How Did It End? — National League 22/23

15 min readMay 18


Back at capacity after too long, the 2022/23 season of the National League was not one that was ever gonna disappoint, was it?

On the flipside of that success, comes my prediction series. Nine months ago, I predicted the outcome of several leagues across this land of ours, including the beautiful, bountiful National League. The table below is what I came up with:-

1. Wrexham
2. Notts County
3. Dagenham & Redbridge
4. Oldham Athletic
5. Chesterfield
6. Solihull Moors
7. Southend United
8. Boreham Wood
9. Bromley
10. Halifax Town
11. Altrincham
12. Torquay United
13. Scunthorpe United
14. York City
15. Barnet
16. Aldershot Town
17. Wealdstone
18. Maidenhead United
19. Gateshead
20. Dorking Wanderers
21. Eastleigh
22. Yeovil Town
23. Maidstone United
24. Woking

Now, I’m sure there’s some obvious good stabs in there, but my eye is far more drawn to how massively wrong I was on other calls. That probably says a lot about me.
Whether down to laziness (yes) or poor judgment (no, it was laziness), here we see the difference, because this table shows where they actually finished:-

1. Wrexham
2. Notts County
3. Chesterfield
4. Woking
5. Barnet
6. Boreham Wood
7. Bromley
8. Southend United
9. Eastleigh
10. Dagenham & Redbridge
11. Halifax Town
12. Oldham Athletic
13. Wealdstone
14. Gateshead
15. Solihull Moors
16. Dorking Wanderers
17. Altrincham
18. Aldershot Town
19. York City
20. Maidenhead United
21. Torquay United
22. Yeovil Town
23. Scunthorpe United
24. Maidstone United

So now I score myself.
With the goal to get as close to zero as possible, points will be deducted using the difference between my position and the actual position, for example, if I predicted York City to finish 5th and they end up finishing 9th, that would bag me a score of -4 to add on.
Two seasons ago, I scored -130, last season, it was -90, will my trend continue down towards my promised land?
No, in a word.
But let’s confirm. How in the orange and black Vanarama hell did I do, and how did the 2022/23 National League end?


Predicted: 16th / Actual: 18th
A weird season for The Shots with few gambles and moves that reeked of promise paying off. The one that did ended up leaving halfway through and it was only a late-season change in set-up that saw them pull clear of the drop. It’s a feeling that’s becoming all too familiar for Aldershot and there’ll be many hoping Widdrington can really make his mark on the club and be there for the long haul, rather than another appointment destined to be sacked come next season’s climax. Those kinda moves catch up with you, so The Shots giving Tommy a shot can hopefully be worth their while as the seasons roll on.

Score: -2


Predicted: 11th / Actual: 17th
A first season as a professional outfit fell off in too many places to be considered a balls-to-the-wall success, but I wouldn’t blame any fan for holding it up as one. Never really looking in danger and really solidifying themselves as a fixture in this division instead of recently-promoted relegation fodder, they’re going from strength-to-strength in a very realistic and sustainable way. There are big names stepping up in this squad that can be built around and can stick around for a long time — Lundstram, Osbourne, Colclough (so close) — as well as plenty of names waiting to make their names known and whispered in revery through the terraces of Moss Lane.

Score: -6


Predicted: 15th / Actual: 5th
Throughout this article, there’s a few examples of my laziness, that I vow, I VOW, to stamp out come next season. Sure, I did think gelling would take a while, but a lot of my opinion was informed by where they finished the season before, and so, with my predicted playoffs full, I just stuck ’em where there was room. It’s easy to look back and let hindsight tell me that this team was obviously an attacking threat and held plenty of defensive prowess in their boughs, but even with that, I can only really tell myself that I’d split the difference in their finishes. This was just wrongness fuelled by laziness, the opposite of the season The Bees managed.

Score: -10


Predicted: 8th / Actual: 6th
Probably shouldn’t get any props for this one. Predicting Boreham Wood in or around the playoffs is like predicting whether or not The Pope takes a shit in the woods. The masters of utilising and acclimatising talent from the National Leagues North and South, they pushed the biggest of teams to their limit and ended up with the stingiest defence this side of the sunroof and the trapdoor. Is next season gonna be the one? Or are they tired of hearing that? Tired of being the standouts of a division they long to climb out of? What do you mean your car doesn’t have a trapdoor?

