The runners and riders in ’08-09

OUR GUIDE TO THE NEW SEASON. WHO WILL TRIUMPH AND WHO WILL FAIL IN 2008-09?



ALTRINCHAM
Seemingly immune to relegation, the Cheshire side have avoided
the drop for three successive seasons despite finishing in the
relegation places. This season is likely to be no different, though
they have bolstered the squad enough to suggest that sneaking into a
position outside the bottom four is not beyond them.
POTENTIAL HITS: Mark McGregor (from Port Vale), Lee Elam (from Exeter City)

WILL MISS:
Darren Tinson (to Nantwich)
EUFC.co.uk PREDICTION: 22nd


BARROW

Another promoted side who look vulnerable to an immediate return from
whence they came, the former League club haven’t added significantly to
their squad and one wonders where they’re going to pick up enough
points to keep them afloat in a very tough division. Like last season’s
Conference North visitors Farsley and Droylsden, Barrow aren’t going to
get the time to adapt and are likely to be reunited with their former
rivals sooner rather than later.
POTENTIAL HITS: Mike Pearson (from Oldham Athletic), Carlos Logan (from Darlington)

WILL MISS:

EUFC.co.uk PREDICTION: 23rd

BURTON ALBION
Nigel Clough’s side finally fulfilled their promise last season and
squeezed into the play-offs. But the loss of Daryl Clare needs to be
offset by former West Ham and Barnet striker Greg Pearson’s arrival if
the Brewers are to repeat their relative success this season. Sadly for
them, their squad doesn’t look to have improved in line with their
rivals and a Top 10 position appears to be their best bet.
POTENTIAL HITS: Greg Pearson (from Bishops Stortford), Matt Bailey (from Wolves)
WILL MISS:
Daryl Clare (to Rushden), Mark Greaves (to York)
EUFC.co.uk PREDICTION: 10th

CAMBRIDGE UNITED
The Us might look back on last season as a ‘What if…?’ moment in
their history after being pipped to promotion by Exeter’s single-goal
victory in the play-off final. The departure of manager Jimmy Quinn and
a host of influential players doesn’t bode well and much will depend on
how quickly surprise new manager Gary Brabin gets to grips with things.
Likely still to pack a punch, but not nearly as much of one as they did
last season.
POTENTIAL HITS: Anthony Tonkin (from Forest Green), Lee McEvilly (from Accrington)
WILL MISS:
Mark Albrighton and Lee Boylan (to Stevenage), Rob Wolleaston (to Rushden), Michael Morrison (to Leicester)
EUFC.co.uk PREDICTION: 7th

CRAWLEY TOWN
For all his presumed faults, Steve Evans has got on with the job at
Crawley despite behind-the-scenes financial upheavel and points
deductions. With events off-the-field now more settled, Evans’ side
will look to be at least outside bets for the play-offs with a host of
new signings, but will more likely find themselves in familiar
mid-table territory.
POTENTIAL HITS: Sam Rents (from Brighton), Simon Weatherstone (from Weymouth), Lewis Killeen (from Halifax)
WILL MISS:
Tyrone Thompson (to Torquay), Ashley Bayes (to Stevenage)
EUFC.co.uk PREDICTION: 13th

EASTBOURNE BOROUGH
The Sussex newcomers have a reputation for being a very hard side to
break down and that could stand them in good stead come the relegation
battle they are likely to face. But whether Jean-Michel Sigere can fill
the hole left by veteran striker Scott Ramsay’s departure and fire
enough goals to lift ‘The Sports’ above the mire is open to debate.
POTENTIAL HITS: Simon Wormull (from Lewes)
WILL MISS:
Scott Ramsay (to Hastings)
EUFC.co.uk PREDICTION: 21st

EBBSFLEET UNITED
What next for the FA Trophy winners after 7th place in 06-07 and a
Wembley final in 07-08? The play-offs is of course the obvious answer
and while the Fleet have got the squad to do it, so have several others
in this division. Much might depend on keeping striker John Akinde and
how they negotiate a tricky start against some of the division’s likely
top sides. Get through that with enough points and anything could
happen. And since it’s bad luck to vote for your own side, we’ll predict a conservative sixth place!
POTENTIAL HITS: Ricky Shakes (from Brentford), Michael Gash (from Cambridge C), Craig Stone (Gillingham)

