Back in the summer, three clubs were among the favourites to be spearheading the promotion race to the Football League. Salford City, Chesterfield and Barnet were expected to the front-runners to the title and not much mention for anyone else.
But how have these three performed so far? And are there more clubs that should have been mentioned in dispatches? Of course there should have been because these three favourites in the eyes of the bookies certainly have not had it their own way.
Whilst waiting for these sides to climb their way up the table, it’s been refreshing to see other sides falling under the radar and leading the way. Harrogate Town are a side many expected to see at the bottom end of the table, yet they have not looked out of the place in the promotion race. Unbeaten until a couple of weeks ago, Simon Weaver’s side are very much there on merit and with only one defeat in the first fourteen games, it would take a monumental collapse for them to not maintain their form and feature amongst those end of season play offs.
Leyton Orient have benefitted in similar vein to Harrogate, unspoken of to be in the mix, Justin Edinburgh’s team have quietly gone about things and themselves also only suffering their first defeat of the season recently, Orient are looking every inch a side capable of returning to League Football. In Macauley Boone, they have the division’s current second top scorer with ten goals and a defence that doesn’t like to concede goals.
At Wrexham, Sam Ricketts has had a wonderful start to his managerial career with the Welshmen hot on the heels of the two aforementioned teams. Once again, built on a solid defence with just 8 goals conceded so far this season, Ricketts has set a standard and installed a belief in the Dragons fans that they could finally get themselves back into League Two.
Credit must also go to both Solihull Moors and AFC Fylde, both holding their own in the top six against more established teams, Fylde currently having conceded the least amount of goals in the league and another team with just a single defeat so far. Sandwiched in-between these two sides are Hartlepool Utd, another side like Orient performing well after a difficult first season at this level.
So, what of the three then? Mixed fortunes are definitely the right words to describe them! Starting with Chesterfield, three games in and all was rosy, nine points and an immediate return to League Two on the cards, only managed by two clubs previous in the history of promotion and relegation between these two leagues. What followed can only be described as horrendous for Martin Allen and definitely the unexpected for their supporters, 12 games without a win including a run of six defeats in a row with many calling for Allen’s head. Since then results are still very edgy and the Spireites sit just two points above the relegation zone rather than two points from the top and with it rumoured Allen can’t afford to be paid off, something has to change to stop a third successive relegation.
Barnet are very much hit and miss. A very slow start to the season, no wins in the first five has left them playing catch up. Five wins in a row sparked some hope amongst supporters, but things have stalled once again for John Still’s men amidst a crippling injury crisis robbing the team of up to 11 first team players at the height of it. Time is still on their side to put together a run to challenge at the right end of the table and a fine win at The Hive on Saturday against top six outfit Solihull Moors might be the catalyst to kick the Bees onwards.
And to Salford City, the club everyone loves to hate. After finding their feet through the early months of the campaign, Graham Alexander’s team have hit the top of the table and are now beginning to blow teams away. They have the division’s top scorer in Adam Rooney with twelve goals so far and with a good run of fixtures coming their way over in the next four weeks, the Ammies could pull away from those around them the gap currently being one point between them and both Harrogate and Orient.
Still a lot of football to be played and one or two injuries can seriously derail a promotion push or in worst cases send you hurtling down to the relegation area, this could however be the month club chairman get twitchy and pull the trigger before the damage is too late, Dover and Braintree have already gotten in there and Maidstone a few games ago, time will tell if those clubs picked the right time.