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National South Season Preview Part One

Last season was cut short less than halfway through the campaign, the season before became null and void with around a quarter of the games still to play. Over the previous two years the National South has been full of uncertainty. Throw in the wrangling between the league and its members back in February and March, unfulfilled fixtures, furloughed staff and the financial challenges that come with a pandemic and it’s safe to say we can only look forward to the 2021/2022 season.

Crowds will return to grounds urging their team to succeed, lifting the players, creating the atmosphere everyone has been missing. The National South line-up remains the same and the future looks brighter. Maybe at the third time of asking the season will be played out in its entirety. Pure DFC looks at each club, the managers, and the squads they have assembled for the forthcoming campaign…

Bath City

National South League Performance (last 2 years):
P48 W22 D10 L16 Pts76 (PPG 1.58) – Ranking 4th

F.A Cup (2020/21): 4th Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy (2020/21): 4th Round

Going into last season the Romans felt optimistic after successive playoff appearances. History repeated itself when on both occasions Bath City were beaten in the eliminator round. In the second of those campaigns the west country club were on course to beat their previous points tally. The story was different last season, a point per game had the Romans down at the bottom end after an unexpectedly slow start. Bath City lost six of their first seven games picking up just three points. Results picked up in December with a notable away victory at Dorking Wanderers and home win over Havant and Waterlooville.

Manager: Jerry Gill

In charge at Twerton Park since October 2017, Gill managed to turn the Romans from a top ten side to a top five side before last season. Bath City only managed thirteen league games last term and were fourth from bottom when the campaign was cut short, Gill will be hoping his side were just making a slow start. As a former Bath City defender who made over 200 appearances for the club in the nineties, the Romans boss will know the club inside out. He also has playing experience with Birmingham City where he reached a League Final and won promotion to the Premier League.

Summer

The most exciting signing of the summer for Bath City is that of Elliott Frear, the former Salisbury City winger was also part of the Hearts title winning team north of the border. He has also played over 70 games in the Scottish Premier League for Motherwell. Another to join the Romans, from Chippenham Town is Eddie Jones, a defender who played over a hundred games for his former side, going the other way is Will Henry. Jamaican international Omar Holness signs from National North side Darlington. Cody Cooke comes in from Weymouth and Ben Gerring from Woking. Manager, Jerry Gill who signed a new contract until July 2023 has also signed three goalkeepers, Coniah Boyce-Clarke from Reading, Harley Wilkinson from Clevedon Town and Will Fuller from Cardiff Metropolitan University, where he played over 250 matches in the Welsh Premier League. Momodou Touray will be on loan until the New Year from Salford City. Players leaving Twerton Park include Frankie Artus, Callum Evans and Donovan Wilson who impressed at National League champions Sutton United after the National South season was curtailed.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 34 / Bath City wins: 40 / Draws: 19

Previous Meetings (last six)

Dartford 1 – 0 Bath City (17/10/2020 – National South)
Bath City 3 – 0 Dartford (30/11/2019 – National South)
Dartford 3 – 0 Bath City (09/02/2019 – National South)
Bath City 1 – 2 Dartford (04/08/2018 – National South)
Dartford 2 – 0 Bath City (21/04/2018 – National South)
Bath City 2 – 1 Dartford (24/10/2017 – National South)

  • Dartford have won the last five games against Bath City at Princes Park
  • Bath City’s win on 30/11/2019 ended a run of seven straight defeats against the Darts
  • Dartford have won eight of the last nine meetings against the Romans

Billericay Town

National South League Performance (last 2 years):
P49 W12 D17 L20 Pts53 (PPG 1.08) – Ranking 20th

F.A Cup: 2nd Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy: 2nd Round

Gone are the days when the owner made more headlines off the pitch than the team made on the pitch. In the only full National South season completed by the Blues they ended in a creditable eighth place. In the two unfinished seasons the Essex club went through three managers, Jamie O’Hara replaced Harry Wheeler in September 2019 and guided Billericay Town to seventeenth. But the former Spurs midfielder’s tenure ended in December 2020 after just two victories in nine outings. Kevin Watson took up the managerial post in January and will embark on his first full campaign at New Lodge.

Manager: Kevin Watson

Appointed at the beginning of the year, Watson has had little time to shape his squad and playing style at Billericay Town. The former Ebbsfleet United boss started his managerial career at Maldon and Tiptree until a Teddy Sheringham led Stevenage took him in as assistant manager. Watson had various assistant roles with the likes of Eastleigh, Whitehawk and Hungerford Town either side of a stint as manager at Bishop’s Stortford. A former midfielder as a player, Watson became a serial promotion winner as runners up with Rotherham United twice, Reading and Colchester United in a seven-year spell.

