Coming to the business end of the season, two weeks time should see leagues really start to take shape as regards to those in the ascendancy for championships. The introduction of play offs down to 7th places in divisions keeps the interest open for many for longer, further down the table.
At the top of the pyramid, the race to get into the Football League is far from clear cut. Just 3 points separates the top three clubs, nine points is the gap between first and the last play-off place in 7th, should Sutton Utd win their two games in hand the gap is a mere three points for them. The introduction of more teams involved in the end of season shake up certainly keeps it exciting for the fans, but not so for the people running the clubs when the 7th placed club finishing 10 points behind your team in third place takes the play-offs by storm and wins promotion.
Realistically, Ebbsfleet in 10th position are probably the cut off point for those still harbouring end of season hopes. Beyond them, any one of the rest would need to go on a really good run to gate-crash the top seven.
What is great about this end of season run-in is no one seems to be able to break away from everyone else. There have been times this season Salford and Leyton Orient amongst others, have opened a little gap but been pegged back when it’s been least expected. The success of the unexpected, Solihull Moors and AFC Fylde, keeping the expected and bigger budgeted clubs in check and not letting them have their own way has been paramount to the unknown destiny of the title. Many expected Wrexham to fall away after losing the talented Sam Ricketts to Shrewsbury, but they look to be staying right in the hunt till the end.
The same can be said of Gateshead after the loss of their manager Steve Watson to lower level York City, however their form currently is one of the best in the division but they have played a couple of games more than those around them. Also knocking on the door and running into a nice bit of form are Eastleigh. Under former Bee Ben Strevens, the Hampshire outfit have notched up four straight wins to sit on the cusp of the play-offs.
Harrogate and Ebbsfleet can’t be discounted either, both handily placed if they can maintain results for another few months, a win for the Fleet at Harrogate on Saturday has given them a good shot despite off the field problems still plaguing the Kent outfit.
Underneath those clubs there is too much ground to make up, even for Barnet with 4-5 games in hand on everyone else thanks to a good FA Cup run and involvement still in the FA Trophy.
With still thirteen games to go for most clubs, there’s still a few more twists and turns to come before the champions are crowned that I’m sure of, Moors were close to defeat on Saturday whilst Orient and Salford both failed to pick up three points. With the top three enjoying a four point gap over fourth place, and if that gap can be maintained the champions will of course come from one of those. For two of those clubs, it would be a triumphant return to the Football League and for the other a triumph for the smaller clubs once again, whatever happens it promises to be a good battle to the finish!