendance 735 (2nd) / 1158 v Welling United

A poor February was the difference between taking the Conference South title and finishing four points behind champions Welling United. The rest of the season was exceptional leading the way for a good four months and home form was outstanding, tasting defeat just once. When Salisbury City defeated Welling United in April a shot at the championship was on, but in the end they fell short and had to settle for the playoffs. Overturning a 1-0 deficit against Chelmsford City in the first leg, the whites reached the final with a 2-1 aggregate win. In an entertaining final, Salisbury City clinched promotion back to the Conference Premier beating Dover Athletic 3-2 after extra time.

The Summer

Elliott Frear has secured a permanent deal at the Raymond McEnhill Stadium following his loan spell last season, the 20 year old winger was previously at League Two club Exeter City. Defender Chris Giles retires from football after battling ankle and knee injuries, the 31 year old joined the Whites in January 2010. Striker Ben Wright joins from Forest Green Rovers after terminating his contract early, the 24 year old impressed at Braintree Town a couple of seasons ago and spent time on loan at the Essex club last term.

The Manager – Mikey Harris

English football’s youngest full time manager is just 28 years old and takes over from ex team-mate Darrell Clarke. The former joined Bristol Rovers leaving Mikey Harris to take over the hotseat. Four years younger than any other full time boss in England, Harris has spent five years as second in charge working with Tommy Widdrington and then Clarke. Not only has the new man taken over at such an early age for management, he also played as a midfielder for the club. Harris is so passionate about Salisbury City that he feels his first foray into the managerial world is a great opportunity to show what he can do.

Expectations

A return to the Conference Premier after three years away, a young manager and a point to prove, the Whites will be hoping for security this season.

Best Performances

League: 12th – Conference Premier (2007/08 & 2009/10)

F.A Cup: Third Round (2011/12)

F.A Trophy: Semi Final (2009/10)

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Southportsfc

Founded: 1881 Ground: Haig Avenue

Merseyside lost a football league club in 1978 when the Sandgrounders were voted out. Twenty years ago Southport won the Northern Premier League and have since spent 15 years in the Conference Premier and four seasons in the Conference North. In their latest spell the club avoided relegation in their first campaign back as well as last term. Sandwiched between those years, the Merseysiders surprised a few by finishing seventh.

Last Season
Final Standing 2012/13 20th – Conference Premier
F.A Cup Fourth Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy Quarter Final
County Cup Semi Final
Top League Scorer 2012/13 Chris Almond (11 goals)
Most League Appearances 2012/13 Shaun Whalley, James Smith & Karl Ledsham (43 appearances)
Av. / Highest Home Attendance 958 (18th) / 1743 v Grimsby Town

Up until March, Southport showed their inconsistencies by failing to string a run of any kind together. For a team avoiding relegation by four points they managed to score plenty of goals. Only six other teams scored more and throughout the squad the goals were shared across the board. A tricky March saw the Sandgrounders head fast towards the bottom four when they lost six in a row. Although the Merseysiders found the net with frequency at the right end they leaked goals too, only relegated Ebbsfleet United conceded more. Important away wins at Braintree Town and Forest Green Rovers in the final month of the season kept the Conference North at bay.

The Summer

It was a tough start to the summer for the Sandgrounders losing manager Liam Watson to relegated AFC Telford United. Following the former boss out of Haig Avenue to The Bucks Head was captain Simon Grand, Alan Moogan and Russell Benjamin. Player of the Year Shaun Whalley and Andrew Parry switched to Luton Town. New boss, Alan Wright’s first job was to secure the services of ex Barrow keeper Danny Hurst who managed 12 clean sheets with the relegated club last season. Paul Rutherford follows Hurst from Holker Street, the winger spent four years at Barrow making over 150 appearances for the Cumbrian’s. Jamie Milligan has a Conference Premier title to his name with Fleetwood Town and after his release signs for Southport. Another former member of the Cod Army, Matty Flynn will hope to strengthen the defence whilst added to the attack is Danny Hattersley, whose 11 goals were not enough to save Stockport County from the drop last season. Former England under 19 international, Scott Brown leaves Conference North champions and will bring his experience to Haig Avenue. New manager Alan Wright has also added full-backs Matty Challoner and David Fitzpatrick to his squad.

