Category Archives: Vanarama National League 2016/17

Vanarama National League – Review of the Season

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. Having signed a new sponsorship deal with one of the leading online bookmakers, their finances looked in better shape than they have for some time, and this started to reflect in their on field performances. 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.

Dover’s Ricky Miller with a hat-trick to beat Forest Green

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.

Lincoln City became the first non-league team to reach the FA Cup quarter Finals in 103 years

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.

Forest Green Rovers promoted to the Football League

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.

Forest Green v Tranmere Rovers – Vanarama National League Play-Off Final

The battle to reach the Football League climaxed yesterday with Forest Green trying to get into league football for the very first time. Whilst Tranmere were trying to get back to where they still believe they belong after two years now in the Vanarama National League.

There was certainly plenty at stake before kick off, with the new money and ambitious boys of Forest Green in one corner. The team from Nailsworth in Gloucestershire have lost around five million pounds in recent years chasing the promotion dream of league football and having lost the final last year to Grimsby were desperate for that not to happen again this year.

As for the Tranmere themselves, they have all their history and of course traditions of an old-fashioned club of 133 years. Where back in the day but many years ago had three attempts and appearances in the play-offs to get into the Premier League. It wasn’t to be though and now they’re were they are after relegation after relegation over the years. This was also their first Wembley visit for 17 years after losing 2-1 to Leicester City in the League Cup Final.

This season Tranmere and Forest Green respectively finished easily second and third behind the best team in the league in Lincoln, so going into this they both had the belief they could win this massive game! Managers Mark Cooper and Nicky Mellon had done their bit too and now it was down to the players to perform and handle the pressure on the pitch at Wembley Stadium.

Forest were at full strength at kick off whereas Tranmere had about seven or eight injuries so the despite finishing nine ahead of them, the Green Army knew they had a chance and it didn’t take them too long to score. In the eleventh minute after slow build up play, a long-range effort from Kaiyne Woolery took Tranmere keeper Davies by surprise to give them the lead.

Doidge put Green back in front just before half-time

Connor Jennings wasn’t messing round though as he got Tranmere level just ten minutes later with a brilliant strike in front of his own fans to bring the game level. It was probably undeserved at the point as they had been poor but the goal got their confidence up and soon chances were coming for both teams. None more so than on 36 minutes when Marsh-Brown brought the ball down superbly and chipped Davies from a tight ankle but the keeper moved his feet back quickly to claw it off the line.

Davies though, couldn’t do anything about Doidge’s strike five minutes later as he smashed in a great shot which was very similar to Jennings’ earlier. The goals didn’t stop there because just when you thought it was going to be 2-1 at half-time to Forest Green, they made it 3-1 after an awful defensive error. Ridehalgh miss controlled a bouncing ball and Wollery was in again and he took his time as he slotted the ball passed Davies once again for his second of the day.

Woolery’s second Wembley goal of the day made it 3-1 and that’s how it finished

That is how finished in the end too. Tranmere tried to get back into it in the second half but they never really put Forest Green under too much pressure. And with a two goal lead, Mark Cooper’s team saw out the game after getting the job pretty much done in the those few late minutes in the first half. Which means they can taste league football for the first time ever very soon. They will be relishing the day when their new fixtures for next season come out. Very well done.