Exempt from a league title race, can you name the one situation neutrals can’t get enough of? Hopefully a classic relegation scrap is the answer. Observing those unbelievable scenes when your heart rate skyrockets, as desperate teams fight both tooth and nail in order to reclaim their treasured membership in their current leagues. As a consequence, this makes for some brilliant moments for the lucky survivors, in contrast to the sickening occasions for unfortunate supporters, having to see their beloved side fall through the depths of relegation. This year has continued to follow tradition, displaying a collection of teams hanging tight down the bottom third of the National League, although this year has created more shocks in the current standings than many ever saw coming. On that note, lets take a look at current eight National League teams who may face the dreaded drop.
17th – Hartlepool United
When you think of Hartlepool United, what is the first thing that springs to your mind? Quite often Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling is known as the vocal backbone to their reputation, more so than what they’ve managed to produce on the pitch in recent history. The ‘Pools’ or ‘Monkey Hangers’ as they are known, fell out of the Football League on the last day of the season at the hands of Newport County. Responding immediately by releasing many players and staff whilst retaining key figures such as Devante Rodney and Nick Deverdics. Underwhelming is a sheer understatement to describe Craig Harrison’s tenure, yet recent financial peril has caused an uproar of scrutiny around the stability and future of the club as it stares deep into the bleak eyes of administration. Meanwhile results on the field have only heaped further pressure on the Hartlepool hierarchy, only victorious eight times in thirty one games as well as winning none of their last ten fixtures. Partly to do with the incapable defense and midfield unit Harrison has assembled. I believe the quality of a few individuals can carry them through to safety if they manage to keep them, at the moment however, their organisation leaves their defense about as open as a Danish hooker.
18th – FC Halifax Town
I’ll admit, following a fantastic start to the season I was in belief that their squad would threaten the top seven and even pinch a playoff place! Although now the ‘Shaymen’ find themselves just thee spots and four points above the route that they came from last season. The stalwart playoff graduates of last season’s National League North were hopeful of making a big impression on the big boys this season. An impression that has turned out to be more disappointing than recent Nicolas Cage movies. There is still plenty of time for something special to happen for Halifax but all realistic focus should be on avoiding relegation as of late. Tom Denton and Matt Kosylo appear to have formed a decent striking partnership for Halifax, two players capable of spearheading league safety for the proud Yorkshire team.
19th – Leyton Orient
With gratitude to a tasty partnership with ‘Dunkin Donuts,’ the Leyton Orient fans had their wish granted as Italian businessman Francesco Bechetti jumped the sinking ship at long last. A strong relief provided reason for celebration for the loyal Orient fan base. However, perhaps an element of overconfidence has been brought about by the new board in their attitude to non-league football. Choosing to sign individual talents instead of focusing on developing a squad dynamic of fired up, war hungry generals. From what seemed like an appropriate appointment at first, former Crewe manager Steve Davis has lead them to this depressing stage amongst the relegation candidates, dampened further by the appointment of Justin Edinburgh as he has been unable to muster any comeback towards the top of the league. Money and ability is present at Leyton for once, yet tactics and organisation remains questionable after only eight wins all season. On the bright side, they’ve stocked some lovely donuts to enjoy whatever happens!
20th – Barrow
A club that is named after a building tool, you would think they could construct their way up the table after narrowly missing the playoffs last season. Paul Cox resigned on the 23rd of August after voicing his displeasure when they reluctantly released key personnel such as Jordan Williams, Nick Anderton and Richie Bennett all going on to join football league clubs. Since being replaced by Micky Moore and Andy Pennock, the team have only continued to fall much deeper into trouble. Only carrying more victories than the bottom three clubs (seven) it seems that relegation is a real prospect for the building tools. *Ahem, Football club. Misfiring strikers and destructible defences are their worst enemy. Although things are looking up for Barrow, the acquisition of forward man James Jones may be the ideal partner to Byron Harrison to score goals for the Bluebirds. Also with a game in hand on some teams above, it seems like they’re ready for a fight.
21th – Solihull Moors
At the time of writing, Solihull have leapfrogged Chester and reside just one spot off safety, not bad for a club initially tipped to go down without much of a fight. Considering last season’s finish at the respectable heights of 16th in their first year at the top level of English non-league football, only time will tell if the semi-professional side can find the right tactic and determination to stay afloat. In their previous five fixtures they’ve gained two impressive home victories against Maidenhead and Woking as well as a vital away win against high flyers Dagenham despite the odds stacking against them. They’ve certainly carried through a dark horse mentality thus far. Their hopes to survive seem placed into the thick palms of Oladapo Afolayan, currently boasting eleven league goals this season, rounding off to an impressive 187 minutes per goal! If the Moors retain their key man along with shoring up the crumbling defence which is about as fragile as Amir Khan’s chin, there is no reason why they can’t stay up, fingers crossed they discover the catalyst needed to prolong that recent form.
22nd – Chester
Times are indeed troubling in the City of Chester, on the pitch the club has had a looming threat of relegation from unacceptable results, only to have the problem delved deeper by the board’s terrible inability to communicate with the deserving fans as financial turmoil may just be around the corner. Even as a Wrexham fan myself, I find it impossible to not feel a touch of sympathy towards the hard working fans who were made to watch their old club, their team, their lives liquidate before their eyes. Fast forward ten years and debts of £50,000 later, it looks like a case of Deja Vu. Personally I hope Chester can find their feet albeit in a different league if absolutely necessary. Nobody needs to be Pep Guardiola’s lovechild to see that three home wins in the whole of 2017 is absoloutely awful. If Chester are to stay up, serious transfer activity is a must for manager Marcus Bignot, all areas of the squad need rejuvenating, and fast. Players on two year deals must be stopped to ensure higher financial stability, especially Ross Hannah, as many observers have seen, his dipping performances are an example of what will come if Chester can’t pull themselves together.
23rd – Guiseley
Jubilation, the only word capable of describing the scenes at Nethermoor Park at the end of last season. The proud West Yorkshire team observed the sheer tension as they survived a last minute penalty scare on the final day of last season’s campaign. The prize? Safety in place of former Football League inhabitants York City. At the present, the club rely on ex Barrow gaffer Paul Cox who resigned months after escorting the Bluebirds to a 7th place finish. The departure of talisman Jake Cassidy to Hartlepool was a huge blow in their efforts up front, since being replaced with playmaking fanatic John Rooney who shows his ability of bagging match winning goals on occasion. One win in their last ten games is relegation form. Four wins, ten draws and fifteen defeats all season is not even second from bottom form, although luckily for them, one team looks to be in even more danger than themselves. A team who have never sunk so low since they were formed in 1899.
24th – Torquay United
Despite boasting one of the more attractive grounds, loyal fan bases and club history, it only looks like a miracle will do the trick for Torquay’s hopes of survival. Will they do a 14/15 Leicester? Will they initiate a bigger shock than the voltage that fried Ted Bundy? I’m afraid winning four, drawing nine and losing eighteen in thirty one games is a shambolic way to ignite a flame that remotely smells like a comeback. Ten points is by no means a lot to make up, but this year’s relegation fight is even far more fast paced and harder than last years at this point in time. It’s going to need much more than Jamie Reid’s five goals all season with that sorry excuse of a defence to pile up a survival fight. January is crucial, they’ve certainly got the finances, but is Torquay really an attractive proposition for many players? You decide.
Who will beat the drop in the end? In my opinion I see nobody but the bottom four becoming the victims of relegation. A chance to rebuild for some, at the end of the day though, would you really want to see your club get relegated on the basis of that? Feel free to tell me in the comments or on Twitter at @d3cl8n