Score: -2


Predicted: 9th / Actual: 7th
I said it last season, I said it this, and I’ll probably say it next season, but the soon-to-be former FA Trophy holders are one of those teams that evade me when it comes to how they attain their success. I can watch their games and I can see where there is quality, but it’s the runs they get on, how they push on every season to trouble the playoffs when those runs that I’m talking about are invisible, they drift under the radar like a sack full of plantains on a banana boat. They can produce a performance, no doubt, but performances? This is one where my drive to abandon my laziness might bite me as I end up over and underegging them, but as of right now, they do simply riddle me.

Score: -2


Predicted: 5th / Actual: 3rd
Pushed on, kept up with the title-chasing pack, couldn’t stick with it, dropped off slightly, finished strong to nab top three, and narrowly missed out on elevation. Any other season, they’d be up. That might not translate to immediate future success for Paul Cook and his boys and behind Wrexham and Notts County, there really were a distant third in terms of season quality. Duh.
With those two stars gone, The Spireites will want to be at the front of the line for promotion next season, but they’ll know that work is required as the squad morphs and attitudes shift. Cook is the man you’ll want in charge for that, but after a season as fantastic as that to be reduced to simply ‘good’ because of the teams ahead of you, that’s a bitter pill. Though aren’t most of them?

Score: -2


Predicted: 3rd / Actual: 10th
I didn’t expect McMahon to go the way of his wrestling world namesake. Even if it was under much lighter circumstances and he isn’t lingering around the stadium like a bad smell. Or a ghost. Or a ghost that smells bad.
Anyways, I didn’t see that coming. It looked like the definition of running out of fuel and when McMahon went, the jumpstart never really came to fruition. Were the season five games longer, a threat may have been composed, but this Summer’ll be important for Strevens and his side to really dig in and do the kicking on that was scheduled for this season.

Score: -7


Predicted: 20th / Actual: 16th
They focused on what they could control and they tripled down. Finishing sixteenth, they were the joint eighth highest scorers in the division, scoring more than four sides in the top ten, including one playoff side. Of course, this was to counterbalance the fact that they conceded 91 goals, only fewer than bottom side Maidstone. It’s as if they agreed as a unit that they were destined, almost bound to concede goals during their first season in this division and so simply focused on levelling the scales on the other side. It can be awful when it doesn’t work, but that’s often because fiddling is occurring elsewhere — Dorking went for it all on one side and didn’t waver and it paid off.

Score: -4


Predicted: 21st / Actual: 9th
Y’know when I said Barnet was laziness? This one wasn’t, I was just wrong, and that is unacceptable to me. I am stretching and reaching and craning to find what Eastleigh did differently and the only conclusion I can come to is that every club that played them underestimated them until they realised that they were about to make the playoffs. Now, that isn’t fair on The Spitfires, but logically speaking, it’s all I’ve got. McDonnell is quickly gonna get the label of playoff side booty call if he stays and Eastleigh don’t crack the top seven, but apart from that, despite missing out on the postseason, Eastleigh must see this season as an absolute win. It’s all gravy! Congratulations.

Score: -12


Predicted: 19th / Actual: 14th
A swap with another promoted side in York would have worked wonders here, but it was Gateshead, flying defiantly in the face of a points deduction that really seemed to stir something that spurred something on that couldn’t be stopped. They lost five games in 2023. They reached a cup final. From the day their points deduction was announced, they took twenty-seven points from a possible forty-two, climbing from the relegation zone to the sunny side of the bottom half. There’s a mighty sense of togetherness here, and if it can be carried forward, The Heed’ll go a long way to cementing themselves back in this tier.

Score: -5


Predicted: 10th / Actual: 11th
I think I was right about this for the wrong reasons. I thought Halifax would simply slide down the table slightly to reflect the quality they had lost before the season began. Now, they did slide, but they slid far further than I was expecting, and much like Gateshead, it was only some stellar late-season form that separated them from the chaff and gave them plenty of promise for the new day on the horizon. Millington can see this as a real step in the right direction for his first full season, not just a mid-table ride, but a rollercoaster of ups and downs that he has traversed with aplomb along with his team.

Score: -1


Predicted: 18th / Actual: 20th
Touch-and-go for a second there. There wasn’t a tonne to admire, but it was if they’d proved that they’d done enough after half the season. Then when the slide started to take hold, they seemed too far above the dreaded dotted line to panic. Then the sides underneath them started to surge past. Where you going, Gateshead? How you be, Halifax? Are you alright, Aldershot? Come the final day, Torquay are nearly telling them what’s up. A real shocker of a second half and I don’t think there would have many too surprised had it ended in relegation.

