The most competitive promotion race in English football – and Hawks and Boxing Day rivals Dorking are among the contenders

Hawks boss Paul Doswell admits the National League South promotion race is far too tight to call.

By Simon Carter
Friday, 24th December 2021, 9:25 am
Hawks manager Paul Doswell. Picture by Dave Haines
Hawks manager Paul Doswell. Picture by Dave Haines

In a remarkably congested table, the top 10 teams enter Christmas separated by just six points.

‘There’s seven, eight, nine teams - I’m not talking about looking to win it, but there’s that many teams who have their sights set on finishing in the top seven,’ said Doswell.

‘A couple are going to miss out on the play-offs.’

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A look at the NLS form guide clearly illustrates the highly competitive nature of the division. Over the last six league games, no club has picked up 12 or more points out of a maximum 18. Instead, five - including Hawks - have picked up 11 while another four have picked up 10.

Another four have claimed nine, meaning 13 clubs - out of 21 - are separated by just a two-point differential over six games. Joint leaders Dartford aren’t one of them, as they have only banked eight points from a possible 18.

The NL South, with the top 10 separated by just six points – Hawks are sixth, four points off top spot - is easily the toughest division in the top six tiers of English football to call.

In the National League, nine points separate the top 10 while the difference is 14 points in the National League North.

The gap is a startling 22 points in the Premier League, 12 points in the Championship, 17 points in League 1 and 14 points in League 2.

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The gap is also 14 points in Gosport Borough’s division, the Southern League Premier South.

‘No-one’s going to walk the (National South) league, no-one’s going to win game after game after game,’ stated Doswell. ‘It’s not that no-one’s good enough, it’s just the strength of the league

‘Dartford looked like they were going to run away with it early on, then Oxford hit top spot and you thought they could get away - but then they lost at home to Dorking.’

Hawks visit Dorking on Boxing Day – a clash between the team with the best away record (six wins in nine matches for Doswell’s men) against the team with the best home form (Wanderers have won six out of seven at the Meadowbank Stadum).

‘Dorking had an indifferent start, but now they’re massively in the fray,’ said Doswell.

‘I remember seeing Shaun Wilkinson’s comments (in The News) about Dorking going to walk the league after they’d beaten Baffins in a friendly. They were a lot of people’s (title) choices.

‘But this is a conversation (about who could finish in the top seven) you need to be having after 30 games. When there’s 10 games left, that’s when the pressure is on.

‘At the moment we’ve only played 16.’

Asked if he was setting a points target from Hawks’ three festive and new year fixtures - Dorking home and away and Hemel at home - Doswell replied: ‘Not this year. Let’s get to halfway and see where we are.’

He will have to wait until January 22 to reach that point, though. Already inactive on January 8 due to being the odd team out in a 21-club league, Hawks have now seen their planned January 15 home clash with Dartford postponed to the Kent team’s FA Trophy involvement.

‘That’s too long a wait, far too long,’ Doswell remarked. ‘We’ll have to try and be inventive.’

Hawks have failed in a bid to arrange another league game for January 15, so could have to resort to finding another friendly.

The team played Crystal Palace U23s recently due to the fact they didn’t have a match last Saturday because they had been knocked out of the Trophy.

As a result, Hawks will enter their Boxing Day game at Dorking having not played a competitive fixture for 11 days. Wanderers, meanwhile, lost 2-1 at higher tier Southend United in the Trophy last Saturday.