It would seem as though the Vanarama National League is doing it again. It, being the fact that you simply cannot predict this crazy, wild league. We are officially just under three months into the season and my goodness do we have some early surprises. Ten teams have no place in this season’s FA Cup proper which can only mean that the standard of non-league is getting higher. Let’s start our way from the playoff spots down to our relegation candidates.
Notts County are the team to beat going into November as they sit alone at the top three points clear of international sensation Wrexham AFC. They have played 16 league games and have won 12. More importantly they have only lost once and it came away to Dorking Wanderers back in early September. They did suffer a shock 2-3 defeat however to step seven side Coalville Town in the FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round at the start of the month. Striker Macaulay Langstaff, who signed for the Magpies from Gateshead in the summer, is the league’s top goal scorer by a mile with 17 goals, five more than Wrexham’s Paul Mullin in second.
Wrexham are most people’s favourites and to be honest they are showing why. Despite defeats to their two closest rivals for the league title in Notts County and Chesterfield, they are the division’s top goal scorers with 46 in just 16 league games. That’s astonishing. They have scored three or more in 10 of their games this season across all competitions. They are still in the FA Cup and will face fellow league side Oldham Athletic at home next month.
Chesterfield are back to unbeaten ways and find themselves third in the standings with 31 points. They had a terrible triplet of games back at the start of the month, when they lost twice at home to Maidenhead and Dagenham, before going on to lose away at Eastleigh. That, however, is all in the past, as four games unbeaten in all comps mean they are still in touch with the chance of going up as champions. Nothing is fully over until it’s over in this league. The Spireites will face League Two side Northampton Town in the FA Cup First Round.
Solihull Moors once again show that they can fight with the big boys as the sit pretty in fourth, with 29 points. The Moors tasted defeat just once this month, but it did come against strugglers Yeovil Town. It must be said that they are a side who never give up and always play until the final whistle. This has been proven with their 3-4 win away at Scunthorpe after being 3-0 down and also their 2-2 draw with Bromley with both goals in injury time. They will be facing League Two strugglers Hartlepool United in the FA Cup.
Woking are probably the most surprising package of the season as they sit in fifth with 27 points. They have made their home ground Kingfield into something of a fortress with their attendance figures shooting up and it’s clear to see why. The biggest club in Surrey have eight wins from their first 16 games which does include three points against Solihull above. The Cards are looking really positive under their new management and could be playoff contenders come May. They will be facing League One side Oxford United in the FA Cup First Round.
Boreham Wood are always within the top seven and for such a small club, it mustn’t go unnoticed. They also have 27 points to their name but if you take a deep dive into their month so far, four of their seven games across all competitions have been at home. They are notoriously known for being hard to beat at Meadow Park. Then two of their three away games, have all be fairly local. Their position in the table shouldn’t be discredited but I’m sure they will admit that there are bigger challenges to come soon. They will face fellow National League side Eastleigh in the next round of the FA Cup.
Southend United surprisingly make up the final spot in the playoffs. Don’t get me wrong, Southend is a massive club who shouldn’t even be in this division, but with all the off field drama with sponsors and their owner, this is a very good achievement. They have 26 points and are on their best run of the season, taking nine points from nine. They were knocked out of the FA Cup by Woking and so are only left with the FA Trophy, in terms of domestic cup success. Now all they way down the other end we have the teams who will be very disappointed and concerned with their first 16 league games.
Yeovil Town are in trouble. A side who found themselves in the Championship back in 2014, are now wondering whether they will drop down even further away from that cub landmark. Another club who are fighting off the pitch with hierarchy issues have also had on field matters which resulted in Chris Hargreaves being sacked by the club this month. Mark Cooper has come in and managed to pick up a point against Maidstone, but that did include conceding in the 90+6th minute. They also unsurprisingly find themselves out of this years FA Cup competition.
Gateshead are a side who have been massively affected by injury this season. They are currently without three of their back four and have had to play young academy players to fill up the team. The promoted side knew this season would be a struggle, but The Heed Army will have hoped they could’ve put on better performances then they have so far. With less points than games played, they have a big challenge on their hands if they want to stay in this division for one than just one year. They are still in the FA Cup and will face League Two highflyers Stevenage but will hope that if progress is made that the financial benefit can be invested into signing players to move them up positions.
Maidstone United are another promoted side who have struggled to make the transition to step five football. Their three wins came all the way back in August, meaning they are on a 11 game winless run in all competitions. An FA Cup defeat to step seven side Needham Market just adds to their hopeless start to the season and must swich up quickly if they too, have any hope of surviving the drop.
Torquay United are the final team in this round up and this is huge. I questioned their summer recruitment by signing players from relegated sides like Dover and King’s Lynn and it has shown that my queries where proven correct. They have been shambolic. They have not won a single game at Plainmoor all season and have the most number of defeats in the league. Four of their ten defeats have come this month. Their only hope is the fact that big League One side Derby County will be making the trip to them in the FA Cup First Round and they will try to use this opportunity to play in front of a big crowd and get the fans back on their side so that they can put some good form together.
Other mentions are that the two relegated sides, Oldham Athletic and Scunthorpe United respectively, are hovering above the relegation zone and Dorking Wanderers have conceded the joint highest amount of goals with Maidstone but yet they sit 13th.
There is of course still so much to play for and if you know this league, the chances are Notts County will go down and Torquay will go up. That’s just the way this bizarre yet fantastic league seems to play out. Let’s all hope that November can also through up some cracking results, as well as some FA Cup magic!