Vanarama National League North Season Graded: How did each team perform?
York City were crowned play-off champions with a win over Boston United. (Photo by Emma Simpson/Getty Images)
  • AFC Fylde

AFC Fylde were heading into their second consecutive National League North season after relegation from the National League and promotion was clearly the aim. A strong first half of the season, only losing once at home in the process, saw them see in the new year second placed in the table. An FA Cup elimination at the Second Round Qualifying, and an FA Trophy defeat to National League Solihull Moors wouldn't have worried Coasters fans with the league being the key to a successful season.

In the second half of the season, their away form saw them slip down to third in the table, however this still guaranteed them a home Play-Off Semi Final. Boston United defeated favourites for the fixture Kidderminster Harriers in the eliminator and surprised the league in the semis too, as Fylde lost 2-0 to the Pilgrims at Mill Farm.

With new manager James Rowe coming in in March following the sacking of Jim Bentley, the former Chesterfield and Gloucester City manager has started to build a team capable of promotion with Kyle Morrison and Connor Barratt big signings from fellow National League North sides Leamington and Kettering Town.

Result of the Season: Gateshead 0-3 AFC Fylde 05/02/22

Grade: B+

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You could say it's been a rocky season for AFC Telford United. The season started full of hope as the Bucks won their first game convincingly over promotion hopefuls Chorley but then had to wait until mid-October for their second win which came against Farsley Celtic. By that time, their first managerial change had already taken place as the board could no longer 'Trust the Process', Gavin Cowan was sacked on 5th October to be replaced by Dennis Greene in temporary charge. 

Greene's temporary spell ended on 21 November with Telford sitting bottom of the league on 9 points with 14 games played. Warrington Town manager Paul Carden took the helm and despite being rooted to the bottom of the table at Christmas, results started to go their way - like a 2-2 draw at Leamington despite being 2 goals down with as many minutes left.

A stronger end to the season which saw them go 6 unbeaten in March and April put the season down to the final day where safety was secured with a 1-1 draw at home to York City. A tough season, but they managed to see it out despite relegation looking certain at times.

Result of the Season: AFC Telford United 5-0 Darlington 22/01/22

Grade: E

  • Alfreton Town

A super run towards the end of the season saw Alfreton Town jump from sixteenth to ninth - two places outside of the play-offs in the final month of the season. Billy Heath certainly got the Reds playing in the final month and an unbeaten run of nine games put the play-off positions agonisingly close, but they couldn't reach them - finishing two points outside.

Some standout results came in that run with wins over Kidderminster Harriers, York City and Chorley all helping to propel the Impact Arena side back up to the top half of the table. 

Result of the Season: Kidderminster Harriers 0-1 Alfreton Town 05/04/22

Grade: B

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  • Blyth Spartans

Only occupying the relegation spot for two weeks this season, Blyth Spartans fans can think of that as an improvement from the last two seasons in which they looked up at the rest of the league from that bottom spot. 

Spartans appointed Terry Mitchell in November when they were sitting bottom of the table and his spirit lifted the team to a superb couple of results over Christmas as they beat fellow NE sides Spennymoor Town and eventual league champions Gateshead in less than a week. Points against play-off chasing teams continued with wins against Southport, Chorley and Curzon Ashton mixed in with draws against the likes of Kidderminster Harriers and Boston United.

It certainly seems that Mitchell has steadied the ship at Croft Park and Blyth will be hopeful that next season will be the one that they do not have to worry about relegation.

Result of the Season: Blyth Spartans 2-1 Gateshead 02/01/22

Grade: C-

  • Boston United

The season ended in heartbreaking fashion for Boston United as they managed to reach the play-off final but lost out on promotion to the National League at the final hurdle just as they did in 2020 against Altrincham with York City defeating them this time.

Danny Elliot's goals were key to the Pilgrims' success this season as they did the double over York and beat Brackley Town and manager Paul Cox's former side Kettering Town during the course of the regular season. In the play-offs, United finished 7th so had to overcome an eliminator at Aggborough against Kidderminster Harriers and a semi-final at AFC Fylde before falling at the final hurdle. 

Result of the Season: AFC Fylde 0-2 Boston United 15/05/22

Grade: A

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  • Brackley Town

Everything looked to add up this season for Brackley Town to go up this season whether that be through the play-offs or directly as champions as they did find themselves leading the pack for a lot of the campaign. Having the best defence in the whole of the English pyramid helped as the Saints only conceded 23 goals in their 42 games. 

It did, however, end in heartbreak as after a poor run of form - winless in the last seven of the regular season - they were knocked out of the play-off semi final by York City in Northamptonshire. Kevin Wilkin will want to dust off his side and hope that he can retain the majority of his squad in order to challenge for the title again next season.

Result of the Season: Brackley Town 1-0 York City 09/04/22

Grade: A

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  • Bradford (Park Avenue)

Bradford (Park Avenue) fans will be relieved that they did not spend any of this season on the bottom of the table and only dipped down into 21st place for two weeks as they had a relatively comfortable season at The Horsfall.

