After my National League outright selections for the season, I am back to back with my National League South predictions. While Scunthorpe should win the National League North at a canter with the squad they’ve built, The National League South looks more competitive than ever. With three southern teams relegated from the National League last campaign, this season is set to be a classic. An interesting title battle is on the cards. Read my predictions below.
After relegation last campaign, Torquay come into this NLS season as title favourites (5.0). The experienced Gary Johnson is still in charge, and the Gulls have had a good window; they will fancy their chances of an instant return to the National League.
Johnson’s side showed their talent too late in the season, with five wins and two draws from their final eight still leaving them two points from safety. However, signs are positive for this season, with The Gulls drawing with Championship side Plymouth 1-1 in preseason before dismantling rivals Exeter 4-1.
In terms of incomings, Finley Craske signs from Plymouth, with the young defender looking to live up to his high potential and earn a move back to the football league. Centre back Ollie Tomlinson stays at the club, with an impressive end-of-season loan spell at Chippenham putting him in good stead for another campaign in the NLS. 37-year-old Dean Moxey has signed a new deal; his experience will be key in defence.
The Gulls’ midfield is one of the strongest in the league. The energetic Tom Lapsile, tough-tackling Asa Hall, and young talent Will Jenkins Davies make up a fantastic trio. Jack Stobbs has also signed on a permanent basis after impressing in his loan spell.
Up front, the retention of Aaron Jarvis is amazing news, with the 25-year-old scoring 15 goals last season despite playing for a relegated side. He will be partnered by Bradley Ash, who scored 24 goals to steer Weymouth to safety. With these two in the side, Torquay potentially have two 25-goal strikers in their ranks.
All in all, Torquay will be aiming for the title from the get-go. They showed their ability late last season and have goals in abundance. They are most peoples predictions for the title and with good reason.
With three of the four relegated National League sides coming from the south, the NLS looks particularly strong this year.
A club that I feel has gone under the radar is Worthing. Long-standing manager Adam Hinshelwood led the club to a fourth-place finish after promotion from the Isthmian Premier League. They eventually came unstuck in the semi-finals at Oxford City, losing 2-0 to the eventual promotion winners at the RAW Charging Stadium. With the foundations laid over the years behind the scenes, The Rebels look in good shape to go one step further this campaign.
Worthing are a hotbed for young talent, as showcased by Harrison Male's signing for Dorking. This is a regular occurrence for The Mackerel Men, with talent such as David Ajiboye, Ricky Aguiar, and Kwame Poku all securing Football League moves over the years. Hinshelwood favours an easy-on-the-eye possession style of football, putting great emphasis on his attack, leading Worthing to score 92 goals last season despite the opening-day season-ending injury suffered by Jake Robinson.
In goal, Brentford B youngster Roco Rees replaces the departed Harrison Male. Rees comes with previous experience at Woodside Road, impressing when on loan from Brighton in 2019. He is blessed with a great defence in front of him. Right back Joel Colbran scored five goals and assisted 12 others, leading to him winning manager's player of the season. Despite only being 24 years old, Colbran has amassed over 200 appearances for Worthing. 19-year-old centre back Joe Rye is bound to be on the radar of many Football League clubs due to his stellar performances last season. Joe Felix further augments the defence and was a standout in a dismal Dulwich Hamlet relegation.
The experienced Kane Wills orchestrates the midfield, showing tenacity and fantastic passing range. Michael Klass joins after 27 appearances for National League Aldershot. Fan favourite Ricky Aguiar re-signs on loan from Swindon after departing in the 2021 summer. The 22-year-old is a complete midfielder who is capable of the spectacular. He gained NLS experience at the back end of last season, scoring seven in 14 appearances while on loan at Chippenham.
Worthing have an abundance of attacking talent in their ranks. Joan Luque joins from Maidstone after an injury-plagued campaign. His last season in the sixth tier saw him score 22 goals and lead Maidstone to promotion while picking up the NLS player of the season award. Keep the 30-year-old fit, and Worthing are blessed with one of the best players in the league. The same can be said for Nicky Wheeler, who signs from Dorking. The creative technician adds even more final-third output to an already potent attack. Reece Meekums is a local lad who provides pace and directness. Greg Luer has signed from Eastbourne Borough, with his goalscoring antics as a youngster earning him a move to Hull. Jake Robinson has signed a new contract and will hope the cruciate ligament injury suffered on the opening day against Dover has healed. Robinson is a serial non-league scorer, once bagging 57 in one season for Billericay.
The price of 15.0 for Worthing to win the title seems high. They are a stronger squad than the one that finished fourth last season; they have tied key assets to new deals and are backed by a boisterous home crowd. The Rebels may surprise a few.
Torquay to win the League: 5.0 (4/1)
Worthing to win the League: 15.0 (14/1)
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