WILL MISS:
Chris McPhee (to Weymouth), Michael Bostwick (to Stevenage)
EUFC.co.uk PREDICTION: 6th

FOREST GREEN ROVERS
Most observers will point to the loss of Stuart Fleetwood in
suggesting that FGR won’t trouble the play-off spots this season, but
Jim Harvey’s men provided a tough test even when Fleetwood wasn’t
firing on all cylinders in the latter part of last season. Harvey has
again invested intelligently, but the loss of other key players could
leave the Nailsworth side cut adrift in mid-table.
POTENTIAL HITS: Kaid Mohamed (from Swindon), Lee Fowler (from Newport)
WILL MISS:
Stuart Fleetwood (to Charlton), Michael Brough (to Torquay), Anthony Tonkin (to Cambridge U)
EUFC.co.uk PREDICTION: 12th

GRAYS ATHLETIC
Things are looking up for the Essex side though much will depend on how
lucky chairman/owner Mick Woodward remains in his role as manager.
Woodward has shipped out a lot of the dead wood that has made Grays
merely also-rans for two seasons and made some significant signings. If
they gel, a play-off spot is within reach but if things don’t go according to plan, can Woodward keep it all together?
POTENTIAL HITS: Jamie Taylor and Sam Sloma (from Dagenham), Rob Gier (Aldershot), Charlie Ide (from Brentford)
WILL MISS:
Ben Watson (to Exeter)
EUFC.co.uk PREDICTION: 11th

HISTON
Can the villagers possibly maintain the first-season honeymoon which
saw them flirt with the play-offs for so long? Following the mantra of
“if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, mercurial manager Steve Fallon has
kept faith with much of last season’s squad and expect to see them
consolidating in a division that will no longer underestimate them.
POTENTIAL HITS: Damien Reeves (from Farsley)
WILL MISS:

EUFC.co.uk PREDICTION: 17th

KETTERING TOWN
The Poppies didn’t enjoy the best of fortunes in their last two returns
to the Conference but they’re back this time with a stronger squad, are
better financed and have a better chance of avoiding the drop under
former Tamworth boss Mark Cooper (and he knows a thing or two about the
bottom half of the division!). Should have enough in the tank to steer clear of their fellow promoted sides and look to build on survival
in the first instance.
POTENTIAL HITS: Alfie Potter (from Peterborough, loan), Gareth Seddon (from Hyde)
WILL MISS:
Craig Westcarr and David Bridges (to Stevenage)
EUFC.co.uk PREDICTION: 15th

KIDDERMINSTER HARRIERS
Manager Mark Yates has steadied the ship at Aggborough but the former
League club haven’t exactly set the world on fire of late. His two main
signings this season are players he had on loan in 2007-08 and it is
difficult to see the Harriers making much of an impression on the Top
10 of the division. With striker Iyseden Christie off to Stevenage and
former hotshot James Constable having moved on loan to Oxford for the
season after signing for Shrewsbury towards the end of last season,
there’s little to get excited about.
POTENTIAL HITS: Darryl Knights (from Yeovil Town)
WILL MISS:
Iyseden Christie (to Stevenage)
EUFC.co.uk PREDICTION: 14th


LEWES
The side managed by up and coming manager Steve King in the Blue Square
South last season had considerable talent, but the close-season
departure of King was followed by a mass exodus of players – the core
of their squad – that leaves Lewes looking like potential whipping
boys. New manager Kevin Keehan has reinforced the side with a useful
spine of experience in the likes of Cullip and Taylor but it’s
difficult to see Lewes mounting much of a resistance.
POTENTIAL HITS: Danny Cullip (from Gillingham), Michael Standing and Scott Taylor (from Grays),
WILL MISS:
Ian
Simpemba, Gary Holloway and Paul Booth (to Havant), Simon Wormull (to
Eastbourne), Andy Drury (to Stevenage), Tom Davis (to AFC Wimbledon)

