Non League Daily

ALGER'S ANGLE: Play-offs, Bees buzzing and Mills on the move

Non-League Daily's Alan Alger looks at a busy week in the Conference in this week's 'Alger's Angle' with the play-offs, Barnet's title winners and Gary Mills move to Wrexham coming under scrutiny


There was a solid start for the Conference play-off favourites in midweek as Bristol Rovers and Grimsby Town took one-goal leads from their away 1st legs at Forest Green and Eastleigh respectively. If both clubs go on to make the final then the whole competition could be rewarded with the highest ever attendance for a Promotion Final game. The record currently stands at 42,669 from 2010, when Oxford United - with over 75% of the crowd - defeated York City 3-1. Early indications suggest the 50,000 mark may be broken if the Mariners face the Gas on May 17 under the Wembley arch.

The underdogs won’t feel that their chance has completely gone and it’s fair to say that expectant home crowds could send the nerves jangling for the hosts in the 2nd legs on Sunday. Grimsby have gone out with a whimper at this stage the last two seasons. In the other tie Bristol Rovers have to overcome a stat that suggests that losing the title on the final day of the regular season means play-off success will also go begging (see Cambridge United 2009 and Kidderminster Harriers in 2013).

Bristol Rovers are also bidding for a rare immediate return to the Football League, whereas Grimsby have certainly ‘done their time’. They have both been pitched against big-spending clubs with aspirations to reach the promised land of the ‘92’ for the first time. Eastleigh’s fourth placed finish reflects well on Richard Hill and the club considering it’s their first try, but I am of the opinion that Forest Green have underachieved. Owner Dale Vince has yet to get a ‘bang for his buck’ and they are odds-on to be back in the division – for a record 18th term next season. Ady Pennock and his squad might feel the force of Vince’s disappointment in the summer if they can’t produce a turnaround at the Memorial Ground.


I was at the Hive to see my local club Barnet lift the Conference title last Saturday after an impressive 2-0 win against Gateshead. It was a superb all-round performance and certainly the best I’ve seen them play this season (in the flesh). I’m not surprised that John Akinde has been linked with a big-move this week as his play has so many good attributes. His strength on the ball, but then the ability to find a good pass away from the physical side of the game was a joy to watch. The stats say Barnet were one of the ‘worst’ champions we’ve had in the division in recent seasons, but their triumph was definitely deserved – the table after 46 games does not lie.


After his play-off triumph with York City in 2012, Gary Mills has been a sought after boss in Non-League circles. He nearly took Gateshead to the Football League via the same route last year. He tried again with the Heed this season but a number of changes and player departures meant that the team couldn’t get into their stride. He has decided to join a Wrexham side that have under-achieved for a couple of years; rejecting advances from newly-relegated Tranmere Rovers. Mills certainly has a tough job on his hands at the Racecourse and he has some big decisions to make straight away regarding the make-up of the squad. Some of the better players from the runners-up finish in 2012 look to have gone off the boil and Mills needs to make the call on whether that’s a motivational cause or an actual decline. There are a number of good young players that he’ll also have at his disposal, but as it stands the Red Dragons look to be four or five players off a promotion challenge. Acquisition will be key, otherwise the Wrexham faithful will need to be patient for at least another 12 months.

You can follow Alan on Twitter @Alan_Alger_

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