As we approach the halfway point of the season, the National League table is beginning to offer a glimpse of what's in store for the rest of the campaign, with teams finding their rhythm and creating clear contenders for automatic promotion and playoffs.
National League-Battle For Automatic Promotion
As suspected after the thrilling title race last season between Wrexham and Notts County, Chesterfield was an early favourite to win the league this season. They have well and truly lived up to the expectation as they currently sit in first place on 44 points after 17 games, and after their 2-1 loss to Altrincham have since gone on a 13 game unbeaten run with that being their only loss of the season so far, this incredible run of form has been helped through excellent recruitment signing the likes of Will Grigg from MK Dons, which has allowed them to have strong squad depth, which has become vital and allows for comfortable rotation of the squad and is and additional reason why they have done so well this season and will look to continue their unbeaten run to return to the EFL.
However, Chesterfield would reach automatic promotion that quickly as they have high flyers, Barnet not far behind, who are just managing to keep up with the Spirites, currently sitting in 2nd on 42 points after 18 games and have been on an 11-game unbeaten run after their loss to Rochdale. The bees reached the playoffs last season, securing a home tie in the eliminator round against local rivals Borehamwood and would be stunned at home as they would be knocked out in the first round at the first attempt in front of a home crowd. Since their unfortunate end to the 22/23 season, Barnet began the current season on fire, going 8 games unbeaten and since have managed to keep level with a much stronger Chesterfield side.
Both sides are yet to face each other however, after this weekend's FA Cup action, Banret will take on Chesterfield away at the Technique Stadium, a ground that can often be intimidating for many sides that come and play there; however, Barnet can give Chesterfield a scare and potentially the possibility of leapfrogging Chesterfield to the top spot if they win that game could give them the needed moment the get all 3 points.
Push For The Playoffs
There are some familiar faces currently in and around the playoff places such as the likes of Bromley, who sit 3rd having only lost three times in 18 games, most recently a 1-0 win against Woking, with Deji Elerewe heading the only goal of the game in a repeat of last years playoff eliminator, which they will want to better as they were unfortunate to lose out away at Chesterfield losing 3-2 after extra time, and how the opening two games panned out many fans didn't think that they would be were they currently are in the table.
The signings during the window have bolstered this squad and given them the much-needed depth that they need if they are to continue their good run of form; this includes loanees Adny Woodman has attracted to the club, such as the likes of Lewis Leigh from Preston who has become a regular figure in the Bromley midfield Additionally, he has brought back Deji Elewere from Charlton after his previous successful spell last season, permanent transfers have also been brought as the likes of Olufela Olomola from fellow National League side Wealdstone who has begun to start alongside Michael Cheek and brings an added bit of pace upfront anis another vocal presence along with captain Byron Webster.
Bromley seems to be a different team from last season, as they have won games that they would have likely lost or dropped points last season. When shown adversity, such as the loss to Chesterfield and the two losses at the start of the season, they have found a way to dig deep and find that extra motivation, which will keep them in good stead if they are to reach the playoffs.
Another familiar face that not so long ago was in a playoff final is Solihull Moors, who sit behind Bromley by one point. Appointed Neil Hardley as manager, this fresh change has rejuvenated a squad that has struggled to reach the playoffs since their final defeat to Grimsby a few seasons ago; this and experienced National League player Josh Kelly, who has netted 8 goals so far this season has been a player to reckon with, which puts them in good stead to get their elbows out and battle for a playoff place as they can easily unsettle those around them and gain valuable points if this continues alongside Bromley, this will be a close fight between the two sides for a place in the playoff semi-final and a shortened run to the final.
In the remaining places so far, there is only two points between Altrincham in 5th and Aldershot in 7th; however, even further down the table, there are still many teams with the playoffs in sight, such as Oldham and Eastleigh who are both on 23 points and only 4 points off a place in the top seven.
Whilst last season in the National League had a main focus in Wrexham and Notts County and their title race, now that both are no longer in the league, it is safe to say that it has opened up the league even more., as whilst we will still get another title race by the looks of it, everything is still up in the air, both in terms of the one automatic promotion spot and the playoffs, this season looks to be one of the most exciting so far in the National League with teams seemingly being much closer to each other not only by performance but by points they pick up along the way, if the excitement continues into the second half of the season then surely there has to be a change to the system and three up three down has to be a reality.