National League North Preview 2019/20

The season is just around the corner, the summer has been a busy one for most of the National League North sides. Here’s a guide as to how their pre season schedules have panned out and who their key players will be for the upcoming season.

AFC Telford United

Last Season- Telford were in and around the playoff places for pretty much the whole season but they narrowly missed out on a playoff place by 1 goal on goal difference, their final day defeat to York City meant they finished 8th place. Blyth took 4 points off Telford with a 1-0 win at home in September and a last gasp Dan Maguire equaliser secured a 1-1 draw away from home in March.

Key Players- Aaron Williams signed for Telford this summer from Harrogate Town, Williams has spent time in the football league with Walsall, Peterborough and Newport County. He won the FA Trophy with Brackley in 2018 and bagged 23 National League North goals in that same season. The striker has also been capped at England C level. Midfielder Adam Walker is another summer recruit, signing from Brackley Town; he is a well established player and has been an integral part of the Brackley side that has made the playoffs in the last two seasons

Pre- Season- Telford have played a few friendlies against higher opposition, going down to Solihull and Wrexham 1-0 and 2-0 respectively. However, they did play out a 1-1 draw with Coventry City and a 2-2 draw with National League South side Concord Rangers.

Alfreton Town

Last Season- Started off positive reaching a high of 3rd place but then tailed off into mid table obscurity after the departure of Tom Denton to Chesterfield. Alfreton finished in 15th place. Alfreton defeated Blyth at home 3-1 in August and played out a 1-1 draw at Croft Park in January.

Key Players- Defender Josh Wilde has a lot of National League North experience including winning promotion to the National League with Halifax in the 2016/17 season. Midfielder Bobby Johnson was a standout performer for Alfreton last season scoring 7 goals, although he missed several months of the season with an injury. Shane Killock has extensive experience at National League North level and even played at Huddersfield Town while Spartans boss Lee Clark was in charge although he never made an appearance under Clark.

Pre- Season- Alfreton have played several lucrative pre season games, they started with a 2-1 defeat at home to Nottingham Forest before bouncing back with a 2-1 win against Walsall. Defeats against Mansfield and Scunthorpe followed with a draw against Derby County under 23’s in between. They rounded off their pre season on Friday night with a 1-0 win at home to Notts County.

Altrincham

Last Season- An indifferent start to the season was perhaps the adaptation period after their promotion from the Northern Premier League the season before. Altrincham eased to 5th place and a spot in the playoffs. The less said about the playoff eliminator game, the better. They went on to lose in the playoff semi finals to eventual playoff winners Chorley, on penalties.

Key Players- Altrincham have retained the majority of their squad from last season. There are plenty of goals in the side, Josh Hancock bagged 17 league goals last season and Jordan Hulme scored 15. Defensively, Shaun Densmore has made over 350 appearances for the club and centre back James Jones impressed last season.

Pre Season- Altrincham have had a mixed bag of results in pre season, picking up wins against Blackpool, AFC Fylde and Whitchurch Alport. They’ve suffered defeats against Stockport County and a 6-0 drubbing against Crewe Alexandra.

Boston United

Last Season- Boston started the season well and were sitting in and around the playoff places until they drifted off after Christmas and ended up finishing 11th. Blyth suffered their biggest defeat of the season away to Boston in October the score line was 4-0. We did exact revenge in the home fixture with a 3-0 win in April.

Key Players- Boston have recruited well picking up Simon Ainge from Darlington on a season long loan. He is expected to play in a defensive role in his time at Boston despite playing as a forward in his time at Harrogate. Another ex Harrogate man joined Boston on a long term loan deal this summer; Jake Wright won promotion to the National League with Harrogate in the 2017/18 season. Former Chester and Spennymoor man Shaun Tuton also signed for Boston this summer. Former Everton starlet George Green also made the switch to Boston this summer and will help to bolster their midfield.

Pre Season- Boston have remained undefeated in pre season with just one game to play at the time of writing, they’ve recorded wins against Grimsby Town, Worksop Town and Scunthorpe United and picked up a draw against Grantham Town.

Brackley Town

Last Season- Another solid season for Brackley saw them finish in 3rd place for the second consecutive season. In the playoffs they played Spennymoor in the semi finals losing on penalties after 120 goalless minutes. Blyth recorded a 1-1 draw away at Brackley in November but lost 3-1 in the reverse fixture in March.

Key Players- Club captain Gareth Dean, plays at centre back, has been capped at England C level and has featured in the Conference North/National League North team of the season for the last 4 seasons. Midfielder James Armson scored 14 goals last term and 17 in the 2017/18 season; he too has been capped at England C level. Between the sticks is Danny Lewis, who commanded a defensive unit that conceded the second least goals last season and keeping 15 clean sheets.

