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National South Season Preview Part III

Ebbsfleet United

2019/2020 Performance:
League Position: 22nd (National League)
F.A Cup: 1st Round
F.A Trophy: 3rd Round
Top Scorer: Gozie Ogwu (13 goals)

Relegated by the narrowest of margins, Ebbsfleet United become the fifth Kent side in the National South. With the National League decided using points per game the Fleet were 0.002 points short, despite being in the top three of the form guide when football stopped. Off field damage, with players being paid late, caused instability at the club and finally it caught up with the Kent side. Now Ebbsfleet United enter a new era appointing a manager from the fifth tier of German football, who has begun to overhaul the squad.

Manager: Dennis Kutrieb

German managers seem to do well in the professional game and now the National South has one of their own trying to make a mark. Dennis Kutrieb left Tennis Borussia Berlin at the top of the fifth tier of German football before moving to Ebbsfleet United. In Germany he was on course for his third promotion in six years with two different clubs. Kutrieb is a highly rated young manager and as well as leading the NOFV-Oberliga Nord in March which eventually earned his former side promotion, he led Tennis Borussia Berlin to second spot the year before.

Summer

The Fleet have a new look squad this season and it would be easier to list who they haven’t signed. The first port of call is Dennis Kutrieb’s former club Tennis Borussia Berlin where he takes with him defender Sefa Kahraman and the attacking Alex Eirich. Welcoming back for a third spell at the club is former Eastbourne Borough player Michael West, and following the midfielder from Priory Lane is goalkeeper Tom Hadler and defender Tobi Adebayo-Rowling. Also coming up from Sussex is midfielder Josh Payne, who makes his loan spell from Crawley Town into a permanent deal. Adam Mekki also had a loan spell at Stonebridge Road last term, he has signs on from Bromley following defender Jake Goodman. Dagenham and Redbridge have been raided for players with midfielder James Dobson (season long loan),defender Will Wood and striker Reece Grant crossing the River Thames. Former Manchester United youngster, Lee Martin joins after helping Exeter City to the League Two playoff final last season. Ben Chapman moves from Dulwich Hamlet, winger Iffy Allen from local rivals Maidstone United and defender Ben Frempah from Championship club Wycombe Wanderers. The forward line has been bolstered by the signings of Charlie Rowan (former Watford and Queens Park Rangers defender), Bobby-Joe Taylor (Dover Athletic), Greg Cundle (Concord Rangers) and Rakish Bingham (Dundee United).

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 66 / Ebbsfleet United wins: 55 / Draws: 32

Hampton and Richmond Borough

2019/2020 Performance:
League Position: 8th
F.A Cup: 3rd Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy: 2nd Round
Top Scorer: Danilo Orsi-Dadamo (12 goals)

A steady climb up the table had the Beavers challenging for a playoff place and on points per game marginally missed out. Two years ago, Hampton and Richmond Borough were in a three-way title race up until Easter. That summer they changed manager and finished the following campaign in a disappointing fifteenth. Last season the Beavers continued where they left off and made a slow start, but the side started to click, the Middlesex club made sure that Dorking Wanderers were left clinging on to that last playoff place.

Manager: Gary McCann

Compared to his previous job Gary McCann has only just begun at Hampton and Richmond Borough. Appointed in the summer of 2018, he had just lost the Isthmian Premier League playoff final on penalties against Dulwich Hamlet with his former club Hendon. It was there where he joined as a goalkeeper in 1997 and later, he spent 13 years as Hendon’s manager where he was often praised for his work. The Beavers kept tabs on him and decided to make a move in May 2018, since then McCann has slowly moved Hampton and Richmond Borough towards the playoff places.

Summer

Manager, Gary McCann will be delighted to have Nico Muir on a permanent basis. The striker was on loan from Hartlepool United last term and played under McCann for Hendon where he netted 40 goals. Although the Beavers lost the services of their top scorer last season, Danilo Orsi-Dadamo to Maidenhead United they have managed to sign left back Rene Steer from the Magpies. Midfielder Christian Smith moves from Dulwich Hamlet, whilst Nathan Minhas arrives from Bracknell Town and Danny Bassett from Tooting and Mitcham United. They have also signed former Dartford goalkeeper Alan Julian from Billericay Town.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 7 / Hampton and Richmond Borough wins: 5 / Draws: 2

Havant and Waterlooville

2019/2020 Performance:
League Position: 2nd
F.A Cup: 4th Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy: 1st Round
Top Scorer: Joseph Ayunga (17 goals)

Favourites last season Havant and Waterlooville will feel slightly aggrieved that the season was cut short. The Hawks were just three points adrift of eventual champions Wealdstone, but at least they had the chance via the playoffs. The Hampshire club may have been beaten in the semi-finals by Dartford, however their squad remains strong for the forthcoming campaign. Even with the loss of golden boot winner Jonah Ayunga, they found a suitable replacement, another golden boot winner. Expect the 2018 National South champions to be challenging for the title again for a third time in four years.  

Manager: Paul Doswell

In his first season at Havant and Waterlooville, Paul Doswell’s directive was to get the club back to the National League. Trusted to lead the Hampshire side because of his wealth of experience and previous non-league success, the Hawks boss came close. Doswell had spent 11 years at Sutton United before moving closer to home, in that time he won the Isthmian Premier and National South titles with the U’s, he also guided them to the fifth round of the F.A Cup losing to Arsenal. At Eastleigh he took them from the Wessex League to the National South.