Summer

Billericay Town will have to find goals from somewhere as top scorer Jake Robinson has left to cross the River Thames and join Dartford. Winger, Luke Wanadio makes the same move and will team up with Robinson at Princes Park. Meanwhile, three former Darts will be with the Blues next season, Rowan Liburd signed and new deal, Luke Warner-Eley joins from St Albans City and goalkeeper Bailey Vose moves from Margate. Charlie Lee joins the Blues and Luis Shamshoun has been in the youth set up for four years and signs a first team contract. Marvel Ekpiteta left Dover Athletic to move to Billericay Town and former Dart, Norman Wabo has been with the Essex club during pre-season. Whilst some of the squad leaving include Lewis Knight to Margate and Doug Loft to Tonbridge Angels.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 5 / Billericay Town wins: 2 / Draws: 1

Previous Meetings (last six)

Dartford 1 – 0 Billericay Town (12/01/2021 – National South)
Dartford 3 – 0 Billericay Town (14/12/2019 – National South)
Dartford 2 – 1 Billericay Town (22/04/2019 – National South)
Billericay Town 1 – 1 Dartford (15/09/2018 – National South)
Dartford 1 – 4 Billericay Town (06/03/2010 – Isthmian Premier)
Billericay Town 1 – 0 Dartford (02/02/2010 – Isthmian Premier)

  • Dartford have won their last three matches against Billericay Town all at Princes Park
  • The Darts are four games unbeaten against the Blues
  • Billericay Town’s only victories against the Darts came in 2010, when Dartford won the Isthmian Premier League

Braintree Town

National South League Performance (last 2 years):
P51 W14 D6 L31 Pts48 (PPG 0.94) – Ranking 21st

F.A Cup: 3rd Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy: 3rd Round

Ten years ago, the Iron won the National South and followed up their title with a six year stay in non-league’s top flight. It looked as though Braintree Town would turn into that yo-yo club when they were finally relegated from the National League, went back up and came straight back down. Over the last two uncompleted campaigns, the Essex side have found themselves in the bottom three with several managers struggling to improve results. Glen Driver, Jake Hutchings and former Dart, George Borg all had a go. Seven straight defeats opened the 2020/21 campaign and so Borg resigned. Now it’s Ryan Maxwell’s turn.

Manager: Ryan Maxwell

When Maxwell joined the Iron in November, he made immediate changes, in his first named starting eleven he selected eight new signings and ended a seven-game losing streak with a win. Arriving from Walthamstow where he was player-manager, Maxwell as a player moved around the non-league scene which included three appearances for Braintree Town in 2007. At Walthamstow, he guided them to third in the Essex Senior League. When the former midfielder left the Essex club in January 2020, he had them challenging for the title and when the league was abandoned in that March, Walthamstow were only three points off the top.

Summer

The Iron will be delighted with the signing of Femi Akinwande, who finished at the Darts last term. Akinwande is back at Cressing Road for a second spell after scoring six goals in 18 games last time. A youngster at Dartford, Jay Porter will be part of the squad after signing from Margate. Goalkeeper, Preston Edwards was signed as cover at Dartford during the playoffs a couple of seasons ago, he re-signs for the Essex club. Former England C international defender Luke Pennell arrives from Dagenham and Redbridge, Ezra IkeBuasi joins from Farnborough, Anderson Pinto from Cheshunt and Lance Akins from Maldon and Tiptree. Winger, Marcus Goldbourne is a new signing and Harry Savage signs first team forms after impressing in the under 18’s.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 3 / Braintree Town wins: 7 / Draws: 4

Previous Meetings (last six)

Braintree Town 2 – 1 Dartford (09/01/2021 – National South)
Dartford 2 – 1 Braintree Town (24/08/2019 – National South)
Dartford 0 – 1 Braintree Town (06/05/2018 – National South Playoff)
Dartford 1 – 1 Braintree Town (23/12/2017 – National South)
Braintree Town 2 – 2 Dartford (08/08/2017 – National South)
Braintree Town 3 – 0 Dartford (01/01/2015 – National League)

  • Dartford have won just one of their last ten matches against Braintree Town, drawing three and losing six
  • The Darts have scored in four of the last five meetings, but failed to score at all in the previous five
  • Braintree Town have scored in their last nine games against the Darts

Chelmsford City

National South League Performance (last 2 years):
P50 W15 D15 L20 Pts53 (PPG 1.20) – Ranking 13th

F.A Cup: 2nd Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy: 2nd Round

Expectations for the Clarets are normally set at reaching the playoffs as a minimum. Chelmsford City have been there plenty of times in their thirteen-year stay, but they have been unable to cross the promotion line. In their seven playoff attempts they have reached the final once and have finished outside of the top seven in the last two incomplete campaigns. The first of those season’s ended with Rod Stringer moving aside and Robbie Simpson impressing enough to make the job his own. Still to be judged on forty completed league games, Simpson will be hoping the Clarets return to at least the playoffs.