EUFC.co.uk PREDICTION: 24th

MANSFIELD TOWN
It’s difficult to say how ex-League clubs will fare, particularly when their squad goes through so many close-season changes. But Torquay performed well enough under the circumstances last season and Mansfield, with former York boss Billy McEwen in charge, could equally have a better season than they might expect. Could be hanging on the coattails of teams in the play-off hunt but will need to find their feet quickly to be in amongst the pack come April.
POTENTIAL HITS: Mark Stallard (from Lincoln), Jason Lee (from Notts County)
WILL MISS:
Alex John Baptiste (to Blackpool), Michael Boulding (to Bradford), John Mullins (to Stockport)
EUFC.co.uk PREDICTION: 9th

NORTHWICH VICTORIA
If Fleet favourite Dino Maamria’s miraculous rescue of the Vics last
season was something more than a one-season wonder, then he won’t
settle for anything less than mid-table this season. The likelihood is,
however, that Northwich will once again spend most of the season
looking over their shoulders but their recent struggles for survival
may give them the edge they need over newcomers like Barrow and Lewes.
POTENTIAL HITS: Chris Flynn (from Stafford)
WILL MISS: Michael Carr (to Morecambe), Michael Byrne (released)
EUFC.co.uk PREDICTION: 20th

OXFORD UNITED
The powerful attacking performance that Oxford put in at Stonebridge
Road at the end of 2007-08 fired a warning shot that Darren Patterson’s
side are not expecting to repeat their dire form of that season. Their
attacking impetus will be improved still further with the acquisitions
of Jamie Guy and James Constable, and a clearout of players deemed to
be going through the motions last season makes Oxford much more of a
force to be reckoned with. The play-offs should be within their grasp.
POTENTIAL HITS: Jamie Guy (from Colchester), James Constable (from Shrewsbury), Lewis Haldane (from Bristol Rovers)
WILL MISS:
Eddie Anaclet (to Stevenage), Craig McAllister (to Exeter)
EUFC.co.uk PREDICTION: 3rd

RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS
If ever a club celebrated a sudden windfall by spending it all at once, then Rushden are that club this summer. Garry Hill, no stranger to splashing the cash, has invested heavily this term and the Clare-Phillips partnership up front is, on paper at least, one to savour. With the addition of Wolleaston from Cambridge alongside Jon Challinor in midfield and a squad with real strength in depth, the Diamonds should prove a much more capable side this season. But money doesn’t always equal promotion ? and Clare and Phillips haven’t taken the league by storm in recent seasons ? so a play-off place may be this new squad’s best best first time around.
POTENTIAL HITS: Daryl Clare (from Burton), Lee Phillips (from Torquay), Rob Wolleaston (from Cambridge), Dean McDonald (from Inverness CT)

WILL MISS:
Dean Howell (to Aldershot Town)
EUFC.co.uk PREDICTION: 5th

SALISBURY CITY
Went beyond their hopes for mere consolidation in 2007-08 with an early
rise up the table. This second campaign, like Histon’s, won’t be plain
sailing and with a squad largely drawn from last season’s, Salisbury
will do well to repeat their mid-table feat. Their first season’s
experiences should, however, keep them up with something to spare come
the season climax.
POTENTIAL HITS: Rob Sinclair (from Luton)
WILL MISS:
Marvin Brown (to Weston-Super-Mare)
EUFC.co.uk PREDICTION: 16th

STEVENAGE BOROUGH
Every summer it’s the same at Broadhall Way ? an influx of decent
signings and some good early-season form and Boro look odds-on for the
title. And again, with Graham Westley’s Stevenage Borough v2.0
seemingly buying up anyone who Rushden haven’t already bagged, it looks
like Boro fans may fancy their chances again. And with good reason ?
their forward line boasts Steve Morison, Iyseden Christie, Lee Boylan
and Craig Westcarr, while they have strength in depth across the park ?
including ex-Fleet midfielders Michael Bostwick and Andy Drury. A
play-off place is the very least we should expect from a side that will
likely be challenging for the title.
POTENTIAL HITS: Michael Bostwick (from Ebbsfleet), Lee Boylan (from Cambridge U), Iyseden Christie (from Kidderminster),
WILL MISS:
Alan Julian (to Gillingham), Mark Arber (to Dagenham)
EUFC.co.uk PREDICTION: 1st

