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Will Anyone Win The National League Title?

With the statement today from the National League declaring it is to suspend the competition indefinitely due to the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic it begs the question whether the season will actually be completed.


Rather than debating the various ways the season could be concluded I have taken the hypothetical view that it WILL finish at some point, allowing us to take a closer look at the National League promotion race, the title contenders and possible outcomes.


It is still mathematically possible for anyone in the top half of the table to win the title but in reality there are probably only 3 or 4 real contenders. In this case I will be looking at Barrow, Harrogate, Notts County, Yeovil and Boreham Wood.


As it stands Barrow continue to hold top spot, which they have done for half of the season, however with the Bluebirds experiencing a slight drop in form in recent weeks Harrogate and Notts County find themselves in good form and closing the gap.


Vanarama National League Table 14 March 2020

We'll start at the top with Barrow and work our way down to Boreham Wood.


When Barrow faced Aldershot away in their 10th league game of the season they found themselves 21st in the league with just 7 points from 9 games and without a win in 4 games.


A 2-1 win over Aldershot saw them go on a run that has seen them lose just 3 games out of 28 played suggesting they are firm favourites for the title.


However, two defeats and a draw in the last six games has seen Barrow drop to 9th in the last 6 form table. Add to that the suspension of top marksman Scott Quigley who is out for the next 3 games following a straight red in the defeat at home to Notts County there is evidence to suggest a wobble could be on the cards.


The table below shows the teams Barrow have left to play both home and away and that clubs win, lose and draw ratio's for the last 10 games as well as that of Barrows.


The teams are not in match date order but ranked from top to bottom based on games unbeaten, i.e. won and drawn, which should indicate the kind of form that team is currently in and therefore the difficulty of that tie for Barrow.


As you can see Harrogate should provide Barrow with the sternest test whereas of all the teams left to play Yeovil's form is probably the least threatening.


Stockport, Woking and Wrexham at home are games Barrow would hope to be winning and to some extent Chesterfield. Harrogate, Barnet and Halifax should be a little more challenging.


The total number of wins, draws and losses for Barrow's remaining opponents combined works out as W 41% | D 27% | L 32%.


Moving onto Harrogate who have been in a rich run of form over the last couple of months losing just 2 of the last 13 games. Town will be looking to build on their great recent form having recently strengthen their front line with the signing of frontman Aaron Martin from Guiseley who has netted 16 goals for the National League North outfit this season


Harrogate's form for the last 10 games is currently second to none having won 7, drawn 2 and lost just 1 of those games.


Notts County, Barrow and Barnet offer the biggest threat in their remaining games.


Harrogate's opponents combined ratio's are more evenly spread as W 37% | D 31% | L 32%



Notts County will be confident of launching a final assault on the league after 4 straight wins on the bounce including a 2-0 win away at Barrow and including the FA Trophy win over Aveley has scored 16 goals and conceded just 2 in the last 5 games.

Harrogate offer the biggest threat to Notts of their remaining games however that game is at Meadow Lane where Notts have only lost two games in all competitons so far this season.


Of the other games Barnet, Ebbsfleet and Stockport could cause problems.


Notts face 4th place Yeovil at home in the last game of the season and on current form would be hoping for a home win.


Notts County's opponents combined ratio's are W 38% | D 26% | L 36%.


After an indifferent start Yeovil have spent most of the season so far in the play off places including a couple of weeks in first place and a good spell in 2nd. However recent form has seen them drop back down to 6th place before two wins moved them back up to 4th.


Yeovil have a tricky run in with some difficult games against Notts County, Barrow, Barnet and Ebbsfleet who currently find themselves on a good run of form. However, all of those games are at home except for Notts.


Eastleigh and Maidenhead look like the easy games but they will be away from home.


Combined opponent ratio's W 39% | D 28% | L 33%.



Finally Boreham Wood who have become a bit of a surprise package in the National League this season have lost just 2 of their last 20 league games which has seen them comfortably secure a top 7 spot.

On the face of it The Wood have statistically got the easiest run in of the top 5 with Bromley and Chorley not offering up much resistance in the last 6 games.


Halifax, Chesterfield and Ebbsfleet and to some extent Dagenham are likely to provide the most threat.


The combined opponent ratio's for Boreham Wood are W 33% | D 36% | L 41%.



So where does all this leave us? Assuming the season was allowed to complete we can probably throw recent form out of the window as there will be so many other factors to consider especially around squad strength and player availability.


Barrow would still have to play a third of their remaining matches without their top scorer who is yet to start his 3 match ban after the sending off in the defeat at home to Notts.


Harrogate will still be smarting after allowing Bromley a share of the spoils in their last game in front of the live TV cameras.


Notts will be desperate to see the season out having won their last 5 games in all competitions and not to mention the return of key players from injury.


Boreham Wood will harbor aspirations of a top 3 finish and despite dropping to 20th in the last 6 form table Yeovil have found some form again winning their last two games.


In the past I have projected where teams might finish based on season and recent form together with xPPG and xGD. If the season does resume at some point it's fair to say recent form probably goes out of the window and we end up with an 8/9 game race for the title and play off places, however, for those that didin't see it last time here are those final league table projections following the last round of games played.


Based on those calculations Barrow, Harrogate and Notts Co will be fighting it out for the title and are most likely to finish as the top 3. Yeovil, Boreham Wood and Halifax should hang on to a play off spot and Stockport will be under pressure from Barnet for that final spot in the play off's.


Of course for the time being this is more hypothetical than anything else but it does prove just how competitive and in some cases unpredictable the National League has been this season.


To finish off I've created a couple of visuals here you might find interesting. The first one shows how the National League's top 7 clubs have progressed in the league round by round for the season so far.

What you can see from this is just how up and down the season has been for all of the clubs who now find themselves in the top 7. Even Barrow had a dreadful start, not really getting going until after the first 10-12 games.


Both Notts and Boreham Wood have shown a steady more organic progression and Harrogate in the last 15 games or so have managed to find title winning form and Yeovil have somehow managed to spend the last 30 games in the play off places.


The next visual shows how the top 7 have ranked between themselves during the season which provides a slightly different look at how the clubs have compared to each other throughout the season so far.

I don't know about you but personally I would love to see the league being allowed to complete. There is so much still at stake for so many clubs and of course the fans that a null and void cancellation at this point would be a travesty.


That said the safety and well being of everyone is paramount at this challenging time and hopefully we will begin to see an end to this horrible situation in the not too distant future.


Stay Safe,

Richard





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