Non-League Notes: Torquay United vs Woking for the National League South title

The National League South title race is entering its final few months and the destination of the title is very much to be decided.

At face value, it looks like a two-horse race between Woking and Torquay Utd. And despite the fact there is a small gap developing between the top two and those in the play-off places, a good run from one of the four clubs underneath them could still pinch top spot.

It’s fair to say that Concord Rangers who sit just out the last play-off spot have too much ground to make up to worry the top two, the same could be said of Dartford and Bath City, who are just inside the play-off places, the latter suffering successive defeats recently to leave them looking nervously over their shoulders at the closing teams behind.

Welling Utd are very much the outsiders, having played at least one more game than those around them, but Steve King has a steely determination which he instils in every side he manages, and you would expect the Wings to maintain their charge until the very end.

The closest challenge comes from Essex in the shape of Chelmsford City and Billericay Town. Town were touted as one of the favourites at the beginning of the season despite having only just been promoted from the Bostik League.

The season started for them as if it was going to be a procession march to the National League, but as the spending was reined in, players leaving and management changes, they must be given credit for remaining in the hunt for promotion when other clubs would have fallen down the table.

City are very much the nearly men of the league. Play-off appearances twice in the last two years but falling at the first hurdle, City still have the ability to gate-crash the title party but know that they can’t afford too many slip-ups, their manager Rod Stringer will also be aware that a third play-off defeat could well spell the end of his time in charge.

Torquay boast a Conference winning manager in Gary Johnson and having been appointed in September 2018, he has seen a turnaround of fortunes which might result in the Gulls returning to non-league football’s top table immediately, having spent previous years fighting off relegation to the division they’re reside in now.

But Johnson will be well aware that like the clubs below them they can’t afford many slip-ups if they want to go up automatically and not have to battle in the play-offs. Johnson is the club’s 7th manager in the last 7 years which explains well why the lack of stability has resulted in the club finding itself in the National League South but they look in good shape to bounce back.

And so to the team in pole position, Woking.  Led by Alan Dowson, who joined in the summer after a long spell with Hampton & Richmond, Dawson has transformed a team relegated along with Torquay last season into a side ready to return at the first attempt.

Dowson’s squad has a good balance of eager younger players coupled with those who have National and Football League experience such as Jake Hyde, Craig Ross, Christian Jolley and on loan Dave Tarpey.

These experienced heads will be crucial as the Cards face all of their challengers before the end of the season, with four of those games coming one after the other which may well define where the title will end up at the end of April, that experience compared to Torquay’s line-up should be enough for the Cards to take the title and head back to the National League.

Written by Trevor Knell

Follow Trevor on Twitter @trevk37

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