Pre Season- Brackley have had a decent pre season only losing to Football League opposition(Oxford United and MK Dons) and picking up wins against Barwell, Northampton Town and Stratford. 

Bradford (Park Avenue)

Last Season- Bradford were flying high at the top of the league until a financial crisis saw them having to offload players, their form dipped but luckily they had banked enough points to salvage 6th place and a playoff spot for the second consecutive season. In the playoffs they travelled to Spennymoor in the eliminator round and lost 1-0, which was the only playoff game that wasn’t decided by penalties. Bradford picked up a 2-1 win at Croft Park in the second game of the season and were fortunate to get a draw at home after a last minute penalty from Robbie Dale was saved.

Key Players- Bradford have had to make many new singings over the summer. Goalkeeper Jack Bennett joins the club after a spell in America, Former Doncaster Rovers defender Mitchell Lund joins with over 60 appearances in League 1 and 2. Jon Moran also has experience in the Football League.

Pre Season-Bradford started their pre season with a 2-2 draw against Hemsworth Miners Welfare; they then were defeated 4-2 by Mansfield Town. Bradford bounced back with a win against Brighouse Town before going down 5-1 to Rotherham United. A win against Sheffield Wednesday followed before a loss on penalties to Bradford City in the Tom Banks Memorial Trophy. They rounded off pre season with a 2-2 draw against Huddersfield.

Chester

Last Season- Chester sat around the playoff places all season without having a prolonged spell within them, they ended up finishing 9th. Blyth recorded their biggest win of the season and the joint biggest winning margin of all the games in the National League North last season with the 8-1 win at Croft Park in August. The away fixture saw Spartans go down 2-0 in a midweek game in February.

Key Players- The Chester squad contains a fair few of the players that played under Bernard Morley and Anthony Johnson when the duo were Managers of Salford City. Danny Livesey and Simon Grand are a solid defensive duo with plenty of experience. Scott Burton played a key role in centre midfield in Salford City’s title winning season and now finds himself at Chester looking to replicate the achievement. Upfront Gary Roberts has Football League experience and has been capped at youth level for England.

Pre Season- Chester have suffered mixed fortunes in pre season, starting with a 7-1 defeat to Wigan Athletic. They bounced back in emphatic fashion with a 9-1 win against Newquay, a 2-1 loss to Dulwich Hamlet followed before a stalemate with Carlisle United. Colne defeated Chester 2-1 but that defeat was followed up with wins against 1874 Northwich and Trafford.

Curzon Ashton

Last Season- Curzon Ashton fluctuated up and down the mid tabled region all season, they never looked like going down and never looked like they could challenge for the playoffs and finished in 18th place, 14 points above relegation. When Curzon visited Croft Park a superb 2nd half turnaround saw Spartans win 3-2. In the away fixture, Spartans romped to a 3-1 win which was the start of the emphatic 7 game winning run that saw us secure a playoff spot.

Key Players- Goalkeeper Cameron Mason is a consistent performer that is capable of winning points for his side. Summer signings Andrew Halls and Nicky Wroe both have a wealth of experience in the Football League and have been capped at England C level.

Pre Season- Curzon have had a hectic pre season, highlights include wins against Stalybridge Celtic and Cheadle Town. They have suffered defeats to Stockport County, Wrexham and Crewe Alexandra among others.

Darlington 1883

Last Season- Lingered around mid table pretty much all season. We managed a 1-1 draw away from home thanks to a defensively solid performance. However, we succumbed to a 1-0 defeat at home.

Key Players- We watched them all week in week out last season. Although, they have signed Adam Campbell who was the youngest Newcastle player to make a Europa League appearance aged just 17. Stephen Thompson is a club stalwart and sits just 6 goals behind the club record.

Pre Season- After Armstrong’s honeymoon was ruined by Motherwell; Darlo did manage a few wins against Northern League opposition. In their most recent friendly (at the time of writing) they did defeat Middlesbrough 3-0.

Darlington Spartans pose for a team photo

Farsley Celtic

Last Season- Farsley won the Northern Premier League title, finishing just 3 points ahead of South Shields in a closely fought title race.

Key Players- James Spencer banged in 20 goals in the Northern Premier League last season, alongside Nathan Cartman who scored 13; their front line will hope to be able to make the step up to the National League North.

Pre Season- Awful badges aside, Farsley have recorded 4 wins and 2 losses in their friendlies. The two losses were against Harrogate Town and FC Halifax Town. Their victories were all by comfortable score lines as they put Eccleshill United, Brighouse Town, Thackley AFC and Albion Sports to the sword.

Gateshead

Last Season- Gateshead surprised everyone with their performances on the pitch last season; their tiny squad made up of mostly youngsters were hanging around the playoff places in the National League for the majority of the season. In the end they finished just outside in 9th place. A 9 point deduction for breaching league rules followed, which saw them slip to 17th place and coupled with that their National League status was revoked and they were subsequently demoted to the National League North.

