WLB Season Preview 2018/19 | National League

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NON-LEAGUE expert Paul Maddison (@LouthBigDog) shares his thoughts on the National League ante-post markets ahead of the 2018/19 campaign. 

WLB Season Preview 2018/19 | National League

Money is a big advantage in football, but it certainly isn’t the be-all and end-all.

Last season saw a prime example of that in the National League; if playing budget was the sole indicator of success, then Macclesfield would have been relegated. They actually won the league by 10 points!

The Silkmen didn’t have to compete against a club with the spending power of Salford City, though.

Gary Neville and co have spent the summer attracting staff and players that have been plying their trade in the higher echelons of the football pyramid to come and play in the fifth tier of English football.

However, I’m not as convinced as the bookies that the Ammies (9/4 Bet365) will win the National League. No matter how much money is spent, when there is such a high turnover of players and a new man in the dugout, it is going to take time for the squad to gel, learn new systems and most importantly, adapt to a new league.

Manager Graham Alexander, nor the majority of their summer signings, have any experience of the National League and that is a huge minus for me. They certainly won’t be prepared for what faces them on a Tuesday night at Braintree.

With Salford being so short in the betting that does mean there are some nice prices to be had elsewhere. Teams coming down from League Two often find the going tough in the National League, but both Barnet (14/1 Ladbrokes) and Chesterfield (8/1 BetVictor) have appointed experienced managers and looked to have made some very solid signings for this level.

Leyton Orient (14/1 Unibet) should do better this term – they have kept a fairly settled side and have a proven goalscorer in Macauley Bonne, plus boss Justin Edinburgh also knows what it take to get out of this division.

But my money is going on last season’s top goal-getters, who also managed to reach the play-offs in their first season in the National League – AFC Fylde (16/1 Paddy Power).

The Coasters have kept the majority of their team together and added a few impressive additions. Danny Philliskirk looks a very good signing for this level, but most importantly they look to have kept hold of Danny Rowe, who netted an impressive 24 goals last term and had been a summer target of Tranmere.

The defensive players they Fylde have brought in should sure up their back line and with three each-way places on offer, they look a great price at 16/1.

Promotion

I mentioned earlier that teams coming down from League Two often struggle at first, but this year could be the exception to the rule.

Barnet have appointed one of the most experienced managers there is at this level in John Still. He knows the league inside out and is the only manager to lead three clubs to promotion from non-league football.

The veteran boss has signed several players he has previously worked with from his time at Dagenham & Redbridge and looks to have a very competitive squad. The 2014/2015 champions will certainly be looking to bounce back at the first time of asking.

A big negative is the loss of John Akinde – they will miss his physical presence and goals. However, Dave Tarpey, who they signed on transfer deadline day last season, is back from a serious knee injury he picked up in just his second game for the Bees.

If Tarpey can find the form he was in before his injury, then Barnet won’t need to worry about goals. In 2016/2017 Tarpey netted 44 in 41 league games for Maidenhead, then scored seven in his opening six games of last season before making his move to Barnet.

The Bees are available at 8/1 with BetVictor to return to the Football League at the first time of asking.

Relegation

All teams that were promoted to the National League in 2016/2017 managed to avoid the drop the following season (this stat is actually true for the Premier League, Championship, League One and League Two also).

Three of the new arrivals this term look like they have a very good chance of staying up also. One team I do feel will really struggle this season is Dagenham & Redbridge, who finished 2017/18 in 11th.

The Daggers have been in serious financial trouble for a while now and have lost the majority of their team. The replacements that have been brought in don’t look up to the same standard and it looks like it could be a long season for Peter Taylor’s capital club.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see more players depart and often off-field problems can spill over onto the pitch.

Dagenham are available at 4/1 with SkyBet to be in the bottom-four at the campaign’s conclusion – they are as short as 15/8 elsewhere.

Top Scorer

Last season saw five players reach 20+ goals in the National League – three of those players will be starting the season in higher divisions. The other two are Danny Rowe – who scored 24 times for free-scoring Fylde – and Macauley Bonne who scored 22 times for Leyton Orient.

Interestingly though, Orient scored 24 fewer goals than Fylde during the campaign, meaning Bonne scored a much higher percentage of his teams goals.

I’m expecting the O’s to have a much better season this time around so hopefully they will flourish in front of goal this term too.

Zimbabwe international Bonne is also Orient’s first-choice penalty taker, which is a massive bonus when betting in this market. He is available at 10/1 with BetVictor who are paying three each-way places.

The obvious threats to this selection are Adam Rooney at Salford, but he looks way too short at 3/1, Tarpey at Barnet who is also 10/1 but has slight doubts over his fitness for the start of the campaign and the previously mentioned Rowe who should go well but I won’t be backing at 6/1.

Best Bets

National League 2018/19 – AFC Fylde to win the league (16/1 each-way Paddy Power)

National League 2018/19 – Barnet to be promoted (8/1 BetVictor)

National League 2018/19 – Dagenham & Redbridge to be relegated (4/1 SkyBet)

National League 2018/19 – Macauley Bonne to be top goalscorer (10/1 each-way BetVictor)

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