At the head of the non-league pyramid is the Conference Premier, better known (for now) as the Blue Square Bet Premier – and the 2012/13 season was one to remember!
For months the likes of Wrexham, Mansfield, Kidderminster, Newport and even Grimsby were taking turns in seemingly running away with the league, only to be pegged back. Mansfield eventually won the title on the final day, with Kidderminster narrowly missing out by two points. All of the above mentioned were very close, never pulling out a lead of more than 5 or 6 points. With the season being so long, 46 games, teams came into form, and then lost it after 10 games, allowing others to take control, only to do the same.
Newport had to complete 7 games in just two and a half weeks in order to finish the season and enter the play-offs, with weather early in 2013 so bad in Wales that many games were consistently called off, re-arranged, and then subsequently postponed again. They managed to do so, and despite the fitness issues they managed to win promotion, beating Wrexham 2-0 in the final to return to the football league 25 years after folding in 1988 and having to reform as Newport County AFC.
The rest of the league was a similar story, with the likes of Hereford, Forest Green and Dartford having good runs followed by bad form. Of the two relegated teams (Hereford and Macclesfield) Hereford fared best, finishing 6th – Macclesfield struggled to 11th place. The promoted sides from BS North/South did very well. None were relegated, the worst being Hyde who finished in 18th place. Dartford were the most impressive, often stringing together brilliant home form, often the best in the league, ending with an 8th place finish. Woking and Nuneaton finished in mid-table, 12th and 15th respectively.
Six new teams enter the division this season – two from League 2, Barnet and Aldershot, and four from the North and South Division – Chester City, Halifax Town, Salisbury City and Welling Utd. The four to fall back out of the league were Telford, who went 30 games without a win after terrible financial problems; Ebbsfleat, a side owned by fans, also struggled financially; Barrow, and Stockport, who for many years have been part of the Football League – it is a shame to see them go.
Newport and Grimsby were the most improved sides this season – Newport rising from 19th to 3rd and Grimsby, led by star striker Liam Hearn, rose from 11th to 4th. Kidderminster also climbed four places from 6th to 2nd. Amongst those to disappoint were Ebbsfleat (14th-23rd), Southport (7th-20th), Gateshead (8th-17th) and Cambridge (9th-14th).
Aldershot will start the 2013/14 season with a 10 point deduction for entering administration.
The top scorers for the season are as follows – Matt Green, who has moved on to Birmingham, topped the charts with 25, helping Mansfield to promotion. Adam Cunnington of Tamworth came 2nd and Michael Gash (20) of Kidderminster edged out team-mate Anthony Malbon and Nuneaton man Andy Brown, who struck 19 apiece.
Green is our player of the season, with his 25 goals firing Mansfield back into the football league!