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National League end of season grades

With the regular season over, it's time to look back on a classic campaign of National League action and grade each club based on their final league position. 

By Amos Murphy

Paddy Madden kisses the National League title - Credit: Stockport County / Mike Petch

Aldershot

A campaign to forget for Aldershot, who in a usual season with four relegation spots would’ve dropped out of the division.

Scoring a 95th-minute winner against rivals Woking and Mark Molesley’s Cantona-esque pre-match interview are perhaps their only high points, in a season that won't be having a commemorative DVD commissioned.

Wonder if four is the maximum number of Japanese talking dogs that can fit in a briefcase after all?

Grade: D

Altrincham

Perhaps the biggest compliment you can pay to Altrincham, is that their 14th-place finish doesn’t seem like they’ve under or overachieved.

Finishing just three points behind League Two dropouts Southend United, the work Phil Parkinson has done at the club should not go unnoticed.

Granted, shaky form in the middle of the campaign had them scrambling at one point, but when you balance that against the off-the-pitch issues the Robins faced, overall it’s a more than solid season.

Grade: B

Altrincham celebrate Chesterfield

Altrincham players celebrate their point against Chesterfield - Credit: Altrincham FC / Jonathan Moore (@Altymoore1

Barnet

If there is one National League club that should’ve had a documentary made about their season, it’s Barnet.

Managerial sackings, player bust-ups, bizarre board decisions and a nationwide scandal were just some of the low points in a turbulent Barnet campaign.

Credit to Dean Brennan for stabilising what at one point looked like a sinking ship, but a lack of venom on the pitch ultimately left the Bees stinging.

Grade: D

Boreham Wood

Possibly the biggest letdown in the National League this season, FA Cup giant-killers Boreham Wood had the league title in their hands at one point, only to end the campaign languishing outside the playoff positions.

In fairness, the backlog of fixtures due to their FA Cup run meant Boreham Wood had a billion and one games in hand, but few would’ve predicted the Hertfordshire side missing out on a top-seven spot at the turn of the year.

A new three-year deal for manager Luke Garrard will inject some optimism into the Wood faithful ahead of the next season, yet this one must go down as a failure.

Grade: E

Bromley

A similar story to Boreham Wood, Bromley went from promotion contenders to mid-table mediocrity in what felt like the blink of an eye.

Repeatedly turning down offers from Football League clubs, boss Andy Woodman was unable to guide Bromley to the playoffs, instead, having to settle for an underwhelming 10th-place finish.

Their cup exploits see them take on Wrexham in next weekend's FA Trophy final, with a Wembley visit glossing over an otherwise flat end to the campaign.

Grade: C+

Chesterfield

It’s remarkable an injury-ridden Chesterfield still remains in contention for promotion, given the way in which the Spireites imploded towards the back-end of the campaign.

Once a dead-cert for the league title, no wins from their final four league matches had opened the playoff door for Dagenham & Redbridge, who were unable to capitalise on the Derbyshire side’s mistakes.

Paul Cook will be hoping to call on his experience in the playoffs, but with the odds already against them, it’s looking like another season in the fifth tier for Chesterfield.

Grade: D

Dagenham & Redbridge

The equivalent of the intelligent kid whose parents paid for extra tuition, only for them to take no notice and spend that time twiddling thumbs and making paper aeroplanes.

An extremely capable side that lacked the know-how when it mattered. Final day victory over title-chasing Wrexham only compounded the misery of results that had gone before it.

In fairness to Dagenham & Redbridge, the calibre of sides who finished above them are not to be sniffed at. Yet, countless opportunities to make a playoff spot their own has left the Daggers wondering what could’ve been.

Grade: D-

Read: All the talking points from the final day of National League action

Dover Athletic

Something, something, something, Dover Athletic falling off a White Cliff.

In fairness, Dover’s campaign was doomed from the start, as a 12-point deduction essentially relegated the Whites before a ball had even been kicked.

A 6-5 thriller against Wrexham will live long in the memory, but a total of 13 points for the whole season represents nothing but an abject failure.

Grade: F

Eastleigh

Two games away from the Football League just four seasons ago, Eastleigh look more like dropping into the National League South than challenging for an EFL berth right now.

Finding a way to limp across the line, Eastleigh are another side whose fate may have been different had there been the usual four relegation spots up for grabs.

A questionable managerial sacking midway through the campaign, and the unenviable record of being the first side to lose to Dover this season make it very difficult to rank Eastleigh’s campaign favourably.

Grade: D-

FC Halifax Town

Had any FC Halifax Town supporter been offered a fourth-place finish before the season started, it’s hard to imagine they’d have refused.

Yet, as the regular campaign came to a close, there was a cloud of disappointment hanging over the heads of Halifax.

A fixture in the top three for much of the campaign, their inability to close out third spot will no doubt leave a sour taste in the mouth of manager Pete Wild, who is now forced to navigate the tricky waters of the National League eliminators.

Grade: B-

Grimsby Town

It’s easy to forget just how difficult it can be to drop into non-league from the Football League, especially on the back of a Covid-affected, behind-closed-doors campaign.

While they may have been the early frontrunners for title glory this season, Grimsby have shown nerve to remain in the playoffs and close out a top-seven finish.

By no means favourite to earn promotion, the Mariners will travel to Notts County in the eliminators, before a potential trip to second-placed Wrexham.

Grade: B

King’s Lynn Town

It seems disingenuous to place a side who are only 50 miles closer to Darlington – a league opponent of King’s Lynn Town’s next season – than they are to the Netherlands, in the National League North.

