James Meir takes an in-depth look at Barnet's 2014/15 Conference Premier rivals...
Nuneaton gained promotion to the Conference in 2011/2012, beating Gainsborough 1-0 to secure their third promotion in four years. Last season, they set a good early pace and were in the play-off mix for much of the campaign. However, after manager Kevin Wilkin left for Wrexham, results tailed off and they finished 13th on 66 points.
New manager Brian Reid oversaw the last three games of the season, and will be looking to build on some encouraging performances. Their business has been limited as boss Brian Reid has focused on retaining key faces from last season. Reinforcements have mainly been in defence with two full-backs joining in the shape of 27-year-old Pole Ben Starosta and Alfreton’s Connor Franklin.
Barnet drew with Nuneaton at The Hive last season, Jake Hyde putting the Bees ahead before Andy Brown levelled just before half-time. At Liberty Way, the Bees secured a 1-0 victory through Derby loanee Valentin Gjokaj, who hit home from 25-yards to give Barnet the three points.
Nicknamed “The Sandgrounders,” Southport achieved their Conference status in 2009/2010 when they won the Conference North title. Last season, they finished 18th on 53 points, only two points clear of the relegation zone. New manager Martin Foyle will have his work cut out to ensure that they remain competitive for the coming season.
They have had a busy summer, signing goalkeeper Daniel Lloyd-Weston and 26-year-old midfielder Stephen Brogan from Forest Green Rovers, as well as striker Richard Brodie, Lincoln City defender Luke Foster and Scott Kay who played 24 games for Macclesfield Town in the Conference last season. Their latest signing is 23-year-old Dominic Collins following his release from Hereford after the Bulls’ expulsion from the division.
The Bees beat the Sandgrouders 1-0 at The Hive in January, with Mauro Vilhete grabbing a last-gasp winner in the 90th minute. At Haig Avenue, the two sides played out a 1-1 draw with Mark Byrne snatching a valuable equaliser in the dying moments of the first half.
AFC Telford United
Telford United are among the Conference new boys for the coming season, with manager Liam Watson achieving promotion last season by winning the Conference North title just one year after the club were relegated.
The Bucks have signed 27-year-old Southport defender Steve Akrigg who hadn’t featured for the Sandgrounders since January and 23-year-old winger Josh Hancock from Witton Albion. Their most recent signings are 24-year-old striker Sam Smith and defender Rod McDonald following their release from Conference outcasts Hereford United.
Barnet have never faced AFC Telford United in a competitive fixture, so the coming season will bring the two sides together for the very first time.
Last season saw Torquay United relegated from the Football League along with Bristol Rovers, ending a five-year stay in the fourth tier following a 2-0 Play-Off Final victory against Cambridge United at Wembley in 2008/09.
The Gulls’ manager Chris Hargreaves will be looking to bounce straight back and has retained a number of players such as goalkeeper Martin Rice, 20-year-old winger Niall Thompson and 22-year-old striker Ashley Yeoman who scored three goals in the final month of last season. New faces have also been brought in, including 22-year-old midfielder Luke Young following his release from Plymouth.
The last time the sides met was in 2012/2013 when both clubs were struggling in League Two. Barnet beat the Gulls 1-0 at Underhill in November but lost a crucial game 3-2 against their fellow strugglers at Plainmoor in April.