The Manager – Alan Wright

At the age of 41, former Aston Villa full back Alan Wright takes up his first managerial role. Starting out at Blackpool where he made almost a century of appearances, Wright moved on to Blackburn Rovers before making his name at Villa Park. Eight years at Aston Villa and 260 games later the twice capped England under 21 international played for a further nine teams. Off the field, Wright returned to where it all started by coaching at Blackpool’s Centre of Excellence. A spell as an assistant manager and caretaker manager at the Tangerines and again at Northwich Victoria has given Wright the taste for management.

Expectations

When Southport were last doubted they almost gate crashed the playoffs. Another lowly finish is likely but that doesn’t stop the new boss eyeing the playoffs again.

Best Performances

League: 4th – Division Three North (1924/25 and 1938/39)*

F.A Cup: Quarter Final (1930/31)

F.A Trophy: Runners Up (1997/98)

* Now League One

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Tamworthtfc

Founded: 1933 Ground: The Lamb Ground

The Lambs survived a fourth consecutive season last time to secure another year to their longest ever spell in the Conference Premier. Consistently in the lower regions of the division Tamworth always seem to do enough to survive. When the Staffordshire based club were first promoted to the top tier of non league in 2003 they also reached the F.A Trophy final finishing runners up. A spell in the Conference North lasted just two years before the Lambs returned.

Last Season
Final Standing 2011/12 19th
F.A Cup Fourth Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy Third Round
County Cup First Round
Top League Scorer 2011/12 Adam Cunnington (21 goals)
Most League Appearances 2012/13 Adam Cunnington (45 appearances)
Average / Highest Home Attendance 1012 (16th) / 1968 v Mansfield Town

Going down to the wire was not on the script at the Lambs Ground after the opening four matches of the season. Impressively Adam Cunnington top scored with 21 goals in a team finishing in the bottom six. In front of the onion bag Tamworth struggled, only AFC Telford United and Barrow scored fewer. 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 became caretaker manager until the end of the campaign who managed to keep Tamworth in the division thanks to a final day win against Woking.

The Summer

After deciding to stick with manager Dale Belford, Tamworth lost two players to Cambridge United. Top scorer Adam Cunnington will be the biggest miss whilst defender Richard Tait followed the striker. The summer has seen a whole raft of changes with Belford picking up Justin Richards as Cunnington’s replacement. Richards has scored over a hundred career goals in the league making over 400 appearances. Seeing off the challenge from Lincoln City, the Lambs captured winger Jake Jones from Walsall. Former Birmingham City youngster Deqwon Ebanks joins the Staffordshire club as an out and out striker after being released by the Blues. Richie Baker will wear the red shirt after scoring ten times for Barrow in 2012/13. Defender Matthew Regan has converted his two loan spells at the club to a permanent deal, the 19 year old joins from Nottingham Forest. Former Gillingham midfielder Jack Evans played 15 times with Dartford last term, often used as a substitute he scored twice in his loan spell at Princes Park. Tamworth also signed 18-year-old winger Kaiyne Woolery from Maidstone United. Released by Accrington Stanley, Tom Eckersley played two loan games with relegated Stockport County and moves to the Midlands. Jordan Rose was relegated with AFC Telford United making 34 appearances and will hope his experience is not repeated with Tamworth. Another forward,Richard Peniket has been added to the ranks who spent time with Rose at the Bucks Head last season. Keeping the family tradition going in the Belford household is Dale’s son Cameron who is also a goalkeeper and has been signed by his father. Cameron becomes the third generation of Belford’s at Tamworth, Buster is the kitman. Meanwhile, former Aston Villa midfielder Lee Hendrie called time on his career and Marcus Kelly joins Forest Green Rovers.

