*BS*New doverathletic.com writer Nick Al-Shaikh looks at Whites’ opponents in the upcoming National League season in this club by club article, detailing their performances last season and giving fans an idea on who to keep an eye on in this campaign.*BF*
*IS**BS*ALDERSHOT TOWN FC*BF*
Club Nickname: The Shots
Distance from Crabble: 104 miles
Manager: Barry Smith
Stadium Capacity: 7100
League Position Last Season: 18th (Conference Premier)
Top Scorer Last Season: Brett Williams (15)*IF*
Aldershot are looking to improve on their 18th-place finish last season after earning 53 points. Former Dover Athletic Goalkeeper Phil Smith and ex-Rochdale FC defender Sean McGinty signed for the Shots in June, bolstering their defence.
The club have managed to secure the signature of promising youngster and former Fulham FC trainee Tom Richards, after he spent a few months on loan at the Hampshire outfit last season.
At the other end of the field, following his release from Luton Town, 25 year old Charlie Walker penned a deal to join the club in June, giving the Shots more options up front. Aldershot’s opening day fixture on the 8th August 2015 will be at home to Gateshead.
Club Nickname: The Robins
Distance from Crabble: 285
Manager: Lee Sinnott
Stadium Capacity: 6085
League Position Last Season: 17th (Conference Premier)
Top Scorer Last Season: Damian Reeves (18)*IF*
Having finished 4 places above the relegation zone in the 2014/15 season, Altrincham have spent the summer transfer period bringing in talent to strengthen their squad.
Montserrat international and former Port Vale and Carlisle United defensive midfielder Anthony Griffith joined on a one-year deal, hoping to impress his new club this season. The Robins begin the National League 2015/16 campaign hosting last season’s play-off Semi Finalists Forest Green Rovers.
Club Nickname: The Bluebirds
Distance from Crabble: 381 miles
Manager: Darren Edmondson
Stadium Capacity: 4414
League Position Last Season: Champions (Conference North)
Top Scorer Last Season: Andy Cook (23)*IF*
Having won promotion to the National League after successfully conquering the Conference North in the 2014/15 season, Barrow have not rested on their laurels during the summer transfer period.
In preparation for their hosting of Dover Athletic on the first day of the 2015/16 season, the Bluebirds have added former Sunderland AFC goalkeeper Joel Dixon to their books, obtaining his services in July on a one year contract.
French-born defensive midfielder Mamadou Fofana is another of Barrow’s summer signings, bringing a wealth of experience to a team that is looking to remain in the division this coming season.
*IS**BS*BOREHAM WOOD FC*BF*
Club Nickname: The Wood
Distance from Crabble: 97 miles
Manager: Ian Allinson
Stadium Capacity: 4502
League Position Last Season: 2nd-Conference South (Won Play-Off Final)
Top Scorer Last Season: Lee Angol (25)*IF*
Boreham Wood followed in Dover’s footsteps by winning the Conference South play-off Final to gain passage to the pinnacle of the Non-League pyramid. Having beaten Whitehawk 2-1 after extra time, Boreham Wood are eager to take another leaf out of Dover’s book and earn a respectable league position by the end of the season.
In July, the club confirmed the services of veteran striker Charlie MacDonald from last season’s Champions Barnet FC, where MacDonald managed 8 goals and 12 assists in 31 games for The Bees. FC Halifax Town are visitors to Meadow Park on day one of the National League 2015/16 season.
*IS**BS*BRAINTREE TOWN FC*BF*
Club Nickname: The Iron
Distance from Crabble: 111 miles
Manager: Danny Cowley
Stadium Capacity: 4222
League Position Last Season: 14th Conference Premier
Top Scorer Last Season: Jordan Cox/Dan Sparkes (10)*IF*
Braintree Town go into the new season with a solid mid-table position to build upon. Having finished in 14th place last time around, The Iron will be looking to kick-start their season with an away win at Chester FC on the opening day.
21 year old Cambridge United goalkeeper Will Norris has been brought to the Essex club by manager Danny Cowley on a season-long loan. Additionally, striker Michael Cheek has made the 14 mile trip up the A131 to join Braintree Town from Chelmsford FC, having experienced a fruitful 2014/15 campaign, scoring 32 goals in 66 games.
