National League preview: Six vying to join Macc in top flight

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ALTRINCHAM’s relegation from the Vanarama National League has left MACCLESFIELD as the only side in the Greater Manchester area in non-league’s top flight.

Manager John Askey has done a superb job in ensuring the Silkmen have punched above their weight in the last two seasons, coming sixth and then 10th last term.

Kristian Dennis and Danny Whitehead aren’t around anymore after their loan deals expired but otherwise Askey has made a host of solid additions and they didn’t concede in their last five friendlies.

Their new assistant boss Steve Watson has said: “We had a very good end to the season last season, and a very good pre-season, so we need to keep that momentum going.”

The Silkmen kick off their campaign at home to Torquay and could be capable of mounting a play-off challenge. The bookies still don’t see it that way, but that won’t bother Askey one jot.

Big-spending Forest Green are Skybet’s title favourites at 11/4, followed by Tranmere, Eastleigh, Dagenham & Redbridge and Wrexham, with Macc 15th down the list at 40/1.

New ALTRINCHAM boss Neil Young has perhaps learnt his lesson. After targeting promotion from the National League North with Stockport County last summer, he left in January with the Hatters set to fall short.

While he expects Alty to challenge, he isn’t making any bold predictions given the quality in the National League North this season, and the fact he has a lot of new players which need to settle in. The Robins start at home to newly-promoted Darlington 1883.

SALFORD CITY came up with Darlo after winning back-to-back promotions and despite playing at step two for the first time in their history, they have one of the biggest budgets in the league.

Having been hit by injuries in pre-season, the Class of ’92-backed club were able to bring in someone of the calibre of former League centre-half Harry Worley to ease the burden.

STOCKPORT COUNTY are also among the biggest spenders and after succeeding Young in January, Jim Gannon has now had a close-season to mould the squad he wants.

The Hatters are hoping to win promotion from step two at the fourth time of asking and begin their campaign at home to Alfreton, while Salford host Gloucester City.

FC UNITED and CURZON ASHTON both played at step two for the first time last season, with the Nash making the easier transition.

The Rebels’ boss Karl Marginson has described the strength of the league this season as “unbelievable” while Curzon are trying to replace the goals of Matt Warburton, who was lured to Salford. FC open at Chorley while the Nash host Kidderminster, and both will be happy with mid-table security again this term.

The same goes for STALYBRIDGE CELTIC. There was talk of a promotion challenge after appointing Liam Watson last summer but after a brush with relegation they are more cautious this summer, despite managing to build a stronger squad than they expected. They start away to Boston United.

National League North odds (Skybet): FC Halifax 9/2; AFC Fylde 6/1; Harrogate Town 9; ALTRINCHAM, STOCKPORT COUNTY 12; Boston, Darlington, Kidderminster, Nuneaton, SALFORD CITY 14; Tamworth 16; Alfreton, AFC Telford 20; Bradford PA, Chorley, FC UNITED 25; CURZON ASHTON 33; Gainsborough, STALYBRIDGE 40; Brackley 66; Gloucester, Worcester 80.