In the past nine months the Vanarama National League has been to all four corners of this country on nearly every night of the week and witnessed some truly fantastic moments. Promotion battles, relegation battles, play-off battles and of course FA Cup triumphs and tribulations. Below is a quick and brief review of how the season went for some of the clubs involved along the way.
We start with Tranmere Rovers, the club that was in the football league for 94 years before being relegated to this league in 2015. They didn’t let it get to them though and only narrowly missed out in the play-offs last season and continued that into the start of this campaign. They were the early pace setters and had a 100% five match winning run until a draw against Southport at the end of August.
They were closely being followed by Dagenham & Redbridge, Forest Green, Lincoln, Gateshead and Dover in the chasing pack. Tranmere then stopped scoring and problems mounted for Gary Brabin, with no wins in four he was surprisingly sacked with Micky Mellon taking over.
Forest Green Rovers were the actual pre-season favourites and by the end of September had taken over at the top of league themselves by one point. One defeat they had suffered in that time was to one of the chasing pack, when they lost to Dover in one of the games of the season. That didn’t stop them though as they then went on an eleven match unbeaten run and increased their one point lead to nine by mid-November.
Eastleigh were having major managerial problems as they sacked Chris Todd early on, Ronnie Moore came in but soon left. Into November and Martin Allen was in charge but he didn’t last long before Richard Hill was back for a second stint. They weren’t the only ones as Guiseley, Southport, Braintree, Wrexham and York all sacked their managers in the first few months.
York City had four seasons back up in League Two but now weren’t going well once again as they struggled towards the foot of the table. Another old league team were Lincoln City and they were flying high in the league as well as in the FA Cup of course. They were under new management with the Cowley brothers, Danny and Nicky now in charge after they moved on from Braintree. It looked like the right move as well as they sat pretty at the top of league come the turn of the year.
Tranmere Rover were second, followed again by a chasing pack of Forest Green, Dagenham & Redbridge, Barrow and Dover with York City now rock bottom. This is a league review I know but how can we not mention what both Sutton United and Lincoln did in the FA Cup. Sutton got to the 5th Round before losing to Arsenal. Lincoln went one better and in to the quarter-finals becoming the first non-league team to reach that stage in 103 years. They went out to Arsenal then as well.
Back to the league campaign and Aldershot really kick started their season after Christmas, by going on a brilliant run in the second half of the season which took them to the play-offs. Lincoln themselves didn’t let their cup distractions get in the way and The Imps were promoted as winners.
Going into the final weekend and games of the season with just Southport and North Ferriby already confirmed as relegated, meant two more of six could still join them. York got the draw that they thought they would need, but due to other results not going their way it might they went down along with Braintree. The teams that survived to fight another day were Guiseley, Woking Chester and Torquay.
The play-offs were great games and some fantastic goals in both ties. With Tranmere beating Aldershot 5-2 on aggregate and Forest Green beating Dagenham & Redbridge 3-1 on aggregate. Which meant Dagenham & Redbridge were back at Wembley to try to get to football league for the very first time. Unlike Tranmere who were just desperate to get back to where they believe they belong.
It wasn’t to be though as Forest Green Rovers ran out as 3-1 winners. Not a bad achievement for a small village and their manager Mark Cooper. Job done. Promoted to the football league.