So the Phoney War is finally over - the campaign begins for real but how will Borough fare? Here’s a look at the Conference South contenders:
Eastleigh, Dover Athletic, Ebbsfleet United, Sutton United, Whitehawk
Eastleigh spent heavily last season – with a playing budget possibly five times as high as Borough’s – but spluttered early on and were too late for promotion.
They may get it right this time. Dover have the budget but possibly not the stability of playing squad. Ebbsfleet have the new Kuwaiti investment which almost came to Priory Lane, but their manager is unproven and they may need time to bed in the new signings.
Sutton finished last season strongly and have bought in the likes of Jamie Slabber and former Borough striker Jamie Taylor.
And they have held on to one of the Conference South’s brightest jewels, Harry Beautyman.
Don’t rule them out. Whitehawk have an improbable business model, with heavy sponsorship and low crowds, but their squad is full – possibly over-full - with strong and experienced signings and they will be in the play-offs if they keep the team together.
Eastbourne Borough, Chelmsford City, Bath City, Boreham Wood
Chelmsford have high hopes but a record of narrow failure in this division.
They surprisingly switched managers in the close season but they have lost key players and may need time.
Boreham Wood are solid, consistent, hard to beat and well managed, and were not far from a play-off place last time. Bath City are short of funds but strong on experience, and will do well if they can pick up points away from Twerton Park. And Borough?
Yes, Widdrington’s men are fitter and more motivated than a year ago and the “sixth to ninth” places look like a realistic target this season.
Weston Super Mare, Farnborough, Havant and Waterlooville, Bishops Stortford
Every game at Weston is a long-haul challenge for opponents, and the “other Seagulls” looked a surprisingly lively outfit last season.
They can build on that. Havant are the league’s perennial under-achievers, but they are better managed than a year ago and if they replace top scorer Ollie Palmer – departed to Mansfield – they could be a force. Farnborough, often appearing to be the longest-running soap opera in football, have lurched from crisis to crisis and their finances are a mystery, but on the field they could get some results.
Bishops Stortford have moved down from the physically strong Conference North, and that experience will serve them well.
Looking over their Shoulders
Dorchester Town, Bromley, Tonbridge Angels, Hayes and Yeading United, Basingstoke
Each of these clubs is working on fairly small resources.
Bromley were awful last season and lucky to survive, and they will rely on owner Mark Goldberg’s dug-out skills as well as his backing.
Tonbridge have lost important players but should survive if they replace them. Hayes and Yeading still face the soulless prospect of “home” games played at Woking, and their playing budget is limited.
Dorchester over-achieved a bit last year and I cannot see them maintaining that.
Basingstoke do have some new faces in the squad but they still look a bottom-half team.
Not Waving but Drowning
Concord Rangers, Gosport Borough, Maidenhead United, Staines Town
Every promoted team comes up with a bit of impetus, but that may not be enough to keep modest outfits such as Concord and Gosport out of the bottom four.
In Johnson Hippolyte – “Drax” to everyone in the game - Maidenhead have one of the most sincere and affable managers in this division, but his team is limited.
And Staines have flirted with relegation in the last couple of seasons: how close to the trapdoor can they tread?