Last week it was announced that the National League, and both the National League South and North would have their final league positions decided on an unweighted points per game system.
Coronavirus kicked football into touch across the pyramid back in May, but the three National League divisions were the last to ‘shut up shop’ so to speak. The divisions below step one and two announced a null and void season early on into the lockdown, but this became a much more problematic concept as we made our way up the pyramid.
But the National League have decided that the best way to go forward is to decide the league standings by PPG, and this inevitably has it’s winners and losers, and I am going to detail three winners and three losers that have risen from this decision.
Barnet are our first winners, as the Bees make the play offs despite sitting in 11th when the season was suspended in March.
To be fair their points per game puts them a whole two points ahead of Stockport County, who occupied the last play off space when the season was suspended. Barnet have played the least games in the division so far, with 35, meaning that the PPG decision was always going to benefit them.
They were four points off the play offs in March, but have only lost one game in the National League this year, and with the amount of games in hand they had, they would’ve been confident of securing a top seven finish had the season been allowed to continue.
However the National League is one of the most unpredictable divisions in England, meaning they were still facing an uphill battle to qualify for the play offs, and it is entirely likely that they could have finished in the bottom half.
They will face Yeovil for the chance to then take on Notts County in the semi final, so they are up against two of the biggest clubs in the league.
Loser- Ebbsfleet United
It is hard to find a club across the three National League divisions that have been dealt a tougher hand than Ebbsfleet United. Before the suspension of the league they were stuck in 21st position, which may have seen them to safety due to the situation of Bury FC, but their PPG tally puts them down to 22nd and thus relegated back into the National League South.
The most agonising thing is that Ebbsfleet’s PPG figure is just 0.1 points behind Maidenhead, who did occupy the final relegation spot. If you compare both sides’ recent form, then this will give Ebbsfleet even more reason to feel aggrieved.
The fleet had won three of their last five games, while Maidenhead had lost five on the bounce, including a 3-1 loss to Ebbsfleet themselves. Of course no one could have planned for Coronavirus’ affect on football, but Ebbsfleet looked in a much better position to avoid relegation than Maidenhead.
Even if four clubs were to be going down, they would still have a chance of avoiding relegation as they were just one point away from Wrexham who were in 20th.
Winner- Dorking Wanderers
Dorking are the first club on this list to actually finish in the same position that they sat in before the break, and this will be a huge relief for them as they were in poor form and being hunted down by the chasing pack.
Like Maidenhead, Dorking had lost five games on the trot before the league was suspended, but they were still hanging onto the final play off spot in the National League South. To be fair, the teams behind Dorking weren’t in marvelous form themselves, but Dorking will certainly be glad that they don’t have the pressure of making the play offs on their shoulders.
We have an interview with Dorking boss Marc White coming this week so we will bring you more on this story, but the Wanderers have a trip to Bath to contend with in the play off eliminator, hopefully they will turn around their poor form!
Loser- Hampton and Richmond Borough
The team who are at the other end of Dorking’s happiness is Hampton and Richmond Borough. They sat three points behind Dorking, but with two games in hand and they still harbored real aspirations of making the top seven.
Hampton had struggled at the beginning of the season, but they managed to put together a good run of form and gave themselves the opportunity to make it into the play offs, but they miss out by just 0.2 of a point, so it is tough on them.
They weren’t in very good form, winning just one of their last five games, but as aforementioned Dorking were rock bottom of the form table so they would still have fancied their chances. Unfortunately they miss out though, and they will be ruing their lack of form before the suspension of the league.
Winner- Kings Lynn Town
Kings Lynn Town have been crowned champions of the National League North this season, as their PPG total puts them three points clear of York City. While they sit in the winners section, this isn’t to suggest that they don’t deserve to be crowned champions.
Kings Lynn were two points behind York when the season was suspended, but they had two games in hand, so the league title was very much in their hands. The Linnets have had a fantastic first season in the National League North, they are the league’s top scorers and have spent most of the season battling for the title.
York also had a fantastic season, and Kings Lynn were playing catch up so who knows whether they will have finished on top of the pile. But it is certainly fair to say that Kings Lynn are deserving of their promotion, and PPG reflects that.
Their recent form was a little bit concerning as they had won just one of the last five games before the suspension of the league, while York and Brackley (the two teams either side of them) were in better form. This makes Kings Lynn the unequivocal winners in the National League North.
Loser- Spennymoor Town
Before the suspension of the National League North, Spennymoor Town sat comfortably in the play off spots, but their PPG total catapults them out of the top seven. Gateshead are the side that benefit from this situation the most, as they sneak into the play off places due to the fact that they played the least games among the teams in the top half of the table.
It will be a bitter pill to swallow for Spennymoor as they were one of the form teams in the division with ten points from their previous five games. Much like Kings Lynn, Spennymoor have had no problem finding the net this season, scoring 63 times in their 34 games, so they would have hoped to continue their impressive season.
The points difference between Spennymoor and Gateshead is three, so considering the latter had three games in hand, there was ample opportunity for them to overtake Spennymoor. But as I have mentioned on this blog, the National League is not that simple!
Of course I recognise that PPG is probably the best way forward, and the fact that Coronavirus is such an unprecedented event means that no resolution is going to equally benefit every team in the league.
But I hope you enjoyed my analysis of the winners and losers of this system, hopefully the winners can take the opportunities they have been given!
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