The National League title race was officially ended as Chesterfield – despite a little wobble – were crowned champions and Barnet edged out Bromley to seal second, as both looked forward to home advantage in the play-offs.

AFC Halifax Town held off the threat of Aldershot Town on the final day to claim the last spot in the top seven, where they were joined by Altrincham and Solihull Moors. However, there was heartbreak for Gateshead when it was revealed they didn’t have the required ten-year lease on their International Stadium home. Although they will take on Solihull in the FA Trophy Final at Wembley on May 11th.

The real drama though came at the other end of the table; Boreham Wood, under departing Manager Luke Garrard, facing Ebbsfleet United at a packed Meadow Park in a winner-takes-all-clash. A nil-nil draw enough to keep the visitors up and condemn the Wood to relegation and end nine years of top flight non-league football in the process.

Even better news later greeted Fleet fans however, thanks to planning permission finally being granted for a new 8,000 capacity stadium at the centre of new development on the Waterfront. Bringing a two-year wait to a happy end.

Woking, Wealdstone and York City all live to fight another National League day thanks to wins in their last games of the campaign. Tunji Akinola’s brace either side of the break eventually saw off AFC Fylde, while the Stones – under the tutelage of Caretaker Boss Sam Cox – had Mason Barrett to thank as they edged out Oldham Athletic, who will be hoping to turn a ten-match winless run into a promotion push next term. Finally, Adam Hinshelwood completed his task of keeping the Minstermen up, despite going down to a Jack Stevens goal for Solihull, although they had to rely on other results with only a point separating them from Boreham Wood and the dreaded drop.

One last axe to fall did so at Hartlepool United, who dispensed with the services of Kevin Phillips and appointed ex-Woking supremo Darren Sarll in his place; eleven points separating them from the play-off places in the final reckoning.

In the play-offs, Altrincham gained a bye through to the quarter-finals due to Gateshead’s non-participation but Soihulll had to negotiate an eliminator against AFC Halifax. A four-two victory meant that it would be the Midlanders who would face league runners-up Barnet in the semi-finals. The Hive was buzzing in anticipation of the Bees stinging the Moors, though it was 2022’s losing finalists who shocked a 4,500 plus crowd in North London, to set-up a mouth-watering decider versus Bromley, after the Ravens had overcome Alty in their last four tie.

The two teams couldn’t be separated after ninety minutes or extra time, in spite of Arsenal loanee Alex Kirk hitting both the crossbar and post in the additional thirty for Bromley. Former Bognor ‘keeper Grant Smith saved Solihull’s opening pair of penalties in the shootout; sandwiching Michael Cheeks’ conversion from twelve yards. Five further successful kicks left Captain Byron Webster to step up and bury the winner, to see Bromley elevated to the Football League for the very first time in their 132-year history.

In the North Division, Tamworth held off the challenge of pre-season title favourites Scunthorpe United to finish eight points clear in the end. Securing a second successive promotion to the National League with two games to go, a decade after demotion from the higher echelons of the non-league game.

Scunny duly cut their cloth accordingly and relieved Manager Jimmy Dean of his duties. Staying in-house with First Team Coach and ex- Iron player Andy Butler being named as his successor.

Brackley Town, Chorley and our FA Cup conquerors Alfreton Town all confirmed their participation in the play-offs but a single point was all that prevented South Shields and Spennymoor Town from joining the party, as Boston United and Curzon Ashton snatched the last two places.

Buxton finished well off the pace in fourteenth, although Craig Elliott had already made his intention to depart at the end of the season. John McGrath travelled the short distance across Derbyshire to fill the vacancy, following eight success-filled years at Southern Premier Central club Mickleover Sports.

Three of the four spots had been decided at the bottom of the standings, meaning one more had to go.

King’s Lynn Town maintained their Step Two status, despite suffering defeat in their final two fixtures at home to Peterborough Sports and away to Spennymoor. Rushall Olympic ensured National North football too next term by picking up the point they required in a final day decider versus Warrington Town.

The drama amongst the basement dwellers was really ramped up though, when Blyth Spartans and Farsley Celtic required a positive result while, at the same time hoping their opponent slipped up.