TORQUAY UNITED
How the Gulls bounce back from their play-off exit and last season’s
Wembley defeat to the Fleet will say a lot about Paul Buckle’s
motivational skills. But the Devon side were a hard-working team that
didn’t get above their station last season and will be knuckling down
to the task of promotion straight away. The loss of Chris Zebroski and
Lee Phillips may dent their attacking prowess, but Buckle has drafted
in eight new faces to a squad he deems stronger than last season’s.
Time will tell, but Torquay could push Stevenage all the way.
POTENTIAL HITS: Lee Hodges (from Plymouth), Michael Brough (from Forest Green), Wayne Carlisle (from Exeter)
WILL MISS:
Lee Phillips (to Rushden), Chris Zebroski (loan ended)
EUFC.co.uk PREDICTION: 2nd

WEYMOUTH
John Hollins may talk the talk as Weymouth embark on their third
successive season at this level, but the likelihood is that his job
will be done if the Terras qualify for a fourth season at the end of
this campaign. The signing of Chris McPhee aside, Weymouth don’t appear
to be an awful lot stronger than last season and that doesn’t bode
well. Nevertheless, the Dorset side should still see off the challenge
of at least four of the teams around them to ensure their survival.
POTENTIAL HITS: Chris McPhee (from Ebbsfleet), Ryan Williams (from Aldershot)
WILL MISS:
Simon Weatherstone (to Crawley), Kyle Critchell (to Wrexham)
EUFC.co.uk PREDICTION: 18th

WOKING
Woking’s close-season transfer activity doesn’t inspire much confidence
and their long-suffering supporters may be forgiven for thinking that
things could get worse than the mid-table obscurity they have come to
recognise in recent seasons. Former Charlton and Fleet striker Kim
Grant is untried as a manager but Cards chairman David Taylor is
confident that “great football is about to return to Kingfield”. He may
be the only one…
POTENTIAL HITS: Abdou El Kholti (from Rushden), Manny Williams (from Maidenhead)
WILL MISS:
Matt Gray (released), Marvin Morgan (to Aldershot Town)
EUFC.co.uk PREDICTION: 19th

WREXHAM
The last time the Fleet met Wrexham manager Brian Little, he was
manager of one of the Premiership’s biggest clubs and we were
struggling in the Beazer Homes League. How times change. Little, and
Wrexham, could hardly have imagined themselves in this league, but here
they are ? a big fish in a little pond. That said, Little has
Conference experience having won the title with Darlington and Wrexham,
like Oxford two seasons ago, will have a large partisan crowd behind
them and if they get off to a good start could be looking for the
title. Like Mansfield, however, a large squad turnover could mean a
season or two’s acclimitisation before League football is achieved.
POTENTIAL HITS: Shaun Whalley (from Accrington), Tom Kearney (from Halifax), Simon Brown (from Mansfield)
WILL MISS:
Mark Jones (to Peterborough), Chris Llewellyn (to Grimsby)
EUFC.co.uk PREDICTION: 4th

YORK CITY
After a brief renaissance in 2006-07, York were surprisingly toothless
last season when things were expected from them. They will surely
improve on 14th place this season and should be in amongst the runners
and riders for a play-off spot if their pre-season form is anything to
go by. Former Fleet striker Onome Sodje seems to have settled well and
should play a part in raising the Minstermen’s fortunes. If they can
add consistency to the backbone new manager Colin Walker instilled into
them during his period in charge last season, they could trouble the
top positions.
POTENTIAL HITS: Mark Greaves (from Burton), Daniel McBreen (from Scunthorpe), Steven Hogg (from Gretna)
WILL MISS:
Manny Panther (to Exeter City), Nicky Wroe (to Torquay)
EUFC.co.uk PREDICTION: 8th



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