Maidenhead United, Guiseley and Solihull Moors are rated as the outsiders for the title at odds of 6/4, 6/5 and 8/11 to finish in the bottom four. The Magpies are Vanarama South title winners and play at non-league's top table for the first time in their 146 year history - they only let in 29 goals in their 42 games played last season and scored 93 which was mightily impressive - but many promoted sides have shown over the past few years the step up to the National division is a big one.
Guiseley and Solihull Moors were fighting relegation for much of last season ending up in 20th and 16th places in the end. The Yorkshire stayed up by just one point from York City. The Moors will have been very happy with their showing in their first season in the top division especially as they lost their manager in November when Marcus Bignot moved to League Two side Grimsby Town. Liam McDonald took over from Bignot and at only 31 already has much managerial experience having spent three seasons with Redditch United and a short period with Hednesford Town between May and November last year. This week they had a great victory at home to Stoke City u23s via goals from Oladapo Afolayan (2), Simeon Maye and Shomari Barnwell.
Guiseley will have to improve their form on their travels as they only recorded four from twenty-three games last season.
Boreham Wood (80/1 for the title), Bromley (100/1) and Torquay United (150/1) make up the other predicted strugglers who will be looking to prove the bookies wrong.
Since relegation from the football league in 2014 the Devon club have finished in 13th, 18th and 17th positions with only a strong run of form over the final weeks of the last two seasons saving them from another demotion. Will they struggle again this season? They face a really tough opening fixture at home to title favourites Tranmere Rovers.
Saturday 5th August Opening Fixtures
AFC Fylde v Boreham Wood
Bromley v Eastleigh
Dagenham & Redbridge v Barrow
FC Halifax Town v Aldershot Town
Guiseley v Ebbsfleet United
Hartlepool United v Dover Athletic
Maidstone United v Maidenhead United
Solihull Moors v Chester
Sutton United v Leyton Orient - 12.30pm
Torquay United v Tranmere Rovers
Woking v Gateshead
Wrexham v Macclesfield Town
Last season The Cold End predicted the following -
MAIDSTONE UNITED will finish the highest of the promoted sides.
- Incorrect! Sutton United pipped them by goal difference - The U's finished in 12th place on a -2 GD and 58 points with The Stones in 14th on the same points on a -16 GD.
NORTH FERRIBY UNITED will finish in the bottom six.
- Correct! United finished bottom of the table.
GUISELEY who stayed up by just one point last season will also finish in the bottom six.
- Correct! Guiseley finished in 20th place narrowly avoiding relegation for the second successive season.
CHRISTIAN ASSOMBALONGA scored 31 in 34 appearances for Ryman Division One (North) Waltham Abbey last season - The Abbotts struggled towards the bottom of the table finishing in 21st (of 24 teams). Although he has moved up the pyramid I predict the 25 year old will score many goals for his new team Dagenham & Redbridge.
- Incorrect! Made only three starts for the club and ended up joining Billericay Town in January where he left over the summer months.
TRANMERE ROVERS will lose less than the 12 games they did last season and make a real challenge for the title.
- Correct! Only lost 9 games and were runner's up
So with this in mind I will make four predictions for the forthcoming campaign-
1) AFC Fylde will finish the highest of the promoted sides followed closely by Ebbsfleet United.
2) James Alabi scored 20+ goals for Chester FC last season who struggled towards the bottom of the table finishing in 19th place. He will score more for title favourite's Tranmere Rovers and may also finish as the division's top scorer.
3) Leyton Orient will win more games than they lose.
4) Hartlepool United won't finish in the top seven play-off places.