Manager: Robbie Simpson

The journey from player to manager at Chelmsford City moved fast for Simpson. Signed as a player by Rod Stringer, the previous manager of the Clarets, Simpson was put in temporary charge just five months later and in March 2020 he became permanent player-manager. His first managerial role, the former forward enjoyed a long career in the Football League after he had already represented both Cambridge clubs, United and City at non-league level. Coventry City took a chance and afterwards he played for Huddersfield Town, Oldham Athletic, Leyton Orient, returned to Cambridge United in League Two, Exeter City and Milton Keynes Dons.

Summer

During his loan spell at Chelmsford City last season Charlie Sheringham impressed, now the striker has signed a deal after leaving Dartford. Another former Dart who will stay for a fourth campaign with the Clarets is Chez Isaac. Midfielder, Louis Dunne had a previous loan spell with Concord Rangers, the 22-year-old joins from Colchester United. Michael Oluwadara Dada arrives from St Albans City and the experienced Simeon Jackson returns with coaching and community responsibilities. Arriving on loan from Cambridge United will be Tom Dickens. Departing the Melbourne Stadium is the retiring Elliott Ward, Cole Kpekawa moves to Hemel Hempstead Town and goalkeeper Lee Worgan joins Dorking Wanderers.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 40 / Chelmsford City wins: 55 / Draws: 22

Previous Meeting (last six)

Dartford 1 – 0 Chelmsford City (06/10/2020 – National South)
Dartford 3 – 0 Chelmsford City (14/03/2020 – National South)
Chelmsford City 4 – 1 Dartford (12/08/2019 – National South)
Chelmsford City 2 – 1 Dartford (09/01/2019 – National South)
Dartford 1 – 0 Chelmsford City (07/08/2018 – National South)
Dartford 1 – 2 Chelmsford City (10/02/2018 – National South)

  • Dartford have won their last three home games against Chelmsford City, another home win will equal the longest winning streak versus the Clarets at home set between 1960 and 1965.
  • The Darts have not conceded a goal in the last three home matches versus Chelmsford City, a home record against the Clarets
  • Chelmsford City have won seven of the last eleven meetings home and away

Chippenham Town

National South League Performance (last 2 years):
P49 W14 D16 L19 Pts58 (PPG 1.18) – Ranking 14th

F.A Cup: 4th Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy: 2nd Round

Since promotion to the National South, Chippenham Town have been consistent in where they end up in the league standings. Consecutive thirteenth place finishes were followed by coming in fourteenth. Last time out the Bluebirds were averaging around their normal points per game from those three campaigns. When the Wiltshire club came into the division, they arrived with Mark Collier at the helm, he was replaced in January 2020 by Michael Cook who has kept the status quo in terms of results. Yet to have a full season at Hardenhuish Park, Cook will be aiming to see an improvement to the usual mid-table finish. 

Manager: Michael Cook

Forced into the coaching world at an early age, Cook overcame a spinal injury when he was 22 years old. He won the F.A Youth Cup with Coventry City as player and went on to represent York City, Cambridge United and in non-league Wycombe Wanderers. Another manager who made the most of an interim spell, Cook was appointed as permanent boss of Chippenham Town in March 2020. The former Gloucester City manager took over the Bluebirds in January following the departure of Mark Collier and impressed enough to make the job his own after some improved results.

Summer

Returning to Chippenham Town after a spell in Australia is Will Richards, he left the Bluebirds in 2019 and is now back after signing from Grange Thistle. Goalkeeper, Will Henry joins Chippenham Town from Bath City and going in the opposite direction will be Eddie Jones. The Bluebirds have also captured the signature of former Weymouth midfielder, Alefe Santos, ex Cardiff City youngster Dan Griffiths and 20-year-old forward Harry Warwick from Bristol Rovers. A number of players have renewed their contracts but leaving the Wiltshire club will be Bradley Ash, Will Puddy, George Rigg and Chris Zebrowski.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 4 / Chippenham Town wins: 1 / Draws: 2

Previous Meetings (last six)

Chippenham Town 1 – 2 Dartford (27/10/2020 – National South)
Chippenham Town 1 – 5 Dartford (01/02/2020 – National South)
Dartford 1 – 1 Chippenham Town (26/10/2019 – National South)
Dartford 0 – 1 Chippenham Town (13/04/2019 – National South)
Chippenham Town 1 – 2 Dartford (13/10/2018 – National South)
Chippenham Town 2 – 2 Dartford (20/01/2018 – National South)

  • Dartford are unbeaten in all four visits to Hardenhuish Park winning three and drawing one
  • Dartford’s only defeat against the Bluebirds was also the only time the Darts have failed to score in this fixture
  • Both teams have kept just one clean sheet against each other in seven meetings

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