NON-LEAGUE expert Paul Maddison (@LouthBigDog) shares his thoughts on the National League ante-post markets ahead of the 2019/20 campaign.
WLB Season Preview 2018/19 | National League: Promotion
There's no clear favourite with the bookies to win the National League this season with Notts County, Chesterfield and Fylde heading the market at 9/1 and Wrexham following just behind at 10s.
Of those four sides, it's easy to put a line through Notts County. The Magpies are in a mess, both on and off the pitch and I wouldn't be backing the recently-relegated outfit at double their current offering. The Midlands club were available at 25/1 for relegation not so long ago and now are as short as 5/2 for the drop, highlighting their potential plight.
Wrexham always seem to be near the top of the betting, but they've proved how hard it is win promotion from this league as they start their 12th successive campaign in non-league football. The Dragons made the play-offs for the first time in six years last time out but the all too familiar problem of a lack of firepower cost the Welsh side as they were beaten 1-0 in extra time at home by Eastleigh.
Wrexham's forwardline is an area that Bryan Hughes has looked to address this summer with the signings of JJ Hooper, who scored 13 in 22 whilst on-loan at Bromley last term, and Leighton McIntosh who netted 14 in 34 appearances for Airdrie in the Scottish third-tier.
Chesterfield, like most clubs that come down from League Two, struggled to adapt to the National League last season. When John Sheridan took charge midway through the campaign, the Spirites were only just above the relegation places and looked in danger of the drop.
Sheridan managed to steer his side comfortably away from danger and finished the year in mid-table. There's many similarities between Chesterfield's season last year and Leyton Orient's the previous campaign. Orient went on to win the title last season.
The Derbyshire club have done some excellent business this summer, signing experienced EFL players Anthony Gerrard and David Buchanan, as well as Liam Mandeville who will be keen to impress after not fulfilling his potential at Doncaster. Add to that, Sam Wedgbury coming back after missing last season through injury and they should have a squad more than capable of competing for the title.
I'm taking Chesterfield each-way to win the league at 9/1 with Bet365 where a quarter of the odds are paid out on the first three places. Sheridan has impressively turned the Spireites around, and with a stronger squad and a full pre-season, I can see them going all the way.
It's looking like Fylde are going to manage to hold on to star man Danny Rowe for another campaign. The Coasters front man finished last season as the league's Top Goalscorer, making it it the fifth year on the spin he's notched at least 20 goals. Dave Challinor lost a few key players but looks to have recruited well and he'lll be eager to go one further than last season as his men lost to Salford in the play-off final.
That wasn't the final game of the season for Fylde, mind. Challinor's charges claimed the FA Trophy more than three weeks after most teams were on the beach. I'm going to back AFC to go one better and put the play-off heartache behind them – three of the last four play-off winners were losing finalists the previous year and the Coasters boast the quality to enhance that record this time around.
Flyde can be backed at 4/1 with William Hill to win promotion.
WLB Season Preview 2018/19 | National League: Top Goalscorer
Predictably, Danny Rowe heads the market at 6/1 and providing he remains a Fylde player, he will surely be there or thereabouts at the end of the season.
Paul McCallum is next up at 10/1 – he netted just one fewer than Rowe last season and will be hoping for a similar return for his new club, Solihull Moors. Chesterfield striker, Scott Boden, is third in the betting at 10s after netting 21 times last season- 11 for Gateshead and an impressive 10 in 15 for Chesterfield after his mid-season move.
However, I like the look of a player at a much bigger price. After a slow start to life in the National League, Alfie Pavey found form at the end of the season, netting six times in his final 11 fixtures for Dover. The striker joined midway through the campaign and took a while to get going for the Whites, but soon found the form that saw him named Player of the Season in the National League South in 2017/18 when grabbing 22 goals.
I fancy Dover to go quite well this term. Andy Hessenthaler worked wonders when he took over last season; the club looked to be heading for relegation but he turned it around, picking up an impressive 13 points from their last five games and steering them to a comfortable 14th-placed finish.
Hessenthaler has bought in Michael Woods this summer, who should add some spark and creativity to Dover's attack, and Pavey can benefit from that extra service. I'm backing the Dover striker each-way at 66/1 with BetVictor where a quarter of odds are paid out on a top-four place.
National League 2019/20 – Chesterfield to win outright (9/1 each-way Bet365)
National League 2019/20 – Flyde to win promotion (4/1 William Hill)
National League 2019/20 – Alfie Pavey to be Top Goalscorer (66/1 each-way BetVictor)