Score: -2


Predicted: 23rd / Actual: 24th
I said the bright sparks would head off in January when I predicted this table, instead, they didn’t show up at all. Most that had made their promotion season notable was hossed to the wayside and made way for a brand of football it would be optimistic to describe as ‘ineffective’, or as The Boston Globe put it — ‘armadillo balls’. Once the season was settled into, Maidstone were swiftly put out in the cold — they did not win in their last twenty-five league games. In that time, they attained four draws. That’s four points from a possible seventy-five. It was a plan that didn’t just not work out, it backfired and left everyone involved with singed eyebrows and a high-pitched ringing in their left ear.
Love love love George Elokobi and really hope he brings this club back up though.

Score: -1


Predicted: 2nd / Actual: 2nd
Yeah, it had to be.
If they amassed a record number of points (outside of Wrexham), goals for a team, and goals for an individual, and were denied, the cries for a second automatic promotion spot would have been deafening compared to other occasions it’s been brought up. The only bit I called wrong was that they would be beaten in the playoffs but jeez wasn’t it close to coming true. I didn’t get to writing an epilogue on that playoff final, but there was plenty of juice to squeeze from that lemon of a game. Everyone did their job, and I’m only gonna single out Cedwyn Scott for the story of missing the penalty that effectively gave their rivals the title before scoring the penalty that sealed their ascension.
Very much looking forward to seeing LW and the NC a division up next season.

Score: 0


Predicted: 4th / Actual: 12th
Things did not go to plan for The Latics at season’s commencement, but as is so often the case, David Unsworth is the key. He just seems a good fit doesn’t he? And with the set of results he and his lads put together, I’m sure there’ll be a few who agree with me. Along with those that missed out on ascension by a hair or two this season, there’s a new batch of teams looking to join in, and with momentum on their side, as well as a pretty sensible demeanour and burgeoning portions of self-belief and star-quality, this season’s prediction could be next season’s result.

Score: -8


Predicted: 13th / Actual: 23rd
Holy Christmas Jones. It just never looked to be happening, and then it really wasn’t. There seemed to be this belief that they’d start to pull themselves clear and finish in mid-table, then the hope for mid-table became the dream for lower mid-table, then that dream became an outside chance of survival, and then… Poof. When it happened, it all seemed inevitable. This could be what The Iron need though. A lot of clubs dip down and then come back up with a renewed sense of being, a fresh fight, and a tamed ego. Scunthorpe still have the power, and they still have that will, I know they do. They’ll be back and when they are, they’ll strike, because The Iron will be hot once more.

Score: -10


Predicted: 6th / Actual: 15th
Should have been in that closer chasing pack, but ended up relying on one game in hand to get them back in the race that when lost, left them scuppered, out in the cold, and ripe for the picking. Faith seemed lost and parts started to sputter and stop, rustily rolling into what will be a very disappointing fifteenth place finish at Damson Park. There’ll be desire to get back on the horse next season and reclaim some of that sheen from seasons prior, but there’s a bigger task afoot this off-season coming.

Score: -9


Predicted: 7th / Actual: 8th
Unlucky is what some might call it. Just shy some others might say. Just right is the final judgment though, and it always tells. I’d say a great season for The Shrimpers, with many a bright spot, and the negatives at least confined to off the pitch even if they are crushing. The group seem dedicated, and for this kind of finish while they’re still growing, I really hope they don’t get struck down in the midst of a personal ascension.

Score: -1


Predicted: 12th / Actual: 21st
The departures, simply put, weren’t replaced. It’d be easy to put the season’s demise down to that, but when you’d been placing so well prior, you’d hope your impact wouldn’t simply rely on a few big names. As we know, consistency is key, and it all seemed to go out of the window at the wrong time for The Gulls. The lack of consistency, on top of the departures, with a confusing mix of form around you, all encountered at the wrong time — everything conspired against Torquay this season, and it sadly couldn’t be dealt with. I’ve no doubt they’ll be back awfully soon though.

Score: -9


Predicted: 17th / Actual: 13th
A club benefitting from the tumultuous time amidst the pandemic to settle into the league and get their bearings. In their first season, they were a goal away from conceding a century, and to watch them now, and how they organise themselves, I’m not saying they’re a fixture of the league just yet, but of all the sides that have come up in recent years, they are one (similarly to Altrincham) that have sensibly carved out a place and focused on the right things at the right time. Long may that continue, and while I don’t see them threatening any higher than this for the time being, they’re heading in the right direction, no doubt.