Key Players- Club captain Scott Barrow is famed for his long range efforts and providing he can stay fit, the Gateshead defence will be bolstered immensely. Greg Olley is a maverick centre midfielder, many believe he should be playing higher up the pyramid. He has a great ability to pick a pass and run at a defence. 

Pre Season- After losing their first friendly 4-1 to Consett, Gateshead bounced back with three consecutive wins. A 4-2 win against Hebburn Town was followed up with a 1-0 win at home to Harrogate Town and a 3-1 victory against Scarborough.

Gloucester City

Last Season- Gloucester finished 8 points above the relegation places in the National League South but after 3 southern based teams were relegated from the National League, they were shifted across to the National League North by virtue of being the most ‘northern’ side in the National League South.

Key Players- Winger Zack Kotwica has nearly 100 National League and Football League appearances to his name. New signing Marlon Jackson has a wealth of Football League experience and bagged 10 goals in 14 games in the National League South last season for Weston Super Mare. Frenchman Fabien Robert was named in the National League South team of the year last season.

Pre Season- Gloucester City have not been defeated in pre season, their record is 4 wins and 2 draws. They defeated Evesham United, Aberystwyth Town, Fairford Town and Brimscombe and Thrupp. The two draws coming against Slimbridge AFC and Wells City.

Guiseley

Last Season- Guiseley started slowly but managed to climb to a high of 10th place before dropping back off and finishing in 19th place. Blyth did the double over Guiseley last season with a 3-1 win away from home on a freezing cold October night and a 2-0 win on Good Friday.

Key Players- Striker Kayode Odejayi has played in the Football League for the majority of his career. Lee Shaw signed on a season long loan from Chesterfield, the ex Grantham Town man had an impressive goal scoring record in the Northern Premier League in his time with the Gingerbreads. Jamie Spencer was a key part of the Bradford PA squads that made the playoffs in the previous 2 seasons, the centre midfielder made 80 appearances for Bradford PA.

Pre Season- Guiseley opened their pre season with a 2-0 defeat at home to Bradford City. Leeds United were next up and they scraped a 2-1 win at Nethermoor. Guiseley then went down to Scunthorpe United and Harrogate Town before finally recording their first pre season win against Yorkshire Amateur. A 2-2 draw with Stockport County followed, and a 4-0 win against Parkgate took Guiseley into their final pre season game. South Shields travelled to Guiseley and were put to the sword by 6 goals to nil.

Hereford

Last Season- Hereford started the season well and were in the top half of the table until they sacked their long serving manager Peter Beadle. They then plummeted down the table and ended up finishing 17th. Hereford did the double over Blyth; a first day of the season 3-0 defeat at Edgar Street was then followed up with a 3-2 defeat at Croft Park in January.

Key Players- Reece Styche, the Gibraltar international scored 16 goals last season for Darlington and Alfreton. Hereford secured his services this summer. Darlington’s top goal scorer last term Jordan Nicholson also signed for the Bulls this summer, Nicholson has Football League experience with Peterborough. England C goalkeeper Brandon Hall made the switch from Kidderminster this summer; he was a reliable last line of defence in his time with Kidderminster.

Pre Season- Hereford won their opening pre season game 4-0 at Wellington; they then were defeated 1-0 at Cinderford. Yeovil Town were up next and the National League Outfit ran out 2-1 winners. A 2-1 win over Bideford followed and concluded Hereford’s Devon training camp. Hereford secured a draw against Cheltenham Town before a convincing 5-0 win over Ludlow. Next up was Ryan Green’s testimonial match against Wolves under 23’s which ended goalless. Pre season was rounded off with a 1-0 win against Aston Villa under 23’s.

Kettering Town

Last Season-Kettering eased to the title in the Southern Premier League Central Division. They finished 14 points ahead of closest rivals Kings Lynn Town.

Key Players- Daniel Nti has experience at this level having played for Brackley, Kidderminster and Worcester City. Defender Brett Solkhon is regarded as one of the finest players to ever wear a Kettering shirt, he is versatile and has played in every position including goalkeeper and has made over 500 appearances for the club.

Pre Season- Kettering started with four consecutive defeats to Wellingborough Whitworths, Peterborough United, Bedford Town and Rothwell Corinthians. But then did record three consecutive victories against a Northampton Town XI, Barwell and an Oxford United XI.

Kidderminster Harriers

Last Season- Kidderminster were flying high in 2nd place by October however a dip in form saw them drop to around 10th place. They couldn’t make up the ground they had lost and finished the season in 10th place. At Aggborough in September, Kidderminster ran out 3-1 winners against Blyth. In the reverse fixture at Croft Park Robbie Dale’s goalkeeping display stole the show as Blyth came back from 3-1 down to snatch a 3-3 draw.

