Whoa.. we’re halfway there: Slough Town play-offs? Binfield beat the drop?

David Nyarko, Johnny Goddard and Liam Tack. Photo's by Dan Newberry, George Beck and Rob Mack.
David Nyarko, Johnny Goddard and Liam Tack. Photo's by Dan Newberry, George Beck and Rob Mack.

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The men’s non-league football season in 2023/24 has there or thereabouts reached the halfway stage, so at Football in Berkshire we thought we’d take a look at where things lie and what the big narratives are likely to be for the first half of 2024.

For anyone wondering, we hope to complete the women’s football division’s and Step 5 and 6 Combined Counties League over the next few days.

Vanarama National League

Play-off possibility for Slough Town?

Slough Town have been on a brilliant run in the Vanarama National League South this season. Johnny Goddard is flying, there are goals across the team and Scott Davies is not only managing the Rebels – but scoring at will from free-kicks like peak Cristiano Ronaldo.

When Grimsby Town eventually knocked Slough out of the FA Cup at the second attempt, the Rebels weren’t in the best of shape in the league. The start of the season had seen six defeats with a solitary win over Weston-super-Mare in the middle. The post Grimsby-bounce though has been nothing short of excellent.

Slough Town's Scott Davies. Photo: George Beck.
Slough Town’s Scott Davies. Photo: George Beck.

You wouldn’t bet against a shot at the play-offs but Davies’ side need to bounce back quickly from the unexpected defeat to Weymouth. There are 20 games to play and 60 points on offer.

At the time of writing Slough have 36 points, last season the bar for the final play-off place was high at 74 points (as it was at the bottom with Hungerford Town finishing last despite amassing 40 points). In the summer of 2022 it was 59 points.

Eight wins would get the Rebels around the 60 point mark so games against struggling Havant & Waterlooville, Dover Athletic, Weston and and Eastbourne Borough will be crucial in any push for the end of season jamboree – as will games against the division’s top sides with leaders Yeovil Town a glaring opportunity (twice) in the calendar.

Maidenhead United need goals

Maidenhead United are a law unto themselves when it comes to surviving in the top tier of the National League. This time last season the Magpies looked safe as well (you may remember it went down to the final day), but even a cursory glance at the table shows their 14th place (32 points) is just five above Ebbsfleet United in the last relegation spot (21st – 27 points).

The Magpies are 10th in the form guide over the last 10 matches, losing just one of those but it will come as no surprise to regulars at York Road that Alan Devonshire’s men are amongst the three lowest scoring sides in the division – tied with Woking on 28 goals and bottom side Kidderminster Harriers on 20.

You can always count on a Devonshiring though and York City, Oldham Athletic, Southend United, Hartlepool United, Rochdale, Barnet and Chesterfield amongst others all lie in wait.

FootballWebPages predicted final Vanarama National League table

  • 16th Maidenhead United (52 points)

FootballWebPages predicted final Vanarama National League South table

  • 13th Slough Town (62 points)

Pitching In Southern League

Away form the kicker for Bracknell Town’s play-off hopes

Bracknell Town’s away form is the only reason the Robins aren’t dead certs for the Premier Division South play-offs – losing away again at the weekend to the division’s bottom side Didcot Town.

New boss Jordan Ive has been unable to arrest the travelling form that has seen Bracknell lose nine and draw two of their 13 away games this season. It might be as simple as playing at home and training on artificial surfaces, it might be something else – it hasn’t affected the team in such a way in previous seasons though.

Ive has managed to bring back crowd favourites Gary Abisogun and most recently Anthony Cheshire on loan, but looking back at previous seasons, 78 and 79 points have been needed to reach the play-offs.

51 points remain on offer for Bracknell this season, they currently have 36 – so unless the bar drops at the top of the table, Ive’s side don’t have much more room for manouvre.

Hungerford Town’s play off rivals have games in hand

Danny Robinson’s Hungerford Town look in better shape for a play-off place but have played more games than most teams around them. It’s going to be tight for the Crusaders who could do with their home form matching their away efforts.

On the positive side, only Merthyr Town have scored more goals – but like the Crusaders they have also played more games than most teams around them.

FootballWebPages predicted final Southern League Premier Division South table

  • 6th Hungerford Town (70 points)
  • 9th Bracknell Town (63 points)

Pitching In Isthmian League

Can Binfield find a way to tunnel out of trouble?

It could be the biggest story in the men’s non-league season. Binfield have made a change in the dugout and are showing signs of a revival.

New boss Ross Weatherstone has brought in one of the Combined Counties League’s top scorers in Tyler D’Cruz and is expected to bring in further recruits.

The maths are simple – 20 games to play, 60 points available with games in hand on every team in the division except Northwood.

Tyler D'Cruz. Photo: Robert Mack.
Tyler D’Cruz. Photo: Robert Mack.

It is harder to know what a reasonable points target would be – the division tends to change size year on year with clubs being moved in to it based on late appeals – but third bottom is the immediate target and in recent seasons 34 – 36 points has been enough.

For Binfield, currently on four points – that equates to a minimum of 10 wins.

Late charge not out of the question for Thatcham Town

Further up the field eight points separates Thatcham Town (34 points) and Ascot United (26 points). The Kingfishers have continued last season’s upward trajectory – Yashwa Romeo’s side could certainly make a charge for the play-offs. The form guide shows them in sixth for the last six games.

63 and 70 points has been enough for fifth place and the final play-off spot the last two years, but as with predicting what number Binfield need to hit – it’s difficult to guage with the number of teams changing each season. However if Muhamadou Ceesay and ex Reading FC striker David Nyarko keep scoring for Thatcham then it’s not beyond the realms of possibility.

Ascot United have the fire power to head up

For Ascot United, it’s been a bit more of an up and down season. Losing Brendan Matthew would be a blow to any side but the Yellas have Taylor Morgan and Ben Harris in the building and new signing Liam Tack managed a brace on his debut.

The Yellas are certainly not in any danger of going back down, but recent form will need to turn quickly if they are to finish above mid-table – a finish itself there would be no shame in as a club going through it’s maiden season playing step four football.

FootballWebPages predicted final Isthmian League South Central Division One table

  • 8th Thatcham Town (64 points)
  • 13th Ascot United (45 points)
  • 21st Binfield (11 points)

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