An 18th place finish, 9 points clear of the bottom was a good points haul for the team hailing from the new UK City of Culture with the clear highlight in the season being a 3-0 win at the LNER Community Stadium against York City in an all Yorkshire clash in January.

Result of the Season: York City 0-3 Bradford (Park Avenue) 25/01/22

Grade: C-

  • Chester

Fans of opposition clubs were surprised at Chester's appointment of Steve Watson with his track record at previous clubs, and that played to prove a point as Watson's contract was not extended at the end of the season after a disappointing season for the Flintshire side saw them finish 16th. 

Heavy defeats under Watson to Boston United, Leamington and AFC Fylde forced Seals fans to have to undergo a relegation battle for a portion of the second half of the campaign. For 2022/23 Callum McIntyre has taken the dugout at the Deva from his former role at Runcorn Linnets being tasked of turning around the Seals' form. 

Result of the Season: Chester 5-0 Southport 05/02/22

Grade: E

  • Chorley

A season that ended with play-off defeat saw Chorley etch their name into the league history books as they found nine goals at home against Gloucester City to equal the league's largest win and in turn becoming the first team in National League North history to win a game 9-0 at home. 

A poor run at home against fellow play-off chasing sides didn't mirror their away form against those top six clubs as Gateshead and AFC Fylde were both beaten on their own home turf by the Magpies as they went unbeaten away against the top 7 so being pitted away in the play-offs at York City may have been a good sign, but they were defeated in that eliminator and will face another season of National League North football but this time without Jamie Vermiglio as he left to join newly-promoted Buxton.

Result of the Season: Chorley 9-0 Gloucester City 04/09/21

Grade: B-

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  • Curzon Ashton

It was another season of cementing mid-table status for Curzon Ashton as the Tameside outfit. A superb start to the season saw the Nash sitting in third place with stand out results being thumping wins against Leamington and Chester.

A run of 10 games with one win in March and April saw the side from Ashton-under-Lyne fall off the pace but nevertheless finish in a respectable position of 14th. 

Result of the Season: Curzon Ashton 2-1 AFC Fylde 06/11/21

Grade: C

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  • Darlington

Darlington were another side to sit mid-table for the majority of the season, having only occupied a play-off position for one game week. Standout wins for the Quakers over promotion challengers Brackley Town, AFC Fylde, Boston United and Chorley were the highlights to another season of cementing their National League North status. 

Result of the Season: Brackley Town 1-3 Darlington

Grade: C-

  • Farsley Celtic

Having endured a relegation battle all season, Farsley Celtic fans were delighted when the season ended with the Celt Army surviving relegation on the final day. It was good spring form which kept them up, dragging them off the bottom of the table which they occupied through the whole of February and into mid-March.

Two managerial changes took place at The Citadel with Adam Lakeland leaving in November to take charge at Curzon Ashton being replaced by u23 manager Neil Ross who was fired at the end of January and eventually replaced by former Scunthorpe United and York City manager Russ Wilcox who managed to turn the fortunes around after a slow start.

Now Farsley have survived again, they will look to push on to become an established mid-table National League North side over the next few years and that managerial stability, along with their growing support, is what they need.

Result of the Season: Farsley Celtic 1-0 AFC Fylde 23/10/21

Grade: D

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  • Gateshead

It was a season to remember for Heed fans, as they proved unstoppable, marching to the National League North crown. A solid start to the season saw their only loss in the first three months of the season come at Leamington.

Their form simply continued and they managed to juggle a little cup run too, losing to Charlton Athletic in the Second Round Proper of the FA Cup. Only losing six times all season and scoring 99 goals was the key to success as the Gateshead International Stadium will welcome back National League football again next season.

The Heed will have their work cut out next season until they find a replacement for super striker Macaulay Langstaff who moved to fellow National League side Notts County for an undisclosed fee in late May.

Result of the Season: Gateshead 4-0 Kidderminster Harriers 04/03/22

Grade A*

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  • Gloucester City

Top of the league when the 2020/21 season was curtailed, Gloucester City would have hoped for a similar season this time out but that was not to happen as they didn't place higher than 15th all season excluding the first three game weeks.

In more embarrassing style, heavy defeats twice at the hands of Gateshead and a 9-0 drubbing by Chorley shocked Tigers fans after the success of the season before with City having to resurrect themselves in the last month of the season to finish 17th.

Result of the Season: Gloucester City 4-0 York City 21/08/21

Grade: E+

  • Guiseley

Guiseley dropped into the Northern Premier League for the first time since 2010 as they finished rock bottom of the National League North table. A decent start to the season saw the Lions welcome the new year in sitting 17th but that was all to change in the second half of the season.

2022 saw Guiseley only pick 4 points up away from home and as a result their defeat away to Alfreton on the last day of the season doomed them. Marcus Bignot and Russ O'Neil left the club in April 2022, leaving Danny Ellis the man to hopefully get them back up to the sixth tier at the first time of asking next season.

Result of the Season: Guiseley 2-0 Leamington 09/10/22

Grade: F

  • Hereford

Hereford secured another mid-table finish with the Bulls never in doubt of dropping down into a relegation fight - in fact it was the other way round as they played with the final play-off position in the month of March but a poor run of three wins in 12 ended their play-off hopes.

