Saturday the 5th of August marks the start of the domestic football season. While most of the eyes will be on the EFL, the non-league scene also returns. The non-league pyramid is often forgotten about by neutrals, but I am here to ensure that does not happen. So, sit back, relax and delve into my favourite outright bets for the season.
After cruelly losing on penalties to Notts County in the playoff final last season, Chesterfield will look to pick themselves up and go again. Paul Cook’s side were unfortunate to have to compete with record-breaking Wrexham and Notts County. With these two out of the equation, the Spireites will fancy their chances of winning the title this time around.
Already possessing a strong squad, Chesterfield have decided to strengthen yet again. Goalkeeper Harry Tryer signs on loan from Everton after excelling at Chester last season. The signing of Bailey Hobson from Alfreton is seen as a real coup, with the young midfielder attracting interest from the Football League. The 21-year-old won both the manager's and player's player of the season awards, as well as scoring seven goals from midfield. He has impressed greatly in pre-season, and there is a sense of excitement among those connected with Chesterfield about Hobson’s potential.
Cook has also shown grave ambition with the signings of Tom Naylor and Will Grigg. Naylor is an experienced midfielder with the versatility to play in defence, having made 36 Championship appearances last season. Grigg’s best days may be behind him, but he is still a clinical striker, boasting close to 150 goals across his EFL career.
These signings add to an already talented squad. Defensively, Chesterfield are well stocked, with Ryheem Sheckleford and Branden Horton providing attacking impetus from full back, while Laurence Maguire and Jamie Grimes are a reliable centre back partnership. Darren Oldaker and Ollie Banks add creativity, hard work, and tenacity to a midfield. Hobson and Naylor as additional midfielders is further testament to the depth Cook has available.
Going forward, Liam Mandeville brings pace and directness, Armando Dobra brings skill and technical ability, and Ryan Colclough is a creative genius. Add the goals of Scott Quigley and Will Grigg, and Chesterfield have a team that is the envy of the rest of the league. Add serial winner Paul Cook managing the side, and The Spireites look good value to win the title.
Despite Oldham and York having strong and ambitious summers, the turnover has been high, and it is hard to transform from a bottom-half finish to challenging for the title.
Selection: Chesterfield to win the League: 9/4 (3.25) with bet365
Last season, Woking finished 4th in the National League, an impressive feat considering the teams that finished above them. More of the same is predicted for the Cardinals this season too.
While defenders Kacper Lopata and Kyran Lofthouse and livewire James Daly have departed, Darren Sarll still has a strong squad.
Joe Day and Will Jääskeläinen provide nice goalkeeping options. Tunji Akinola and Dan Moss add a youthful element to an experienced defence containing Scott Cuthbert, Greg Taylor, Sam Habergham, and Luke Wilkinson. The signing of Taylor is a real coup for the National League level, having amassed over 300 appearances while captaining Cambridge.
Rohan Ince is one of the best midfielders in the league, so Sarll will be delighted that he’s signed a new contract. The powerful box-to-box midfielder anchors the midfield while also being capable of scoring the odd screamer. Willing runner Jim Kellerman, gifted technician Matt Robinson, and the experienced Robbie Wilmott make up the rest of a talented midfield. Wilmot’s experience and versatility are key; he has played in numerous positions over the years for Newport County. Manny Oyeleke joins from Chesterfield and also adds versatility, showing the ability to play centre midfield and right back.
Woking also looks well-versed upfront. Ricky Korboa adds pace on the wing, while Charlie Wakefield adds flair. Reece Grego-Cox's return to fitness will be a huge boost, with the 26-year-old winger scoring nine goals in 16 games before an injury curtailed his season. The experienced and prolific Padriag Amond forms a nice partnership with Rhys Browne, who scored 13 times after joining from Wealdstone in October.
All in all, this Woking side looks very strong. An experienced, well-drilled core sprinkled with smatterings of talent. Expect them to challenge near the top again.
Selection: Woking top 7 finish at 11/10 (2.10)
Despite losing prolific striker duo Cedwyn Scott and Macauley Langstaff to Notts County and an injury crisis, Gateshead finished comfortably in 14th. Playing easy-on-the eye possession football, Gateshead are a team on the up.
Once they had a fully fit side available, Mike Williamson’s squad flew up the league, mainly thanks to six straight victories in March and April. Despite losing Owen Bailey to Doncaster, Williamson will be happy with the state of his side heading into the new season.
Notts County’s playoff final penalty-saving hero, Archie Mair, signs on loan from Norwich. Jordan Hunter signs from South Shields. A supremely talented full back who is comfortable on either flank, the 23-year-old is a player who is more than capable of the step up.
Gateshead have one of the strongest midfields in the league. Regan Booty signs from Maidstone, with the midfielder showing his keen eye for a pass in a poor Maidstone side. He also possesses a dangerous long shot. Ed Francis and Callum Whealan sign permanent deals after impressing on loan, while young talent Connor Pani has signed a new long-term contract. The cream of the crop, though, is creative genius Greg Olley. The 27-year-old scored five goals and assisted 10 last season and links the midfield and attack perfectly.
22-year-old Stephen Wearne adds talent in attack, while Marcus Dinanga scored seven in 14 last campaign. Adam Campbell ended the season in superb goal-scoring form, so he will be hoping to replicate it this year. The Tynesiders have taken a punt on 22-year-old Aidan Rutledge, who scored over 60 goals in 43 appearances for Birtley Town last year. Even though the step up is huge, Birtley has a natural knack for scoring and has time on his hands.
If Gateshead take their 2023 form into this season, they will be a real threat. My dark horses for the season
Selection: Gateshead top 7 finish at 9/2 (5.5)
Rounding off the National League selections are a trio of big-odds top-scorer bets I like.
Chesterfield’s Will Grigg and Oldham duo Joe Nuttall and Mike Fondop lead the betting, but none present value for me. Grigg has struggled for game time in recent years, and there is no guarantee of regular minutes at Chesterfield. Fondop has only scored double digits above the Isthmian level once, while Nuttall’s highest ever goal tally is nine. Therefore, there is scope for some chunkier goal scorers.
First up, Dipo Akinyemi. Since the purchase of the club by Matt Ugla, York have invested heavily in their first team squad. Akinyemi arrives from Ayr, Scotland, having scored 20 in 36 games in his first season at the club and also claiming the Championship player of the year. Before this, he enjoyed a fruitful spell at NLS side Welling, scoring 28 in 62. At 6’0, Akinyemi is a powerful striker, and the early indications are that he’ll be on set pieces. 21.0 odds for the leading striker for a team expected to challenge near the top feel far too big for me.
The next selection comes in at 34.0. I mentioned earlier how big a fan of this Woking side I am. Darren Sarll has his side playing attacking, front-foot energetic football. Reece Grego-Cox scored nine in 16 appearances before an injury ruined his season, and the 26-year-old forward continued where he left off this pre-season, scoring a brace in a 15-minute cameo. He is also likely to be on penalties, so again, it looks like a worthwhile price.
The last selection is a 51.0 punt. Regan Linney joined Altrincham in January and scored eight goals in 15 starts. Before this, the 26-year-old was at FC United, scoring 25 in 33. What has impressed me most about Linney is his movement, demonstrating his knack for being in the right place at the right time. If Linney can replicate last season's goalscoring form in an underrated Altrincham side, the 50/1 may look great value come May.
Dipo Akinyemi top scorer (each way) at 20/1 (21.0) with bet365
Reece Grego-Cox top scorer (each way) at 33/1 (34.0) with bet365
Regan Linney top scorer (each way) at 50/1 (51.0) with bet365
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