Key Players- Russ Penn amassed nearly 300 Football League appearances with Kidderminster among others and returns to Aggborough for his second spell at the club. Forward Ashley Chambers netted 25 goals for Nuneaton in the 2017/18 season and also holds the record for the youngest player to make a first team appearance for Leicester City at just 15 years and 203 days.

Pre Season- Kidderminster have had a mixed bag of results in pre season, wins against an Aston Villa XI, Stourport Swifts and a Wolves XI and defeats against Bromsgrove Sporting, Stourbridge and Halesowen Town.

Kings Lynn Town

Last Season- Kings Lynn finished 2nd behind Kettering Town in the Southern Premier League Central Division. They then won the Southern Central playoffs and progressed to the ‘Super Playoff’ where they defeated Warrington Town to win promotion to the National League North.

Key Players- Adam Marriott was the Southern League’s top goal scorer last season with 24 goals. Young midfielder Jordan Richards has Football League experience with Notts County and has previously played in the National League North.

Pre Season- Kings Lynn currently have a 100% pre season record after picking up wins against Stamford, Bury Town, Needham Market, Dereham Town and Braintree Town.

Leamington

Last Season- Leamington started off positively but tailed off and remained around mid table for the rest of the season, they finished 13th. Leamington picked up a 2-0 victory at Croft Park in September but fell to a 2-1 defeat at home in February.

Key Players- Colby Bishop was the joint 2nd highest scorer in the National League North last season with 21 goals; he has scored 37 goals in 58 appearances for Leamington. Left back Connor Gudger has amassed nearly 200 appearances for Leamington since signing in 2015. Callum Gittings has experience in the National League making nearly 200 appearances for Kidderminster during their time in that league.

Pre Season- Leamington started their pre season campaign with a 1-0 victory over Redditch, they were then defeated 4-0 by Coventry City. A draw with Walsall followed, before a defeat to Solihull Moors. Leamington then recorded two consecutive wins against Alvechurch and West Brom under 23’s.

Southport

Last Season- Southport had a terrible start to the season and were rooted to the bottom at times. However, their form improved and they began climbing the table, reaching a high of 11th place. They finished in 14th place. Spartans did the double over Southport, a 1-0 win away from home in October and a 2-1 final day win at home which secured a playoff spot.

Key Players- Dion Charles was Southport’s top scorer last season with 14 goals. Jack Sampson bagged 13 goals last season and will be an important player this season. Defender Dean Winnard has experience in the Football League with Morecambe and a seven year stint at Accrington Stanley.

Pre Season- Southport started pre season with a defeat to Wigan under 23s followed by four consecutive wins, starting at Widnes and then further wins against a Fleetwood Town Development Squad, Bala Town and Marine. Southport went down 2-0 to Blackburn, before ending pre season with a 3-2 victory over Wigan Athletic.

Spennymoor Town

Last Season- Spennymoor were always in contention for a playoff spot, despite starting the season with 3 consecutive draws they still comfortably finished 4th, missing out on 3rd place by 1 point. The points were shared in both encounters with Blyth, at Croft Park on Boxing Day a 2-2 draw was played out with Spennymoor coming from 2-1 down to take a point. On New Year’s Day at Brewery Field, 2-2 was again the result this time Blyth coming from 2-0 down to rescue a point.

Key Players- Last season’s top goal scorer Glen Taylor has scored upwards of 15 goals for the previous 2 seasons, 25 in 2018/19 and 19 in 2017/18. Pantomime villain Jamie Chandler is a consistent performer and is very experienced. Mark Anderson overcame an injury in pre season last year to bag 13 goals and record the most assists of any Spennymoor player.

Pre Season- Spennymoor have had a decent pre season, starting with a draw against Stockton Town they then defeated West Auckland Town, Tadcaster, Shildon and Stocksbridge Park Steels. Pre Season was rounded off with two defeats, 2-0 at Dunston and 4-0 at Harrogate.

York City

Last Season- York had an up and down season reaching highs of 7th place and lows of 19th place. A decent back end of the season saw York finish in 12th place. York defeated Blyth 2-0 at Bootham Crescent in August before Blyth got revenge with a 2-1 win at Croft Park in December.

Key Players- Once again we all watched them play week in week out last season. Dan Maguire will no doubt be among the leading goal scorers in the league. Kieran Green will prove to be a valuable asset to the midfield. Peter Jameson is one of the best goalkeepers in the league and will no doubt win points for his new club on his own. Steve McNulty joined this summer from Tranmere; he has clocked up nearly 600 career appearances with the majority of them coming in the Football League.

Pre Season- York started pre season with a 5-0 defeat by Leeds United, however bounced back with 5 wins from 5 against Bolton Wanderers, Hartlepool United, Scarborough Athletic, South Shields and Notts County.

*cries*