The Manager – Dale Belford

Despite the numerous clubs Dale Belford played for, he continues his love affair with Tamworth. The former goalkeeper was part of the 1989 F.A Vase winning team and set a club record of 712 minutes without conceding a goal in February and March that year. The 46 year old spent all of his playing career in the Midlands and became a well travelled man in between the sticks. Belford spent just over a season in charge at Atherstone United and has often stepped in when needed at Tamworth. With the Lambs he has been caretaker manager on three occasions and has donned the Tamworth goalkeeping jersey in four separate decades. Since Marcus Law’s departure in January, Belford has been in charge at the Lambs Ground.

Expectations

More is expected from Tamworth this season after a summer of change. A whole host of new signings will need to gel for the club to finish outside the bottom ten for the first time.

Best Performances

League: 15th – Conference Premier (2004/05)

F.A Cup: Third Round (2005/06, 2006/07 and 2011/12)

F.A Trophy: Runners Up (2002/03)

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Welling Unitedwelling

Founded: 1963 Ground: Park View Road

Becoming champions of the Conference South more than made up for their playoff final defeat the previous season. Welling United return to the Conference Premier after a 13 year absence for their second spell in this division. The Wings first stint in the league lasted 14 campaigns and coincided with the clubs peak in the late eighties and early nineties.  Welling United had been knocking on the Conference Premier door eventually taking the South title by four points.

Last Season
Final Standing 2011/12 1st – Conference South
F.A Cup Fourth Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy Third Round
County Cup Second Round
Top League Scorer 2011/12 Ross Lafayette (19 goals)
Average / Highest Home Attendance 615 (16th) / 1522 v Eastleigh

Once again the Wings were dominate at Park View Road where they have only lost once in the league over the last two seasons. This time Welling United went unbeaten at home picking up a staggering 53 points. The Kent club also set some Conference South records winning 12 league matches in a row, 11 homes fixtures on the spin and scored in 30 consecutive games. The Wings took top spot in February and needed to look over their shoulder after their defeat at Salisbury City in April. With four games remaining Welling United picked up a solitary win and three draws to make sure they crossed the finishing line as champions.

The Summer

The Wings have signed ex-Arsenal midfielder Callum Webb and defender Doug Bergqvist. The latter joins on a season long loan from League Two side Exeter City, the Swedish born defender was released by relegated Aldershot Town. Webb has featured for Arsenal at under-18 level and then spent time at Conference South side Bishop’s Stortford. Another player to arrive on loan is Cambridge City’s Blaine Hudson, the 21 year old defender managed six appearances for the U’s last term. Recently called up to the England C squad Anthony Acheampong leaves the club for Barnet, the defender made 44 appearances last season scoring seven times. Preparations for the part timers will change for 2013/14 as the club plans to train three days a week.

The Manager – Jamie Day

A former midfielder for Arsenal’s youth team, Jamie Day had limited playing time until he joined Welling United in 2004. The 33 year old spent three years with the Wings before moving across to Essex to play for Grays Athletic until his contract was terminated by mutual consent. Day was picked up by Dartford and made over 50 appearances for the club playing some part towards their 2008/09 Isthmian Premier title. A quarter of the way through that season Welling United came calling again appointing Day as player manager. He has featured in over a century of games for the Wings in his second spell guiding the club to the Conference Premier as boss.

Expectations

With a low average crowd for the Conference Premier and recent skirmishes with the HMRC, the Wings will be eyeing up a second season in the Conference Premier by making home form count.

Best Performances

League: 6th – Conference Premier (1989/90)

F.A Cup: Third Round (1988/89)

F.A Trophy: Quarter Final (1988/89 & 2006/07)

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Wokingwokingfc

Founded: 1889 Ground: Kingsfield Stadium

Three times F.A Trophy winners and back to back Conference Premier runners up in the nineties, the Cards returned to the top non league tier last season. The part timers from Surrey were put on the map in the 1990/91 season, which saw the Cards famously beating West Bromwich Albion in the F.A Cup third round before bowing out to Everton. Woking’s credentials at this level meant relegation to the Conference South four years ago came as a surprise, at the third attempt a title ensured Conference Premier football again.

