A few years back, the winners of the National League often went on to exceed expectations in League Two the following season. More recently, those going up via the play offs have fared better, possible momentum gathered through those extra games.
For last season’s two promoted sides, Lincoln City and Forest Green Rovers, fortunes have been very contrasting in the opening few months of the season. While City proved to be worthy champions and Rovers deserved winners of the play-offs, neither have had it their own way so far.
City, under the Cowley brothers, started slowly despite their faith in their championship winning squad. But 16 games into the season, they seem to have the measure of the division sitting just outside the play offs and with only one defeat in their last seven games, Cowley has got his tactics spot on and Lincoln are reaping the rewards, the only slight worry is 16 goals in 16 games puts extra pressure on the defenders to protect a 1 goal lead more often than not.
One of those 1 goal leads was enough to see off Rovers back in September. During that time, Rovers were struggling to come to terms with League Football, outplayed and outscored on a weekly basis, but being kept out of the bottom two by Port Vale and Chesterfield who both sacked their managers in the hope of kick-starting their seasons.
But no such panic at the New Lawn, Dale Vince kept firmly behind his man, Mark Cooper, and 3 successive wins have lifted Forest Green to 15 points, but still only a point away from the bottom two, but encouraging signs to suggest the players are now responding to the demands and rigour of a tough division.
Cooper, however, will be aware there is much work still to do to keep Rovers looking upwards and not contemplating a quick return to the National League. Rovers have also only notched 16 goals in the same amount of games, but have also been on the end of a few big defeats as they found their feet and the goal difference of -16 is the joint worst in the division and needs to be addressed if Rovers want to secure a second Football League season.
Both sides face teams in or around them through November so the potential for a healthy points return by the end of the month for Cowley and Cooper must be the aim to set themselves up for the busy Xmas and New year period in good shape.
Cowley will fancy his City side to push on and give the play-offs a real go, despite the lack of goals and it may be using the loan system or the January transfer window to address this and give the teams above them something to think about.
No doubt he will be aware of Cheltenham’s failure to build upon promotion last season, but the attention to detail given by the Cowley brothers all but extinguishes the notion they will struggle like the Robins did.
It should be remembered that Rovers are a village side, punching well above their weight in the grand scheme of things, but size is nothing when it comes to 11 versus 11 on a Saturday afternoon, the greater will to win always prevails.
Written by Trevor Knell
Follow Trevor on Twitter @trevk37
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