Dover & Wrexham hold the key to tight National League title fight
In the Premier League, there are six points between first and second. In the Championship, there are nine points between first and fifth. In League One and League Two, first and eighth are separated by 12 points and 8 points respectively.
But drop down to the National League and there are only six points between Dover Athletic at the summit and Hartlepool United in 12th.
Simply put, England’s fifth tier is the closest and the most unpredictable in the country.
The lead of the division has changed hands 14 times in just eighteen games, while the supposed heavyweights of Tranmere Rovers and Leyton Orient both find themselves in the bottom-half.
Even more interesting is the diverse nature of the sides that currently occupy the top-half.
Leaders Dover were expected to struggle after losing 45-goal striker Ricky Miller to Peterborough United.
But manager-cum-PE teacher Chris Kinnear has defied pre-season odds of 20/1 to lead his side to the summit where they now sit as 11/2 third favourites for the division.
The free-scoring nature of the National League and teams’ laissez-faire approach to defending is one of the division’s most distinguishable traits.
And these two sides have that in abundance.
Sutton’s games have seen a combined 46 goals so far this season, while the Daggers have been involved in fixtures where 50 goals have been scored.
In-fact, six of the clubs in the top-half have seen 50 or more goals in their games already this season.
As a result, it is perhaps no surprise that one club who actually can defend find themselves third in the table.
Wrexham, who are still a lengthy 12/1 for the National League outright, have conceded a joint-low of 12 goals under manager Dean Keates.
A look back at last season’s final table demonstrates the importance of keeping it tight at the back.
The top-two of Lincoln City and Tranmere accounted for two of the league’s three best defensive records.
If you want to do well in the National League, you need to start by having an impressive back-line.
That could be an issue for seven of the top-half, with Sutton, Dagenham, Aldershot Town (12/1), Boreham Wood (20/1), Bromley (40/1) and Woking (80/1) all each having conceded over 20 goals so far this season.
In a league where even the side in 21st is only 12 points adrift of the play-offs, almost anything could still happen.
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All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.