Club Nickname: The Ravens
Distance from Crabble: 67 miles
Manager: Mark Goldberg
Stadium Capacity: 6000
League Position Last Season: Champions (Conference South)
Top Scorer Last Season: Moses Ademola (16)*IF*
Former Dover man Moses Ademola helped Bromley to win automatic promotion to the National League after scoring 16 goals for the club. The Ravens won the Conference South by 2 points, losing 9 times all season.
The National League new-boys are relatively close to Crabble and will make the 67 mile trip during the festive season in December. The Whites have played the Ravens on a number of occasions in the Conference South, which at the time were fiercely contested matches.
Bromley spared no time in acquiring former Whites defender Sean Francis, which brings the current total of ex-Dover players in the squad to four (Adam Birchall, Moses Ademola, Ben May and Sean Francis).
Having made 42 league and cup appearances for League Two side Newport County last season, midfielder Lee Minshull was brought in alongside Francis to add extra quality to the South London side. Bromley host ex-league Wrexham on the opening day of the season.
*IS**BS*CHELTENHAM TOWN FC*BF*
Club Nickname: The Robins
Distance from Crabble: 181 miles
Manager: Gary Johnson
Stadium Capacity: 7266
League Position Last Season: 23rd (League Two)
Top Scorer Last Season: Wes Burns (4)*IF*
Having been relegated from League Two last season, Dover’s 2014/15 2nd Round FA Cup opponents Cheltenham Town will be looking to bounce back to League football this year.
The Robins have been busy members of the transfer market this summer, bringing in more than 10 new faces to Whaddon Road. Most notably of manager Gary Johnson’s summer additions are former Tottenham Hotspurs and Charlton Athletic midfielder Jack Munns and centre-forward Amari Morgan-Smith, who made 13 appearances for League One side Oldham Athletic last season.
The Robins are aiming to hit the ground running in their bid to win promotion and have been tied away against Lincoln City on day one.
Club Nickname: The Blues
Distance from Crabble: 306 miles
Manager: Steve Burr
Stadium Capacity: 5376
League Position Last Season: 12th (Conference Premier)
Top Scorer Last Season: John Rooney (11)*IF*
Having finished 21st in the 2013/14 season and 12th in the subsequent season, Chester will be seeking to improve even further on their relative success of last season.
The Blues go into the new National League season after a set of pre-season fixtures against Oldham Athletic, Rochdale Town and Liverpool U21’s. Like most other clubs in the League, Chester have sought to consolidate and build upon their existing squad in the season’s close.
This has seen 29 year old forward Ross Hannah and 28 year old centre midfielder Tom Shaw come through the door at the Deva Stadium from Grimsby Town and Alfreton Town respectively. As well as signings from other clubs, youth player Ben Greenop has broken into the 1st X1 squad for this season, a rare occurrence at all levels of football. Chester begin this term with a home fixture versus Braintree Town.
Club Nickname: The Spitfires
Distance from Crabble: 147 miles
Manager: Richard Hill
Stadium Capacity: 5192
League Position Last Season: 4th (Conference Premier)
Top Scorer Last Season: James Constable (19)*IF*
Eastleigh have settled well into the top of Non-League football, since being promoted to the League in the 2013/14 season, alongside Dover Athletic from the then-called Conference South.
With the help of 19 goals from James Constable last season, the Spitfires ranked 4th in the Conference Premier table and reached the Semi-Finals of the Play-Offs, being defeated by Grimsby Town. Under the management of Richard Hill, the club are looking to invest in the squad to make the positive changes necessary to go a step further and gain promotion to League Two.
With ex-Whites goalkeeper Ross Flitney among the players in the existing squad, the Hampshire-based club have signed former Queens Park Rangers and Barnet winger Lee Cook and also former AFC Bournemouth centre-back Joe Partington on a one year contract following a successful 5 month loan spell with the Spitfires last season. Eastleigh will line up against Southport on August 8th.
*IS**BS*FC HALIFAX TOWN*BF*
Club Nickname: The Shaymen
Distance from Crabble: 273 miles
Manager: Neil Aspin
Stadium Capacity: 10,061
League Position Last Season: 9th (Conference Premier)
Top Scorer Last Season: Lois Maynard (11)*IF*
Although Halifax Town finished 4 places lower than in the 2013/14 season, Dover’s opening fixture opponents from the 2014/15 season are looking to progress up the table this campaign.
