Twitter - @jamesAgrayson
We are close to the grand finale of the football season and as usual the NCEL Premier Division and Division One promotion races are exciting to say the least. Last year Retford United won the Premier title at a canter, but it is much closer this time around. The Division One promotion race went to the wire last year when Glasshoughton Welfare took second place after coming from 2-0 behind at AFC Emley to win on the last day to clinch promotion. Once again there are eight teams in a chance of gaining promotion.
1. Scarborough Athletic (68 pts)
The pressure is on manager Rudy Funk to secure promotion. The Scarborough fans want to see their team in the Evo Stik Leagues. They missed out last year, but with an experienced side, Funk has put Scarborough in the driving seat. Ollie Ryan, Tony Hackworth, Jimmy Beadle and Peter Davidson are just four players that have higher level experience and they should be able to see Scarborough over the line.
2. Brighouse Town (66 pts)
Paul Quinn’s young guns do have a game in hand of Scarborough so they can overtake and go top. Brighouse are hard workers and have a potent attack in Ernest Boafo and Tom Matthews who are scoring goals for fun. Brighouse suffered no FA Vase hangover after bowing out in the Isle of Wright and all they can do is keep going. If they can stay in the race, their game with Scarborough in late April could be a title decider.
3. Bridlington Town (63 pts)
As ever Bridlington remain in the hunt and hold two ace cards in having two games in hand. Mitch Cook’s team are experienced in title battles and so they are very real threat to Scarborough’s hopes. Bridlington cannot be written off.
1. Athersley Recreation (58 pts)
The newcomers to the NCEL set-up have been a revelation since joining in the summer. But looking at their team, Athersley have experienced guys such as Ryan White, who served Ossett Albion for years along with Jason Bentley. Their manager is Simon Houghton who deserves a bit of success as a manager in his own right after being so close to achieving promotion with Pontefract Collieries a few years ago. He has built an impressive squad at Athersley and I think they will hold their nerve and secure promotion.
2. Shirebrook Town (57 pts)
Shirebrook are the surprise package and have a great chance of promotion. Powerful striker Jason Bradley, formerly of Mansfield Town, has helped with the goals recently.
3. Albion Sports (54 pts)
Albion are near the top again, but the Horsfall Stadium side have heavy financial backing. The difference this year though from a pitch perspective is the introduction of former semi-pro striker Pav Singh as a coach. He has added know-how on the coaching side. But with players like Roy Stamer, who spent years with Farsley AFC, and goal machine Alex Cusack, Albion are one of the favourites.
4. Cleethorpes (54 pts) and 5. Knaresborough (53 pts)
Cleethorpes and Knaresborough have continued the theme of newcomers to NCEL doing well. Cleethorpes assent has helped with some crucial big wins over Grimsby Borough, Athersley and two victories over Askern Villa in recent weeks.
Knaresborough enjoyed a good start to life in NCEL and manager Brian Davey did say at the start of the season that he hoped to do well. Players of Football League calibre like Seb Carole have helped Knaresborough’s cause and they have an excellent chance of glory.
Other contenders – Teversal, Pontefract Collieries, AFC Emley