NLP Column w/e 9th September 2017
Pick up Sunday’s Non-League Paper and there is one thing you can set your watch to. No, not that you’re bound to disagree with the Man Of The Match selection from today’s game!
Think more about the comments of the managers buried without our pages. The first few months are known as ‘underplay it’ season for a reason.
You can almost guarantee you’ll discover a “we’re not getting carried away” or a “we’ve made a good start, but it’s just a start” or even my personal favourite “nothing is ever won or lost in August or September”.
You can’t blame them for keeping their powder dry of course, but it’s always interesting to find out – can we read anything into the first month of the season?
Thanks to a bit of detective work, I can tell you that actually we can. Quite a lot, in fact. Here’s why.
After match day nine in the National League we got a glimpse of the future. Sitting on top of the league in the second week of September was Lincoln City. In second, Forest Green Rovers. Both, of course, are now playing League Two football.
At the other end Southport and Braintree were in the bottom four, but slow starting Guiseley and Woking would of course eventually find their feet.
The National League North’s top dog at this stage of last season were AFC Fylde. Incredibly by this stage Danny Rowe had 16 league goals. You won’t be shocked to hear little changed in the months ahead.
But FC Halifax Town, the other promotion winner, were down in ninth place. They wouldn’t be for long! Two of the three in the relegation zone didn’t recover and went down as Altrincham and Stalybridge couldn’t recover.
It was a similar story on the National League South where Maidenhead United sat top of the lot with Dave Tarpey already scoring 12. Hampton & Richmond Borough in second eventually slipped, as did third place St Albans City. Ebbsfleet, play-off winners of course, were hovering just outside the top five.
But at the bottom it was a different story as all the early slackers – Welling, Concord and Whitehawk – found their feet.
After seven games, eventual Evo-Stik NPL Premier champions Blyth Spartans were sitting pretty and the same could be said of winner Chippenham Town in the Southern League.
But the pacesetters in the Ryman Premier– as it was called back then – peaked a bit too early.
Leiston were leading the way but eventually ended the season in seventh. The winners, Havant, were only a point away from them after seven matches.
So perhaps we can read more into the start of the season than you would have first thought!
By Sam Elliott