The first live National League game of the season is an intriguing battle from Spotland as recently relegated Rochdale host recently promoted Ebbsfleet. It is set to be a fascinating battle between two sides heading in different directions. Read my best bet and match prediction below.
Rochdale endured a torrid season in League 2, with off-field issues seeing them relegated to the Non-League after 102 years as a Football League club. Dale showed fight in Jimmy McNulty’s eight games in charge, only losing two, so the 38-year-old has given a glimmer of hope to fans. However, Scunthorpe and Oldham have shown how hard it can be to acclimatise to non-league.
On the other hand, Ebbsfleet come into this season full of confidence, having blown the National League South away. Dennis Kutrieb’s side steamrolled the league, finishing 20 points clear of 2nd place on 103 points. The Fleet also scored 110 goals and conceded 47. Kutrieb’s free-flowing, high-pressure football evidently paid dividends, and he will look to adopt this fearless approach this season.
Due to financial constraints, Dale have opted for a youthful approach this season, with the experienced Adam Clayton the only signing over the age of 25. Since it is Rochdale’s first season in the National League, their squad lacks the relevant experience, so the inexperienced Jimmy McNulty (38) has a big task on his hands to steer them to solidity.
Kutrieb has a host of fifth-tier experience to rely on. This, coupled with a smattering of exciting acquisitions, should make for a successful season for the Kent side. Ebbsfleet have managed to retain 36-goal Dominic Poleon as well as the majority of their attacking talent. 20-year-old forward Nathan Odokonyero signs from 7th-tier Bognor Regis after scoring an impressive 34 goals.
As you can tell, goals are the theme. Despite being the underdogs (4.5 to win), I am happy to side with the away team. Scunthorpe and Oldham were newbies to the National League last season and struggled, with Oldham finishing 12th after a stuttering start and Scunthorpe suffering back-to-back relegations.
Both clubs also suffered shock defeats in the first month, with The Latics losing 2-1 to Wealdstone and Scunny suffering a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Maidenhead. Rochdale look as unprepared as this duo did, so don’t be surprised if there are a few upsets in the opening weeks.
Ebbsfleet play with no fear, as shown by their 110 goals. A 7-2 victory over fourth-placed Worthing was the cream of the crop, with Kutrieb’s side relentless against a fellow promotion chaser. Being billed as big outsiders and playing in front of the TNT sports cameras, the pressure is off Ebbsfleet.
The Fleet favour a high-intensity pressing game and won’t give Rochdale a sniff. The Spotland crowd will be expecting a dominant victory and may turn on them if they do not get off to a good start.
Most sides in League 2 prefer to assert their dominance on teams physically, so Dale won’t be used to a side that plays with the intensity that Ebbsfleet do. I am expecting a culture shock for the Non-League debutants, and Ebbsfleet will put them to the sword.
Bet: Ebbsfleet to score 2+- 3.25
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