10 April ~ As Stevenage Borough host Forest Green Rovers this afternoon both sides have a considerable amount to play for. The Conference season draws to a close in only two weeks' time, a full fortnight before the Football League. Within that time, and with several teams only having two games to play, the title and two relegation places are still to be decided. In previous years the league title has been something of a one-horse race, with Dagenham and Aldershot running away with things and Burton leading by 19 points at one stage before almost monumentally choking last year.
Roll back only a few months and nobody could be blamed for thinking the same would happen this time around as Oxford held a six point lead but, as the campaign comes to its climax, two other sides have hit the front. The safe betting would be on current leaders Stevenage, who head the pack by two points and have a game in hand, while Luton are the team on form with nine consecutive wins and 25 goals scored in just five matches. Their run looks set to continue with three bottom-half sides to come in their last five outings as they attempt to return to League Two at the first attempt and justify their pre-season favourites tag, should Stevenage stumble.
While battle to go up is in full flow, any two of nine sides could join already-doomed Grays in the regional leagues next year. Barrow and Forest Green have improved in recent weeks but are still far from safe, while the poor runs of Histon and Tamworth could yet see them slip into the clutches of the sides below. Ebbsfleet have just three matches to go and sit two points from safety, though they have their fate in their own hands with clashes against Tamworth and Gateshead still to come. A 2-0 win against Cambridge United last weekend may be enough to propel Gateshead themselves to safety despite a tough run-in. Eastbourne are also disadvantaged by having less games to play, though their prospects seem much worse given that they have to take on York, Kettering and Oxford.
All this precedes the play-offs which conclude the campaign. The list of clubs who will join the runners-up seems almost decided, as Oxford, York and Rushden have opened up a ten-point gap on the nearest contender. Observers were able to follow Conference football like never before in the past two seasons before Setanta's demise. While the 2009-10 season hasn't received comparable attention from a national broadcaster, Sky Sports have at least picked up the rights for the promotion final on May 16. Matt Ramsay