Next season looks to be a struggle with key players such as Tom Owen-Evans and Ben Pollock leaving and an increasing number of fans calling for change at the club in regards to how the club is run. 

Result of the Season: Hereford 2-0 Kidderminster Harriers 18/01/22

Grade: B-

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  • Kettering Town

A manager change mid-season put the final nail in Kettering Town's coffin of play-off hopes but Poppies fans will be encouraged by the season. Paul Cox leaving for Boston in January saw former King's Lynn Town boss Ian Culverhouse take charge at Latimer Park.

Town sat one point outside the play-offs when Cox left and only finished two points behind Cox's Boston at the end of the campaign. They weren't helped either by Callum Powell's departure in January as he became a pro at Southend United.

If anything, this season proves that clubs like Kettering can get close to promotion and new manager local lad Lee Glover will be hoping to continue the trend and get the Poppies straight back in the mix for next season.

Result of the Season: Leamington 0-4 Kettering Town 18/12/21

Grade: B

  • Kidderminster Harriers

For many at Kidderminster Harriers, this season will be remembered as the season that they reached the FA Cup Fourth Round Proper and hosted West Ham at Aggborough, being a minute away from doing the impossible and beating the Premier League side. 

In the league, it was another strong season for Harriers but their end of the season which only saw them win twice in seven including a 2-0 loss to Leamington who fielded a very weak side with players coming from Tiers 8 and 13. A play-off eliminator defeat to Boston United ended the season for the Worcestershire side.

With the money at disposal and incoming signings such as Tom Owen-Evans from Hereford, surely Harriers will hope next season is their time to return to the fifth tier.

Result of the Season: Kidderminster Harriers 3-0 York City 22/01/22

Grade: A-

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  • Leamington

Leamington fans were able to dream of the impossible in 2021 as they sat fourth in the National League North table in November and December. A ruthless defence added to an impeccable home form gave Paul Holleran's side the foundations to success, but goalscoring problems, a large injury crisis and poor away form hindered the Brakes from pushing on.

A strong home set of results saw the likes of Gateshead, York City, Spennymoor Town, Boston United and Chorley all come to Leamington and leave with telling defeats but unfortunately for Brakes fans, an injury crisis in December and January and also towards the end of the season saw players playing through injuries and out of position just to fulfil fixtures.

A finish of 15th overall, with the satisfaction too of moving another player - Kyle Morrison - onto full-time football and winning the Birmingham Senior Cup at Villa Park cannot be sniffed at for the side with the lowest budget in the league. Ahead of the 2022/23 season, Holleran has already retained key players that fans would've expected to make a big move such as Dan Meredith, Dan Turner and Devon Kelly-Evans.

Result of the Season: Leamington 2-0 Kidderminster Harriers 02/05/22

Grade: C

  • Southport

Despite sitting comfortably in the play-offs for the majority of the season, a run of 12 without a win scuppered the chances of reaching the play-offs as Port finished 11th - only six points outside the play-offs so their fans can only think of where they could've finished if they had turned some of those losses in that run of twelve games into wins.

The end of the season shouldn't take away from the mighty jump that Liam Watson's side performed as they sat rock bottom in November, only to be in sixth place at the start of the new year going on a run of 14 unbeaten to reach the heights of sixth. Keeping a run like that going into the new year will be the aim for Port as they eye a play-off space.

Result of the Season: Southport 4-1 Boston United 14/11/21

Grade: C+

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  • Spennymoor Town

Another side who had a mid-season change in the dugout, the appointment of former Salford City and Chester joint managers Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley put Spennymoor Town up three places from the position they occupied when Tommy Miller was sacked, but it was not enough to get the play-offs for the County Durham outfit.

Whilst also reaching the FA Trophy Fifth Round, Spennymoor seemed to be doing the basics right in the league under Morley and Johnson - beating the teams one would expect them to beat but not doing enough to get one over the promotion hopefuls but a double over Chorley would have made the management duo happy. 

The significant investment into the matchday experience for fans will be keeping Moors fans happy for the time being but they would really love a taste of National League football for the first time in the club's history.

Result of the Season: Chorley 0-2 Spennymoor Town 08/03/22

Grade: C+

  • York City

A mighty resurrection job by John Askey saw York City completely turn their fortunes round and return to the National League with a play-off win. After a defeat at Leamington, in an easy win for the Brakes, and a draw against Curzon Ashton, Steve Watson was given the P45 as the Minstermen sat 11th in the standings with his Assistant Manager replacing him.

Not only did Askey turn around their league form but he also guided the Yorkshire outfit to the FA Trophy Semi Final, which they lost to eventual champions - National League side Bromley. A play-off eliminator win over Chorley was followed up with a semi-final victory at Brackley and they did the business at the LNER Community Stadium as they put two past Boston to spark scenes as the South Stand raced onto the pitch to end their five seasons in regional football. 

Result of the Season: York City 2-0 Boston United 21/05/22

Grade: A*

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