THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

2011-12 season review ~ Fleetwood won the Conference easily, as many rival fans had feared at the start of the season. It appears Crawley have set something of a precedent and in a league where only two sides go up, money exerts a huge influence. That said, a return of 31 wins and 103 points is nothing to be sniffed at. Wrexham will feel hard done by in missing a century of points by just two and also missing out on promotion. It is surely time the FA look at introducing an extra automatic promotion place, considering the level of competition in this league.

Luton dispatched Wrexham in the first play-off semi-final, while York City left it late to see off Mansfield in the other, courtesy of a Matty Blair header. Blair went on to score the opener in the 2-0 FA Trophy final win over Newport County (who, asides from a 4-1 win at Fleetwood in October, left their best form for the cup, finishing 19th in the league). He also scored the winner against Luton in the play-off final to cap a memorable week for York, who returned to the Football League after an eight-year hiatus.

Kidderminster Harriers will count themselves unlucky to have missed out on the play-offs after striker Jamille Matt (ten goals in 24 appearances), who had spurred a flocking of League scouts to Aggborough, was prevented from playing at the business end of the season due to claims of illegal residency.

Southport will be pleased with an impressive seventh-place finish, following a last-minute reprieve from relegation last season after Rushden & Diamonds were expelled. Along with Gateshead, Southport were in contention for the play-offs for most of the season. They were buoyed by the scoring exploits of Tony Gray (24 goals), while Gateshead had the league's third top scorer, Jon Shaw (28), who finished behind Mansfield's Matt Green (29) and Fleetwood's Jamie Vardy (31).

Returns to the Football League for former mainstays Cambridge, Grimsby, Stockport and Lincoln appear to be on the backburner for the time being, the clubs having finished ninth, 11th, 16th and 17th respectively. The Mariners will be ruing a disastrous end to the season having put themselves in contention for the play-offs with a 15-game unbeaten run from November to March.

Forest Green are sure to improve on their tenth-place finish next season as they look to follow in the recent footsteps of Crawley and Fleetwood by spending big to secure automatic promotion. Indeed, the club have already brought in Fleetwood's Magno Vieira, Stalybridge's Phil Marsh and Gambian international Omar Koroma. 

Braintree, who finished 12th, lost star striker Ben Wright (17 goals) to Rovers as well, underlining Forest Green's commitment to building a formidable array of striking talent. Meanwhile, Barrow, Ebbsfleet and Alfreton Town had unremarkable seasons in the mid-table positions, although the former boasted an excellent home record (the fifth best in the Conference).

Tamworth and Telford, along with Newport, all stayed up with games to spare, with relegation claiming Hayes & Yeading, Darlington, Bath City and Kettering Town. While losing three points for failing to pay creditors, the latter will be more fearful of the two-division drop due to crippling debts of £1.2 million. Darlington were hit with a ten-point deduction for going into administration and will look to move from their 25,000-seat Arena home to a more viable groundshare alternative. Adam Bushby

Comments (3)
Comment by madmickyf 2012-06-06 04:35:29

I hope Forest Green don't win the Conference next season, mainly for selfish reasons, but also because it would be the third season in a row a 'small' club has won it by splashing the cash thanks to a rich Sugar Daddy. This is starting to set a worrying trend which other clubs might be tempted to copy, we really don't need more clubs getting into financial strife when the money drys up. There is no way Forest Green would be able to maintain themselves as a Football League club on average crowds of 1,000 without the owner tipping larger and larger sums in, they're another Rushden & Diamonds waiting to happen.

Comment by ingoldale 2012-06-06 15:52:53

Liam Hearn is unlucky not to get a mention - he scored nearly thirty goals for mid-table Grimsby having not opened his account until after 10 games in.

I'm surprised that the dirty and intimidation tactics used by both Crawley and Cheatwood didn't get a mention. Maybe the writer of the article didn't see any of their games.

Comment by fbenario 2012-06-10 17:54:12

If Forest Green, in Nailsworth, Glos, are promoted to Division 2, would Nailsworth be the smallest village (estimated population 6,600 in 2005) ever in the football League? If not, is it the smallest since WWII?

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