As the season came to a close on Saturday the National League saw four teams emerge as playoff contenders to be promoted into League 2. These teams are as follows: Tranmere, Forest Green, Dagenham & Redbridge and Aldershot.
All four teams will compete in a two legged semi final to gain a place at Wembley and a potential spot in the football league. Last season gave Grimsby Town the chance to regain their place in the football league after a six year absence and former league sides Aldershot, Tranmere and Dagenham will be looking to do the same. Forest Green have never made it past the fifth tier.
The fixtures starting on Wednesday 3rd May will be broadcast live on BT Sport, alternatively you can follow live goal updates from my twitter account.
Aldershot Town v Tranmere Rovers
First Leg: Wednesday 3rd May 2017 – 19:00 K.O. @ Recreation Ground
Second Leg: Saturday 6th May 2017 – 12:15 K.O. @ Prenton Park
With the club falling into administration in 2013 with debts of over £1 million, and their relegation confirmed later that season you could argue that times are changing at the Recreation Ground.
Bottom half finishes in the past three seasons have been standard for the phoenix club. However this season, led by Gary Waddock in his second spell as manager, the Hampshire side have managed to slide into the playoffs in the last few games of the season.
Aldershot have been a solid defensive unit this year, conceding only 37 goals, the least in the National League. The Shots’ brick wall defence is lead by skipper Callum Reynolds. The 27 year old has appeared in 44 of Aldershot’s 45 league games this season, leading the team to the final playoff place ahead of Dover Athletic.
Tranmere were once playing in League One 5 years ago. However they now found themselves stuck in the National League since their relegation from League 2 in 2015, their first time in non league for 94 years.
If you haven’t been living under a rock this year you would obviously know about Tranmere’s 9-0 win over Solihull Moors this season. This just gave a taste of what the club are capable of in this division and the quality they have in their side.
Rovers were unlucky to go up automatically having spent most of the latter part of the season battling it out with Lincoln for top spot. James Norwood seems to be a player always on the tip of the Tranmere fans’ tongues. Norwood has helped Tranmere reach 2nd place this season with his 14 goals, and having lost out in the playoffs with Forest Green in 2015 he will be looking to finally get his big break in the football league.
Dagenham & Redbridge v Forest Green Rovers
First Leg: Thursday 4th May 2017 – 19:00 K.O. @ Victoria Road
Second Leg: Saturday 6th May 2017 – 15:00 K.O. @ The New Lawn
Dagenham & Redbridge
Dagenham were a team expected to do well this year having just been relegated from League 2. They aim to bounce back first time through the playoffs with manager John Still resting 9 players on the last day of the season.
Up front Dagenham aren’t lacking in composure as the three forwards: Oliver Hawkins, Jordan Maguire-Drew and Corey Whitely have 47 goals between them. Their finishing has catapulted them into the playoffs, finishing 4th in the league.
Forest Green Rovers
Forest Green have made it to the playoffs the last three seasons. First being being beaten 3-0 on aggregate by eventual winners Bristol Rovers in 2015 and missing out in the final at Wembley to Grimsby Town 3-1 last year. The Gloucestershire side will no doubt be feeling that it’s going to be 3rd time lucky, and will be looking to make up for their missed chance at automatic promotion this year.
When it comes to goal scoring it turns out Forest Green are pretty good, they have scored 88 goals this season, more than any other team in the National League.
On top of this they have the leagues second top goal scorer, Welshman Christian Doidge has scored 25 league goals this season. He was rested in the last game of the season against York City so expect him to make a comeback feeling fresh and ready for more goals.
If you want more info and live coverage on the playoffs this year please follow my twitter account – @dan_simmonite.