Summer

Joint National South top scorer Jonah Ayunga departs after making a move to League One side Bristol Rovers. So, the Hawks replace the striker with another National South top scorer Joe Iaciofano from St Albans City. Having signed from Woking in the summer Godfrey Poku has been appointed captain and joining him from the Cards is Moussa Diarra. Midfielder, Billy Clifford won the National South with Wealdstone last season and will be hoping to help Havant and Waterlooville to go one step further this time. After suffering an injury at Sutton United, Tommy Wright also took a break from football, now former U’s manager Paul Doswell welcomes the striker back in to the game. Theo Widdrington is back at Westleigh Park, the midfielder spent a loan spell there in 2017. Lucas Sinclair has joins from AFC Totton, goalkeeper Joe Tupper (Margate) and midfielder Daniel Ajakaiye (Hastings United). Sam Dowdridge also moves to Havant and Waterlooville but has been sent back out on loan to Bognor Regis Town.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 6 / Havant and Waterlooville wins: 3 / Draws: 4

Hemel Hempstead Town

2019/2020 Performance:
League Position: 11th
F.A Cup: 2nd Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy: 1st Round
Top Scorer: Sam Ashford (10 goals)

It was no surprise that Hemel Hempstead Town started last season well. They appointed Sammy Moore as boss who had previously guided an unfancied Concord Rangers to the top seven, he took some of the players with him. The Tudors were in a strong position at the end of October but then lost their way ending in a still creditable eleventh. This summer it has been all change again, with a new manager installed the Hertfordshire club hope to recreate or better their fifth-place finish of two years ago.

Manager: Lee Bircham

Managing his hometown club, Lee Bircham was appointed this summer to take charge of Hemel Hempstead Town. Last season he was denied a shot at promotion with Berkhamsted who were top of the Southern League Division One Central when football stopped. His former club had won 20 of the 28 completed fixtures and had a one-point lead over F.A Trophy semi-finalists Halesowen Town. Bircham also had a good track record at local club Bovingdon where he won the Hertfordshire Premier Division with an 18-point margin, his side racked up 116 goals in just 28 matches.

Summer

The Tudors have looked towards the lower leagues for a pair of goalscorers. Alie Bangura scored an impressive 27 goals in just 23 appearances for Biggleswade United last season and Dan Webb netted 42 times in 45 matches for Leighton Town. Hemel Hempstead Town have brought in experience from the National League signing Ryan Sellers and Reece Beckles-Richards from champions Wealdstone. Defenders, Ben Jefford and Tommy Cooney arrive from Oxford City and Braintree Town respectively, whilst Ade Cole and Jacob Cook both move from Billericay Town. Lee Bircham also made a double signing when he took defenders Daniel Akubuine and Ryan Kinnane from Berkhamsted. George Essuman comes in from Margate, Kyle Ajayi (AFC Dunstable) and Reggie Young (Farnborough). Outfield player Rowan Vine ended up in goal against the Darts when he was Gosport Borough a few years back, he joins the Tudors as well as Jake Evans and Dean Snedker.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 5 / Hemel Hempstead Town wins: 1 / Draws: 4

Hungerford Town

2019/2020 Performance:
League Position: 22nd
F.A Cup: 2nd Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy: 3rd Qualifying Round
Top Scorer: Liam Ferdinand (5 goals)

The Crusaders would be plying their trade in the level below, however with no promotion to the National South, Hungerford Town survived. In the National South, the Berkshire side have been often amongst the relegation favourites and will likely keep that tag going into the forthcoming season. That shouldn’t deter the Crusaders as the advantage of being underdogs is the potential to surprise, like they did when they reached the playoff places three years ago. Hungerford Town will enter their fifth season in the National South with a new boss leading the way.

Manager: Danny Robinson

Just over two years ago Danny Robinson was walking out at Wembley with local rivals Thatcham Town. He had guided the Berkshire club to the F.A Vase final in which they claimed glory with victory. If that wasn’t enough Thatcham Town were also promoted in that campaign and last season he was on the verge of another promotion with the club. Robinson started his managerial career as a 21-year-old with Winchester City’s reserves before progressing to their first team. At Alresford Town he picked up the Hampshire Senior Cup before Thatcham Town then Hungerford Town came calling.

Summer

Hungerford Town will have a new look squad hoping to improve their fortunes. Danny Robinson’s previous club former a winning mentality and now a number of F.A Vase winners make the step up with their boss. Baboucarr Jarra is back for a second spell with the Crusaders and after collecting a F.A Vase winners medal with Thatcham Town he went on to play for Thame United. Also playing in that final two years ago was defender Curtis Angell, he follows Robinson as well as Matt Partridge and Callum Willmoth. Another player to return to Hardenhuish Park is striker, Luke Hopper from Chippenham Town, joining him up front will be Ryan Seager (Yeovil Town) and James Harding, who scored 21 goals in 24 starts for Cinderford Town last term. Midfielder, Jack Self and Portuguese full back Nuno Felix also arrive from Chippenham Town. The Crusaders have also signed a pair of wingers in former Oxford City man Craig Fasanmade and Wanjau Smith who joins from Slimbridge after netting 17 goals in 23 appearances last season. At 37 years-old Keith Emmerson will provide plenty of experience in defence from Winchester City. Kensey Maloney (Westfields), goalkeeper Luke Cairney (Poole Town) and Kyle Tooze (Truro City) sign with the Berkshire club, whilst Ralph Graham returns after a loan spell from Swindon Town.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 2 / Hungerford Town wins: 3 / Draws: 2

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