Last season’s FA Cup hero Danny Maguire, who scored twice in three appearances against higher-league opposition, has been captured from Blyth Spartans in a flurry of signings made over the summer.
Alongside Maguire, Algerian midfielder Hamza Bencherif joins The Shaymen, having made 112 League appearances in his career and 42 appearances for fellow National League club Lincoln City last season.
Halifax will start another season in the National League away from home, visiting Boreham Wood on August 8th.
*IS**BS*FOREST GREEN ROVERS*BF*
Club Nickname: Rovers
Distance from Crabble: 190 miles
Manager: Adrian Pennock
Stadium Capacity: 5032
League Position Last Season: 5th (Conference Premier)
Top Scorer Last Season: Jon Parkin (25)*IF*
The 2015/16 seaon will be Forest Green Rovers’ 6th season in the 5th tier of English football. Last season, Rovers achieved 5th place and lined up in two Play-Off Semi Final games against eventual play-off winners Bristol Rovers. With veteran striker Jon Parkin scoring an impressive 25 goals (missing out on the Golden Boot to John Akinde by 6 goals), manager Adrian Pennock will not want his team to become complacent.
Pennock has recruited a number of players to add to his options at The New Lawn Stadium. Centre defender Darren Jones, who featured 43 times for Newport County last season, helping his team to keep 14 clean sheets in total for last season, joins the club.
Another addition from Newport County for the Rovers is 31 year old striker Aaron O’Connor, who notched 32 goals in 87 games while at the Welsh club from 2012-15. Forest Green Rovers’ first fixture of the new National League season will be away to Altrincham FC.
Club Nickname: The Tynesiders
Distance from Crabble: 346 miles
Manager: Malcolm Crosby
Stadium Capacity: 11,800
League Position Last Season: 10th (Conference Premier)
Top Scorer Last Season: Alex Rodman (10)*IF*
Gateshead start the new National League season away to Aldershot Town, hoping to repeat their efforts of coming in 10th place last year. James Marwood is among a group of signings made by manager Malcolm Crosby in the summer transfer window. Marwood returns to the Tynesiders for the second time in his career, having one previous stint in 2010.
Experience in the defence seems to be an area Crosby is looking to improve upon, and Gateshead have brought in 33 year old centre-defender Simon Ramsden to achieve just this. Ramsden made 199 English League appearances, 69 Scottish Premiership appearances and has played in 2 UEFA Champions League Qualifying matches for Motherwell FC. The Whites make the 700 mile round trip to the Tynesiders on the 3rd October, with the return fixture taking place on the 13thFebruary 2016.
*IS**BS*GRIMSBY TOWN FC*BF*
Club Nickname: The Mariners
Distance from Crabble: 255 miles
Manager: Paul Hurst
Stadium Capacity: 9062
League Position Last Season: 3rd (Conference Premier)
Top Scorer Last Season: Lenell John-Lewis (18)*IF*
Grimsby Town are one of the oldest clubs in the League, having been founded 137 years ago in 1878. The Mariners almost ended their 5 year exile from League Two last season, beating Eastleigh FC to reach the Play-Off Final at Wembley. Unfortunately for Grimsby, it was not to be their day as they succumbed to a 5-3 penalty shootout defeat to Bristol Rovers in a tightly fought final.
Paul Hurst might have a tough job to lift his players after going so close, but after having the summer off to reflect on the season now gone, the Mariners have shown they are looking to go the extra step with many comings and goings at Blundell Park.
One of those coming to the club is former Portsmouth FC and Aldershot Town full-back Danny East. Grimsby also sealed the signature of 34 year old midfielder Andy Monkhouse on a one year deal, joining on a free transfer from Bristol Rovers. The Mariners start their campaign off against Kidderminster Harriers who finished in 16th place last season.
Club Nickname: The Lions
Distance from Crabble: 275 miles
Manager: Mark Bower
Stadium Capacity: 3000
League Position Last Season: 5th (Conference North)
Top Scorer Last Season: Adam Boyes (24)*IF*
Guiseley AFC are newcomers to the National League, having competed in the Conference North in the 2014/15 season. The west Yorkshire club managed to win promotion via the play offs, coming back from 2-0 down against Chorley Town FC in the final to win the game 3-2. This will be the first time the Lions have competed at non-League’s highest level in their 106 year history and they will be eager to start well and stay in the division.