Last Season
Final Standing 2011/12 12th
F.A Cup Fourth Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy Second Round
County Cup Quarter Final
Top League Scorer 2011/12 Bradley Bubb (19 goals)
Most League Appearances 2012/13 Kevin Betsy (46 appearances)
Average / Highest Home Attendance 1601 (13th) / 2961 v Luton Town

One guarantee from Woking last season was goals, the fifth best attack and the fourth worst defence was a recipe for entertainment. The Cards won 6-1, 5-2 and 5-4 but to balance things out lost 5-0, 5-1 and 7-0. Overall, Garry Hill will be pleased with a mid table finish in their first season back in the Conference Premier. Woking struggled on their travels against sides above them in the final standings but those below perished at the Kingsfield Stadium. At one stage the Surrey club were in the running with Dartford and Braintree Town to become the best part time team in the country instead they settled for third best, a comfortable return after three years away.

The Summer

A quiet summer passed the Kingsfield Stadium with the main action happening internally mainly due to the playing budget. Eight players were quick to sign new deals including fans favourite Giuseppe Sole, ever present Kevin Betsy, midfielder Lee Sawyer and Adam Newton. Coming across form Hampshire is Josh Payne from relegated Aldershot Town, the 22 year old had his contract terminated in December after being given a prison sentence.

The Manager – Garry Hill

Two time Conference South champion, Garry Hill is managing his seventh non league side. He took Heybridge Swifts to the Isthmian Premier league with promotion in 1995/96. Before taking on the managers role at Dagenham and Redbridge, Hill was in charge at St Albans City. With the Daggers he led the club to the Isthmian Premier League title and came so close to earning promotion to the Football League losing out on goal difference and the playoffs. After a short period with Hornchurch, the current Woking boss tasted Conference South success with Weymouth, moved to Rushden and Diamonds before taking the Cards up to the Conference Premier.

Expectations

Woking will be targeting a top ten finish and should comfortably stay in the Conference Premier. The Cards finished as the third best part time team and will hope to take the crown this season.

Best Performances

League: 2nd – Conference Premier (1994/95 and 1995/96)

F.A Cup: Fourth Round (1990/91)

F.A Trophy: Winners (1993/94, 1994/95 and 1996/97)

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Wrexhamwfc

Founded: 1864 Ground: Racecourse Ground

Five years ago Wrexham lost their Football League status and started to struggle financially. Now owned by the fans, fortunes have turned around on and off the field. In what has been an exceptional two years for domestic Welsh football, the Dragons played their part by lifting last season’s F.A Trophy for the first time. Wrexham have amassed an incredible amount of points in the last three campaigns but promotion has eluded them.

Last Season
Final Standing 2011/12 5th
F.A Cup First Round
F.A Trophy Winners
County Cup
Top League Scorer 2011/12 Danny Wright (15 goals)
Most League Appearances 2012/13 Danny Wright (41 appearances)
Average / Highest Home Attendance 3520 (3rd) / 4378 v Mansfield Town

Wembley was visited not once but twice by the Wrexham faithful giving the club plenty of optimism for the forthcoming campaign. Title contenders up to March, the experienced squad beat Grimsby Town in the F.A Trophy final on penalties. The Dragons return to the hallow turf was not quite as successful losing to Welsh rivals Newport County in the playoff final. During the regular season, Wrexham were strong defensively but found life against the top sides challenging. Making the most of the inadequacies of teams below them, the Dragons looked a fine prospect. Although the Welsh club fell agonisingly short, a trophy in the cabinet gave the club something to cheer about.

The Summer

An F.A Trophy winners medal and a playoff runner up wasn’t enough to keep top scorer Danny Wright at the Racecourse Ground who moves to Forest Green Rovers. Winger Theo Bailey-Jones earned a six-month contract with Wrexham, the 19 year old was playing in the North West Counties Division One with Irlam FC. Striker, Andy Bishop managed four games on loan at the Racecourse Ground in 2012/13 with a return of two goals, the former Bury man signed a two year deal. Martin Riley may have missed out on promotion but he goes into the Football League with Conference Premier champions Mansfield Town, Riley made 34 appearances for the Dragons last season. Another player to have taken part in the majority of Wrexham’s last campaign is Chris Westwood who has moved to Alfreton Town.

