Blue Square Bet Premier 2011/12 preview and predictions

With the Football League season having got underway on Friday night, next weekend sees the nitty gritty of non-league kicking off. Last season it became pretty clear that Crawley Town would buy their way out of the Conference, but this season looks as though it will be a lot, lot closer. A few sides have bought very well and the gap between the top and bottom, while still quite big, isn’t as large as last year. Although I’m biased towards my hometown Mariners, I’ve tried to be as neutral as possible in putting together my season preview. And here’s my league table prediction and the reasons why…

1 – Luton Town
2 – Newport County
3 – Mansfield Town
4 – York City
5 – Fleetwood Town
6 – Grimsby Town
7 – Darlington
8 – Cambridge United
9 – Southport
10 – Stockport County
11 – Lincoln City
12 – AFC Telford
13 – Kidderminster
14 – Forest Green Rovers
15 – Gateshead FC
16 – Bath City
17 – Wrexham
18 – Kettering
19 – Ebbsfleet United
20 – Alfreton Town
21 – Barrow
22 – Tamworth
23 – Hayes and Yeading
24 – Braintree Town

I believe it will be third time lucky for Luton Town. Very few sides bounce back straight away and so it has proved. Luton are the biggest club in the league, despite what others may claim, and in Gary Brabin have a manager who won’t take prisoners. They’ve lost Gnapka but have a decent squad and will prove tough to beat. This time round they’ve got enough in the tank to get back into the Football League. The Play Off places could be shared by four of about 10 teams. I don’t really fancy Fleetwood to win the league as I don’t believe their signings are as good as the ones Crawley made a year ago. But they will be there or thereabouts and will certainly have something to play for come the end of the season. Newport County have a highly rated new manager in Anthony Hudson and Mansfield have also bought well, adding 15 new players and plenty of lower league experience. York, Darlington and Cambridge will run the Play Offs close and I hope Grimsby are in with a shout too. I’m hopeful of a better season than 2010/11 but think we’ll miss Alan Connell’s goals. Relegated duo Stockport and Lincoln will find the going tougher than a lot of their fans think and, I suspect, will do well to finish in the top 10.

The gulf between the likes of Luton and the part-timers of Braintree is massive. Some of the newly promoted sides may well start OK, as Eastbourne did last year, but they’ll fade away after Christmas. If Braintree finish higher than 24th it will be a miracle. Hayes and Yeading will struggle too and I think Barrow and Tamworth will also end up sucked into a relegation dogfight. Alfreton will suffer from the loss of Liam Hearn but have enough team spirit to threaten to reach mid-table, whilst I like Liam Daish and Ebbsfleet and hope they stay up too. Ultimately any side can beat any other in this league on one specific matchday, but over the course of 46 games the gulf is too big from those at the top to those at the bottom. Expect some crazy results at times – it would not surprise me to see at least one 8 or 9-0 win at some point – and plenty of dodgy refereeing decisions too. Come May, two sets of fans will be starting their season a week earlier than everyone else once again…

You can bet on who will win the league over at Betfair or Blue Square Bet.


What do you think? Am I wrong? Let me know!

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