The National League Season Review Part Five: December

By Sam Elliott

Each week during the summer break we will be reviewing the season month-by-month. Let's whet the appetite for August with a look back at what happened in the December of last season in all three divisions.

The rumours were true and within months of him arriving at Wrexham, Sam Ricketts was confirmed as Shrewsbury Town’s new manager.

It was a dagger through the heart of Red Dragons everywhere. After all they had seen Dean Keates leave for Walsall earlier in the year.

Veteran coach Graham Barrow took over - but said he didn’t want the job before changing his mind.

John Still did the same. He retired after leaving Barnet but was soon back.

Chesterfield also made a big call - Martin Allen left with the club winless since the second weekend of August.

Richard Money was picked to revive Hartlepool while Maidstone decided already that it wasn’t working under Harry Wheeler.

Leyton Orient ended 2018 on top of the table, with Wrexham not far behind.

But the story of the month was Salford City’s slide - they lost four games back-to-back, a run which in the end killed off the club’s title chances.

They lost to Chesterfield, Dagenham and Barrow but a 5-1 hammering at Wrexham was a huge wake up call for the close season title favourites.

National League North:

Hereford claimed the spoils against Alfreton Town – James Roberts’ giving the Bulls their first league win since mid-August leaving boss Marc Richards delighted.

Lee Fowler brought about an end to his spell as Nuneaton Borough boss but Jimmy Ginnelly’s appointment had Liberty Way feeling more positive about the future, but the escape act was becoming increasingly unlikely.

Chester were beginning to look like champions and were boosted by Akwasi Asante’s superb debut hat-trick. The club then broke their transfer-fee record to make his loan from Tamworth a permanent one as the Blues looked to keep the heat on.

Blyth Spartans continued to climb the league with wins over Ashton United, Nuneaton Borough, York City and Chorley. Alun Armstrong’s men were beginning to believe in a late play-off push.

Stockport County would begin to stamp their claim for silverware. A win against Spennymoor Town early in the month would set them on their way to an incredible 16-game unbeaten league run but the Hatters still had a mountain to climb with Chorley and Bradford (Park Avenue) making a break for it at the top with a six-point cushion from third.

National League South:

There was some telling movement in the year’s final month - and a sign of things to come.

Having lead the table six weeks before, Billericay suddenly found themselves ten points adrift by the end of 2018.

Something didn’t seem right as veteran midfielder Jamie O’Hara left but he would be back before long.

There was a new team at the top as Torquay ended a challenging year in the right way.

Gary Johnson’s team won six on the spin as victories over Dulwich, Dartford, Welling, Hampton, Truro and Gloucester gave their fans at very happy New Year.

Billericay’s neighbours Concord Rangers were starting to make some noise and found themselves sitting third as we said hello to 2019.

Oxford City were up into the play-offs as Chelmsford’s charge was starting to cause concern for the other promotion contenders.

Alan Dowson’s Woking were still going strong and they also had an early January FA Cup tie with Premier League Watford to look forward to over the holidays.

Where next?

National League Annual General Meeting Headlines The National League has concluded its AGM at Celtic Manor.
It’s Altrincham For Arnold As Winger Returns To Football Nathan Arnold is hoping to bring his promotion know-how to Altrincham after they won the race for the winger.