Non League Daily

ALGER'S ANGLE: Winners and losers as season nears its close

Winners and Losers

This weekend could see the champions crowned in all three Conference divisions. The most likely team to get over the finishing line first are Bromley in the Conference South. Mark Goldberg’s team require a win at home to Weston-super-Mare to seal the title - and a place in Non-League’s top-flight for the first time in their history.

Weston have just one point from their last seven league fixtures and have nothing but pride to play for so a Ravens win is heavily odds-on. In the Conference North anything other than a victory for AFC Fylde at Harrogate will secure a title for Barrow – if they can also beat Tamworth at home. In the top division Barnet are the rightful favourites with just two games to play and a one point (and +14 goal-difference) cushion over Bristol Rovers.

If Barnet do take the title they will extend an incredible sequence in the division. The last 12 champions of the section all finished between 3rd and 10th in the league in the previous season. They will also extend a run since Burton Albion’s title in 2008/09 that will see a team from the previous season’s 3rd to 7th in the final table go on to claim automatic promotion by winning the league.

Bristol Rovers had history against them as no side since (the now defunct) Darlington won the 1989-90 Conference has achieved an immediate promotion via the title. It would be some achievement if Darrell Clarke’s men could overturn that particular stat.

With two games to play Barnet and Bristol Rovers can achieve maximum points totals of 94 and 93 respectively. For Martin Allen’s team that would work out at 2.04 points per game (PPG), which is the lowest PPG since Burton limped over the line on the final day with 1.91. It would also be the second lowest total since the 2001/02 season.

Their maximum achievable win-percentage is 63%, which would be lower than the last five champions – although not by much. The intriguing thing is that Allen had pinpointed very early in the season that a total of around 2pts per game would be enough this campaign. Whether he correctly estimated the ability of the teams around him or took a lucky guess, he’s got it pretty much spot on.

It was great to see Allen interviewed on BT Sport at the end of Barnet’s win at Dartford on Easter Monday. He has performed an incredible turnaround with a relatively small budget, getting the absolute maximum from his squad. For Bees fans it might even be a wholly more satisfying title than the one in 2005 where their nearest challengers, Hereford United, were some way behind.

They’ve really had to graft for this. Although they are not home and dry yet and there could be another twist in the tale. They travel to Kidderminster on Saturday and will have bad memories of the reverse fixture back in October.

A 3-0 half-time lead was blown away by the Harriers in the second-half to leave Barnet with just a point. I was at that game - I’m yet to see Barnet win in the flesh in five attended matches this season – and views from fans in the bar afterwards were that Allen had made costly errors. Around the hour mark he had taken off the influential Luisma Villa and striker John Akinde just as the visitors were enjoying a spell of possession.

Kidderminster took advantage and secured the most unlikely of points. It’s all ‘ifs and buts’ at this stage of the season – but that one point cushion over Rovers could easily be three. Rovers travel to a Dover Athletic side enjoying a fantastic first season back at this level. Chris Kinnear is one of the managers of the season in my eyes.

Other contenders would have to be John Askey at Macclesfield Town and of course the aforementioned Allen. Lee Sinnott at Altrincham also deserves a special mention too. It makes for a fascinating Saturday and once it’s all done and dusted you’ve got an easy way of narrowing down next season’s winner – just look between 3rd and 7th in this season’s table!

Hodgson Honour

England boss Roy Hodgson will be the Conference guest of honour at the Promotion Final on May 17. It also looks likely that he will be handing over the trophy to the winning captain (providing the sponsor doesn’t want to exercise their right within the contract). I was lucky enough to end my seven years working around the Conference by presenting the trophy to Cambridge United last year. A particularly special weekend as just a day earlier I was at the stadium to watch Prince William, sitting in the same seat, hand over the FA Cup to my team Arsenal.

If Bristol Rovers miss out on the title they will of course be favourites for the play-offs. I’ve also heard it rumoured that they may take an incredible 40,000 fans to Wembley for the game. On top of the sponsors’ Big Day Out initiative it could produce the largest Conference crowd at Wembley. The record stands at 42,669 from Oxford v York in 2010, but with three attendances under 20,000 in the last four seasons it would surely be a welcome boost for the competition to see Rovers in the final with those numbers.

Follow Alan on twitter @Alan_Alger_

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