With title winners priced at 50/1 and 22/1 in two of the last four seasons, the Blue Square Bet North has been profitable for bookmakers and consequently difficult for punters to weigh up. The market for this season is pointing clearly at two teams at two of the shortest pre-season prices we have seen in a long while.
Keep in mind that Fleetwood Town were 11/2 favourites in the 2009-2010 season, when they could only finish second, to then realise that FC Halifax Town and Chester FC have been backed almost to the exclusion of other clubs to sit at 3/1 and 7/2 respectively. There is then a huge gap to third favourites Gainsborough Trinity at 8/1.
We are one of only two bookmakers to have Halifax as favourites ahead of Chester. Our reasoning for this, on top of big liabilities, is that newly-promoted sides usually need a season to adjust before fighting for a place in the Blue Square Bet Premier. Chester have made good signings and do look equipped to challenge but that extra experience of the division that Neil Aspin’s side possess could be the difference. Halifax look solid across most positions especially up front with Gareth Seddon who is prolific at this level.
Losing play-off finalists Gainsborough have performed so well under Steve Housham since he stepped up to take over from Brian Little, we can definitely expect them to challenge again. Next in the betting are last year’s runners-up Guiseley who are improving year-on-year. They are 9/1 this time, compared to 12/1 last year and despite having a slightly weaker squad, will no doubt provide some interest for each-way purposes at least.
Altrincham’s first season back in the North (after six seasons in the Premier) resulted in an eighth place finish. Their problems were away from home against their fellow top-half sides where they took just four points from a possible 30! Their signings from 2011-2012 champions Hyde FC and the re-signing of Damian Reeves could give them the backbone to challenge and I believe they will (at the very least) better last season’s efforts.
Bishop’s Stortford finished last season incredibly well and we are keeping them at a relatively short price of 12/1 as they look to ease the problems of the geographical switch for a second season. Worcester City at 22/1 could be dark-horses as they have slowly improved over the last two seasons to take 16th and then seventh place. Of the newly-promoted sides we have Brackley the shortest at 10/1. The bottom end of the table produced an incredible final few weeks last season as the gap between relegation and mid-table was paper thin as 13 points separated Altrincham in eighth down to Hinckley United in 20th who eventually earned a reprieve.
FC Halifax Town.
Gainsborough Trinity, Guiseley, Altrincham, Chester FC.
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