The Manager – Andy Morrell

The man who led Wrexham to the F.A Trophy final and first piece of silverware in eight years, Andy Morrell’s reputation with the club has got even better. Already well respected, his first spell with the club ended with the striker scoring 40 goals in 108 games. As a player, Morrell gained experience with a move to Coventry City, Blackpool and Bury before returning to the Racecourse Ground three years ago. The 38 year old managed 24 league appearances last season and four goals to help his side reach the playoffs. A loss in the final to Newport County denied him of a second Wembley medal, but he feels his younger squad this term will run the top clubs close for promotion.

Expectations

Wrexham will be hoping they will be the next Welsh club in line for promotion after Swansea City, Cardiff City and Newport County’s exploits over the last two years.

Best Performances

League: 15th – Division Two (1978/79)*

F.A Cup: Quarter Final (1973/74, 1977/78 and 1996/97)

F.A Trophy: Fourth Round (2008/09)

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Dartford v Fulham XI & VCD Athletic v Dartford XI

Dartford play their last pre season fixture on Saturday against Fulham XI before the much anticipated opening day of the season.

With the days counting down to the season opener at home to Alfreton Town on 10 August, the Darts take on the Cottagers who are likely to field a development team.

Tony Burman will look to give new loan signing Adam Birchall another run out following Tuesday’s 2-0 defeat against Charlton XI. The striker signed a permanent loan deal from Gillingham meaning he cannot be recalled, the 28 year old will be at Princes Park until 2 January 2014. Last season, Birchall scored one goal in four appearances and after a long term injury he is looking forward to a full season ahead of him.

On Tuesday night, Dartford impressed in the first half and went into the break level with the visitors but without a goal. Charlton Athletic missed a second half penalty before the spot kick taker, Joe Pigott opened the scoring moments later. A breakaway goal sealed victory for the Addicks courtesy of Adebayo Azeez.

The senior side are still looking for their first win having played six friendlies, drawing three and losing three. Over the last four games only Elliot Bradbrook has found the net. Over the summer, the Darts have netted just four times with the skipper getting three of the four goals.

Dartford continue their link up with Fulham after taking on two of their goalkeepers on loan last season. The impressive Marcus Bettinelli played 35 times keeping ten clean sheets whilst Hungarian keeper Csaba Somogyi guarded the net eight times and notched up four shut outs.

VCD Athletic v Dartford XI

Three days later a Dartford XI will play newly promoted Isthmian League Division One North side VCD Athletic at The Oakwood.

The Darts have only met the Vickers in friendly matches on six occasions, winning the last five  meetings. The last of those fixtures was a year ago on the Princes Park Community pitch where the home side won 3-1.

A young Dartford side played at Concord Rangers on Wednesday night and were a goal down before half time. Once dual registered with the Darts, striker Tony Stokes scored the opener. In the second half the hosts took the initiative with two goals from Jason Hallett and one each for Alex Osborn and Danny Glozier.  Bode Anidugbe scored a consolation for the Darts before Ade Osifuwa scored with the last kick, the 6-1 loss followed a 4-0 victory over Sutton Athletic on Sunday.

Uche Ibemere looks set to face his old side VCD Athletic, who finished runners up in the Kent League last term ending just two points behind champions Erith and Belvedere. Going into the last game level with Erith and Belvedere on points, the Vickers were held to a 0-0 draw at Lordswood. Meanwhile, the Deres under former Dartford striker Micky Collins took the title with a resounding 7-0 final day triumph over Dartford’s new tenants Greenwich Borough.

The Vickers return to the level they were at just a year ago when the club were controversially demoted due to not meeting ground requirements. The local club have won two Kent Premier League cups, a Kent League title and come runners up four times since the start of millennium. On top of their recent success the Vickers won the Kent Senior Trophy twice and reached the final in what has been the clubs best period.