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Season Review 2013/2014

1st – Luton Town – 101 pts

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

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

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

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

2nd – Cambridge United – 82 pts

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

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

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

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

3rd – Gateshead – 79 pts

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Close: The Heed celebrate reaching Wembley but lose out

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

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

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

4th – Grimsby Town – 78 pts

Denied: More semi-final disappointment

Denied: Mariners suffer more semi-final disappointment

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

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

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

5th – FC Halifax Town – 77 pts

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Revelation: Gregory shines for the Shaymen

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

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

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

6th – Braintree Town – 74 pts

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

Leadership: Devonshire takes part timers to the top six

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

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

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

7th – Kidderminster Harriers – 72 pts

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Success: Joe Lolley and a Harriers cup run

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

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

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

8th – Barnet – 70 pts

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

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

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

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

9th – Woking – 68 pts

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

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

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

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

10th – Forest Green Rovers – 67 pts

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Record: Klukowski adds to his Rovers tally

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

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

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

11th – Alfreton Town- 67 pts

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Akinde: Celebrates one of his 17 league goals this term

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

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

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

12th – Salisbury City – 67 pts

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The Young One: Harris applauds his sides efforts

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

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

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

13th – Nuneaton Town – 66 pts

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Hat Trick: Moult ended with a flourish

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

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

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

14th – Lincoln City – 65 pts

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Good Start: Tomlinson hits 18 goals in début campaign

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

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

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

15th – Macclesfield Town – 61 pts

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Prolific: Jennings was a major hit for the Silkmen

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

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

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

16th – Welling United – 60 pts

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Wings Return: Day secures Welling United’s status

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

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

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

17th – Wrexham – 59 pts

Disappointment: Morrell shares fans frustrations

Disappointment: Morrell shares the fans frustrations

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

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

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

18th – Southport – 53 pts

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Survival: Hattersley celebrates one of his ten goals

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

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

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

19th – Aldershot Town – 51 pts

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Shots Secured: Aldershot’s celebrate staying up

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

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

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

20th- Hereford United – 51 pts

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Fine Margins: Late win keeps the Bulls in the league

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

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

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

21st – Chester – 51 pts

Gutted: Chester come so close

Gutted: Chester come so close on the final day

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

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

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

22nd- Dartford – 44 pts

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Sidelined: The Darts missed Ryan Hayes’ trickery

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

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

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

23rd – Tamworth – 39 pts

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Down: Tamworth return to the Conference North

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

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

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

24th – Hyde – 10 pts

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At Last: A win after 29 games of waiting

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

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

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