Alas, that’s where King’s Lynn will be playing next season, as the Linnets’ miserable campaign sees them drop out of the fifth tier.

Chairman Steven Cleeve may be gone, but his clips of refereeing decisions on social media will never be forgotten. A season to rapidly forget for King’s Lynn.

Grade: E

Maidenhead United

Another club whose season had essentially finished before the spring months, Maidenhead United will be pleased with another campaign in the National League, but should also recognise improvements need to be made.

A flurry of results against top-half teams around the turn of the year was enough to effectively secure Maidenhead’s status in the fifth tier.

Establishing themselves as part of the National League’s middle class will be the next task on Maidenhead’s agenda, as they look to avoid being left behind by the rest of the pack.

Grade: C+

Notts County

Tipped to challenge at the beginning of the campaign, Notts County will be pleased by their efforts this season and could offer a dark horse pick for the playoffs.

Undoubtedly their standout moment this season didn’t come on the pitch, but instead in the terraces, where the Magpies set a new National League attendance record.

A Football League club in all but name, Notts County’s season may yet end in celebration, as Ian Burchnall looks to turn a good campaign into a great one.

Grade: B

Notts County crowd record

Credit: @NCFCShorey (Twitter)

Solihull Moors

Often the bridesmaid never the bride, Solihull Moors have rarely looked more capable of achieving a maiden promotion to the Football League than they do right now.

With talent flowing through their ranks, the Moors enter the playoffs as the form side, with Neal Ardley looking to guide the West Midlands outfit into the fourth tier.

A late surge was responsible for Solihull leapfrogging Halifax into third spot, where they’ll look to take advantage of a home crowd by taking one step closer to League Two.

Grade: A

Southend United

With a third consecutive relegation looking like a real possibility for Southend United in the autumn months, the disappointment of finishing 13th speaks wonders of the job Kevin Maher has done since taking over.

A club in crisis when he arrived at Roots Hall, expert recruitment and valued oversight from figures such as Stan Collymore and John Still, aided the Shrimpers in their surge up the table.

An outside shot for the playoffs not too long ago, Southend will look to build on their second-half of the season momentum, before launching an assault on the National League next season.

Grade: B+

Stockport County

As low as 12th when Dave Challinor took the reigns at Edgeley Park, a remarkable rise up the table has seen Stockport County go from the National League’s laughingstock, to deserved champions in a matter of months.

Back-to-back National League promotions for Challinor doesn’t tell the full story, whose expertise in this division has helped end Stockport’s 11-year Football League hiatus.

Even an end-of-season wobble didn’t prove costly for the Hatters, who relied on their credit in the bank to squeeze over the line and secure the league title.

Grade: A+

Torquay United

Had the table been decided solely on the last 30 games in the league, Torquay United would be preparing for a playoff campaign right now.

Of course, it doesn’t and the Devon-based side remains in the fifth tier, with frustrations now turning to their woeful start to the campaign.

An underwhelming finish given the dramatics last season, Gary Johnson will likely need to rebuild if he wishes to challenge at the top again next year.

Grade: C

Wealdstone

One of the few non-professional sides left in the division, Wealdstone’s impressive stint in the National League looks set to continue.

Without the threat of relegation for most of the season, the job done by Stuart Maynard should be celebrated, given the lack of resources at their disposal.

Improving on their 19th-placed finish from the season prior, it remains to be seen whether the Stones can keep on rolling.

Grade: A

Weymouth

Another casualty to the drop, Weymouth may have harboured hopes of avoiding relegation before the campaign started, but a lack of quality across the squad means they’ll be dropping back down to the National League South.

Just two victories from their last 26 matches in the league, including damaging defeats to relegation rivals, means Weymouth finish the campaign second-bottom in the table.

The performance of former Northern Ireland international Josh McQuoid was a rare bright spark in what on the whole felt like a dismal season.

Grade: D

Woking

A season that began with optimism, but petered out after the departure of forward Tahvon Campbell, Woking’s attention has already switched to mounting a challenge next time around.

As high as eighth earlier in the campaign, a slump in form had Woking dangerously close to a relegation scrap, before new manager Darren Sarll replaced the much-maligned Alan Dowson.

Champions Stockport will remain indebted to last month’s victory over Wrexham, which helped ensure the title ended up at Edgeley Park, but other than that, it’s difficult to imagine this season will live long in the memory of the Cards faithful.

Grade: C+

Wrexham

If the season had carried on for another month, there is every chance Wrexham would be playing League Two football next year, having been promoted as champions.

Failure to take advantage of Stockport’s dropped points cost Wrexham their chance of lifting the title, as their end-of-season surge fell at the final hurdle.

Still, as favourites for the playoffs, Phil Parkinson’s side will still be confident of securing promotion the hard way, with a tough test at the Racecourse to come against either Notts County or Grimsby.

Grade: A-

Yeovil Town

It’s somewhat remarkable Yeovil Town supporters still have a club, given the off-the-pitch controversies surrounding the Glovers’ ownership.

As the situation worsened in the boardroom, the players in the dressing room rallied and ensured Yeovil’s fall down the football pyramid wouldn’t go any further, securing a respectable mid-table finish in the process.

A Championship club as little as eight years ago, Yeovil’s decline has been sharp and fast, but stability in the National League should be the target in the upcoming campaign.

Grade: B-

Agree with our picks? Let us know your opinions by reaching out to @nonleaguenews or @AmosMurphy_

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