Score: -4


Predicted: 24th / Actual: 4th
Okay, so this was peak laziness for me. I couldn’t work Woking out, and because I had a gap left open at the bottom of the table, I slapped ’em in there and hoped I could ignore them. Then, as if they were out to spite me, they rocketed up the table like a… Like a… Like some kind of projectile destined for space.
Looking back, any side that handpicks a specific manager of another team and shells out for them clearly has a vision, and when that manager gladly accepts and steps up with appropriately big plans, outside of mad injections of cash, it’s probably gonna work. I’ll take the L here but hear this, Woking — you will not fuck me again. I’m in a committed relationship with industry and I won’t be rolling with you no more.

Score: -20


Predicted: 1st / Actual: 1st
Yeah. I mean, come on. No prizes for this because I would’ve guessed ’em at first for every season until they got it. Even if they went up via the playoffs, I’d assume they’d pop back down just to compete for the title in their spare time.
Cracker season, fully deserved all over the pitch, and all across the terraces, and all through the boardrooms. That might be too far, but certainly generally deserved.

Score: 0


Predicted: 22nd / Actual: 22nd
I didn’t really wanna be right about this. There was more going wrong than first met the eye, and as swiftly as Huish Park was engulfed by the dark clouds, the quality of football went too. It seemed a drab place devoid of hope for all except those who visited. Those who visited got to leave, and too often did so with a point or three. Left there, left behind, with their pitch raised in the shadows was the dour shape of a Glover eleven times over, eighteen times over, 10,000 times over. Is it optimistic to say that they sold out their ground and carried what support they could through it? Or is it more hopeful to wish that each game wasn’t a sell-out so many wouldn’t have to witness the fall that came under a cloud only now lifting? Lifting too late to save this one.

Score: 0


Predicted: 14th / Actual: 19th
I think what I said nine months ago was pretty much bang on, and it was only the activity of other sides that had York out of place. But ain’t that always the way. I ain’t claiming victory or anything ‘cos I was still five off, but in terms of what I said, I think I was pretty close. Names stepped up and made themselves known and that meant the club could climb up on their soapbox and let everyone know that The Minstermen are at least always to be kept as a National League side, the point being that this is a big club who are here to shake the room.

Score: -5

One season on, and BT Sport are still no closer to sorting out my access to highlights for this league. They’ve changed their name though. Doesn’t do much for me, despite its loaded explosivity.

First and unimportantly, my score. There are a few very obvious failures that really drive the nail into my coffin, followed by another, followed by another. Double digits are the aim, but I’ll be a lucky ducky to see that. If I can avoid eclipsing my lowest score of -130, I’ll at least be in a good mood.
Secondly and importantly, the league. Beautiful season, par for the course, almost textbook. Heroes and villains, stories and senselessness, quality and a lack of coordination. It seems tight of me to ask for more, but I want it, and I will demand it from all those involved — don’t feel pressured though, it’ll probably occur fairly effortlessly for most of you. Well not effortlessly, but it’ll be a tag-along that takes up very little room as you rattle along your regular routes. On those tracks, coming down, Hartlepool after a coupla years, and Rochdale after a… Couple more… They’re replacing the rightfully promoted Wrexham and Notts County, while the other end sees Maidstone drop right back down, Torquay dip after a few topsy-turvy tries, Yeovil head out for the first time in a bit, and Scunthorpe suffer successive relegations, to be replaced by Fylde, Ebbsfleet, Oxford City (for the first time ever), and Kidderminster.
See y’all there, big lads.

Finally, my score.
Gotta beat -90, but definitely gonna beat -130. Totting up, my final score is…


Not my best. But really, not my worst. The big losers really stand out, and I’ll hold my hands up and say some of them were simply unjustified, but others came out of nowhere and obviously utilised some kind of magic just to see me screwed over. There were quite a few -2 scores that held me in decent stead here.
Regardless, I really gotta put in a more concerted effort next season. AND SO I WILL. And I’ll get my best score ever.

MY BIGGEST WINNERS — Notts County, Wrexham, Yeovil — 0, Halifax, Maidstone, Southend — -1
MY BIGGEST LOSERS — Woking — -20, Eastleigh — -12, Barnet, Scunthorpe — -10

I really need to start feeling this. This was way too far off. NEED TO ENGAGE NEXT SEASON.
Twenty-four stars to come back to in not-so-many months and I’m all the way here for it and at least semi-erect.
I’m sure I’ll get there by season’s start.

Keep it streets ahead,





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