To help them in their cause are new recruits Will Hatfield, an attacking midfielder formerly of York City FC and FC Halifax Town, and defender Adam Lockwood, previously of Yeovil Town and Torquay United FC. Guiseley AFC kick off day one of the National League against Kent side Welling United.
*IS**BS*KIDDERMINSTER HARRIERS FC*BF*
Club Nickname: The Harriers
Distance from Crabble: 212 miles
Manager: Gary Whild
Stadium Capacity: 6250
League Position Last Season: 16th (Conference Premier)
Top Scorer Last Season: Jack Byrne (5)*IF*
Kidderminster Harriers begin this season having finished in 16th place last time around. Manager Gary Whild will be hoping his side can replicate their 2nd place finish in the 2012/13 season with additions to the squad this summer.
The Harriers have managed to secure the services of young 18 year old West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper Alex Palmer on loan. Ex-Wrexham AFC centre-midfielder Joe Clarke has signed on with the Harriers after 159 appearances for the Welsh club, having seen out the remainder of his contract in July. Kidderminster begin the new season at home against promotion hopefuls Grimsby Town.
*IS**BS*LINCOLN CITY FC*BF*
Club Nickname: The Imps
Distance from Crabble: 209 miles
Manager: Chris Moyses
Stadium Capacity: 10,120
League Position Last Season: 15th (Conference Premier)
Top Scorer Last Season: Ben Tomlinson (14)*IF*
Just a ten minute walk from the centre of the Roman-founded city, Lincoln City FC host National League new-boys Cheltenham Town FC on the opening day of the season. The Imps sat 15th at the end of the Conference Premier last time around, and will be hoping that summer additions can help them improve and drive the club to a higher league finish this season.
Matt Sparrow has been brought in to bring the club an experienced attacking midfielder. Sparrow made 350 appearances throughout his career, including 80 in the Championship.
*IS**BS*MACCLESFIELD TOWN FC*BF*
Club Nickname: The Silkmen
Distance from Crabble: 279 miles
Manager: John Askey
Stadium Capacity: 6355
League Position Last Season: 6th (Conference Premier)
Top Scorer Last Season: Waide Fairhurst (10)*IF*
Macclesfield missed out on last season’s play-offs by one point, coming in 6th place with 78 points. Despite this disappointment, the Silkmen will be aiming this season to go one better and compete in the knockout play-off fixtures. To accomplish this, Macclesfield have had former Bolton Wanderers trainee Jack Sampson join the ranks at the Cheshire club this summer.
The 22 year old striker made his England under 19 debut in 2011 and has notched up 72 League Two appearances and 15 Premier League Reserve games in his short career so far. The Silkmen open this season with an away trip to Devon side Torquay United.
Club Nickname: The Sandgrounders
Distance from Crabble: 313 miles
Manager: Paul Carden
Stadium Capacity: 6008
League Position Last Season: 19th (Conference Premier)
Top Scorer Last Season: Richard Brodie (13)*IF*
The Sandgrounders finished 19th in last season’s competition, two positions above the relegation zone. The club will be hoping to replicate a previous league position managed in the 2011 /12 season where they came 7th.
Many new players have joined the ranks of Southport this summer, such as former Celtic and Colchester United central defender Josh Thompson, who is still a developing player at the age of 24, with 18 Scottish Premiership appearances to his name.
Experienced right-sided defender Andrew Wright also joins the Merseyside club at the age of 30, having made 179 Football League appearances.
Southport face a challenging opening to the season at home against last season’s Play-Off Semi-finalists Eastleigh.
*IS**BS*TORQUAY UNITED FC*BF*
Club Nickname: The Gulls
Distance from Crabble: 261 miles
Manager: Paul Cox
Stadium Capacity: 6200
League Position Last Season: 13th (Conference Premier)
Top Scorer Last Season: Ryan Bowman (13)*IF*
Torquay United managed a respectable 13th position last season, finishing with 61 points. The Gulls have strengthened their squad with several comings and goings at Plainmoor this summer. One of the players leaving the Devon side was towering 6ft 4 inch centre-forward Duane Ofori-Acheampong, who made the trip to Crabble to sign for the Whites in July.