Both sides lined up at home in front of expectant/nervous crowds but it was the Celts who were celebrating at the full-time whistle, following their own win over mid-table Buxton, coupled with Brackley’s five-one demolition of Spartans that, at the same time, saw them end in the play-offs, Spartans Supremo John Shaw was handed his P45 as a consequence, while at (around) the same time a long protracted take-over of the North Easterners ended with Newcastle United Legend – and Peru’s favourite son, after Paddington Bear – Nolberto “Nobby” Solano announced as the new man in charge.

Penalties were the order of the day – and nights – in the fight for the one last remaining promotion spot. Boston needing them to nudge Alfreton out of the picture, while Chorley also took the spot-kick route in seeing off the challenge of Curzon.

Practice made perfect to propel the Pilgrims into the final at the expense of more than eight thousand at Glanford Park; leaving Scunthorpe to contemplate another year in the North, with Town equally deadly from twelve yards in prevailing by an identical five-four verdict that had seen them knock out the Derbyshire-based Reds in the Eliminator Round.

Brackley saw off Chorley in their semi, surprisingly via the ninety minute method, to get through to a final date with Boston. However, the Lincolnshire guests left the Northamptonshire homesters with much to think about, courtesy of a two-one victory that condemned them to a fifth play-off exit in seven years. Meanwhile, Boston ended a hoodoo that had seen them fall at the final hurdle for the past two years and finally drew a veil over a total of fourteen outside the top division.

Down South, Yeovil Town made absolutely certain of the championship and with it an immediate return to Step One via victory over relegated Dartford. Overcoming a home loss to party poopers Worthing at the start of April.

Our own six game winning run earning us third spot, a bye straight to the play-off semi’s and home advantage in them, along with a richly-deserved Manager of the Month accolade for Aarran Racine and his temporary Management team of Dean Hammond and Darren Budd.

Chelmsford City wrapped up second to also enjoy a week off in between fixtures.

In fact, only a goal difference of one denied us second place and a mere point kept FA Cup heroes Maidstone United below in fourth, as they crushed Hampton & Richmond Borough’s hopes with a final day hammering in Kent. A result that cost Beavers Gaffer Mel Gwinnett his job. Aveley recovered to end Farnborough’s chances by beating fellow qualifiers Bath City, rendering Boro’s last game maximum in Weymouth – who had welcomed Head Honcho Mark Moseley back earlier in the month – ultimately irrelevant. The unlucky duo finishing a point below City and Aveley at the final curtain.

Sorrows were being drowned in collective beers at Dartford, who’s last dance with Truro City couldn’t save them from going down. Taunton Town joining them, after two terms in the South Division, as they were held at home by Hemel Hempstead Town and their latest number One Bobby WIlkinson. To make matters worse, the Peacocks also saw the long-serving, popular Director of Football/Manager Rob Dray depart. That point was enough to guarantee safety for the men of Vauxhall Road, while Eastbourne Borough made it a mathematical certainty too by stunning play-off bound Braintree at their uniquely christened The Rare Breed Meat Company Stadium.

The Iron were forced to do it the hard way in an effort to return to the highest non-league division; extra-time required in their eliminator victory over Bath and their semi-final success over near neighbours Chelmsford City. A test which resulted in them coming through an additional thirty minutes after they’d seen a two-goal lead evaporate in the eighty-ninth and ninety-second.

Maidstone also had to reverse a single-goal deficit at home to Aveley, to see them travel to the Sussex Transport Community Stadium for a semi-final showdown. A match that proved to be a step too far in the end; Matt Rush crashing his shot against the crossbar, only for Worthing to reply instantly with a counter-attack that led to Ollie Pearce doing what he does best, in the very last minute of a closely-fought affair.

TNT Sport, as they had for the North and main finals, braved the atrocious weather conditions, along with the hardy throng of travelling Braintree Supporters.

An end-to-end, seven-goal thriller eventually going the way of the team from Essex, thanks to a close-range, diving header from extra-time substitute Reggie Lambe, in extra-time. Naturally.

Leaving Braintree Town to grab the one remaining National League place and bring to an end a four-year exile from the top twenty-four.