German goalkeeper Fabian Spiess joins the Gulls on a free transfer after playing for Notts County at youth level, alongside 20 year old former Portsmouth FC left-back Dan Butler, who has spent most of his playing time at Aldershot Town on loan.
Torquay’s opening match of the season sees Macclesfield Town make the journey to Plainmoor.
*IS**BS*TRANMERE ROVERS FC*BF*
Club Nickname: Rovers
Distance from Crabble: 312 miles
Manager: Gary Brabin
Stadium Capacity: 16,567
League Position Last Season: 24th (League Two)
Top Scorer Last Season: Max Power (10)*IF*
Tranmere are another former League side to drop down a division, following their 24th place finish in the 2014/15 season in League Two. The Rovers will be among the favourites to secure a promotion place and have shown their intent ahead of the season’s start by obtaining the services of more than 10 new players at Prenton Park. Among them is former Scotland Under 21, Sheffield United and Preston North End goalkeeper Iain Turner.
Centre forward Andy Mangan joins the Rovers after notching up over 100 League Two appearances and over 50 National League appearances in his career so far. The former Fleetwood Town and Shrewsbury Town striker certainly has the experience needed to be a successful forward in this division. Tranmere begin this season against Woking FC.
*IS**BS*WELLING UNITED FC*BF*
Club Nickname: The Wings
Distance from Crabble: 64 miles
Manager: Loui Fazakerley
Stadium Capacity: 4000
League Position Last Season: 20th (Conference Premier)
Top Scorer Last Season: Dominic Vose (5)*IF*
Dover’s Boxing Day and New Year’s Day opponents last season and in the coming season narrowly escaped relegation last season on goal difference with a 20th place finish. With relatively newly appointed manager Loui Fazakerley at the helm, the Gulls will be hoping to achieve a more comfortable position in the table this year.
One way the club has attempted to achieve this is by putting together a young but talented squad of players. One of these young talents is defender Harry Osborne, who came through the Charlton Athletic youth academy and already spent a few month on loan at the Wings after the January transfer window. Osborne made the move permanent to sign on a free transfer.
Another promising player who spent two spells on loan at Welling from Crystal Palace has also signed permanently for the Wings. The tall 6 foot 5 inch centre back, Michael Chambers, impressed while at the club and will play a key role in the club’s defence, even at the young age of 21. Welling begin the new campaign against Guiseley.
Club Nickname: The Cardinals
Distance from Crabble: 93 miles
Manager: Garry Hill
Stadium Capacity: 6036
League Position Last Season: 7th (Conference Premier)
Top Scorer Last Season: Scott Rendell (24)*IF*
Woking finished strongly in the 2014/15 season, claiming 7th position with 76 points. Having been within 3 points of a play-off position, the Cardinals will be aiming to take the next step and reach the play-off positions this year.
In preparation for their first fixture tie away to Tranmere Rovers, Woking have signed 27 year old goalkeeper Nick Hamann. German-born Hamann spent time with Chelsea FC as a youngster and made 38 National League appearances for Braintree last season. Former Barnet FC Centre back Ismail Yakubu signed for the Cardinals on a one year deal, following his release from Newport County FC. Yakubu will prove a valuable asset to the club this season, having made 160 and 132 appearances for Barnet and Newport respectively.
Club Nickname: The Dragons
Distance from Crabble: 286 miles
Manager: Gary Mills
Stadium Capacity: 10,771
League Position Last Season: 11th (Conference Premier)
Top Scorer Last Season: Louis Moult (16)*IF*
The oldest club in Wales, Wrexham, had a relatively successful season last year. The Dragons faced Premier League side Stoke City FC in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup and managed to improve on their 17th place finish in the 2013/14 season by 6 positions. The Welsh club have penned the signature of former Accrington Stanley striker James Gray, who comes after making 2 Northern Ireland Under 21 and 77 League Two appearances.
Another new face brought in to potentially partner with Gray is 20 year old Joel Logan. The striker made 15 appearances for Rochdale FC in League One and played in their 3rd Round FA Cup tie against Nottingham Forest.
Wrexham have a potentially tricky start to the season, with an away trip Bromley on the 8th August.