Zeros and heroes: the best non-league football stories you may have missed | Soccer

Dover Athletic

After 42 games, Dover Athletic sit at the foot of the National League with zero points. They have scored 34 goals but conceded 97 on their way to achieving literally nothing. There will, however, be an asterisk next to their name when the campaign ends in two matches’ time. The Whites were given a 12-point deduction for failing to fulfil fixtures last season, putting an almost entirely new squad on the back foot before a ball was kicked. The deficit was made up thanks to two victories and six draws, leaving them where every other team began. The part-timers’ first league win came in January against Eastleigh – a result celebrated like “we had won the Champions League”, one player told the Guardian – to avoid the ignominy of going a calendar year without a victory. They specialize in glorious failure. For example, Dover went 5-2 up at Hollywood’s Wrexham, only to lose 6-5 thanks to a 98th-minute winner. A visit to Bromley is their next chance of moving off nought before the crunch final-day fixture at Weymouth, who have also been relegated, to ensure the season wasn’t all for nothing.

Dover players after the 2-0 home defeat to Yeovil. Photograph: James Fearn / PPAUK / Rex / Shutterstock


History has been made by Hertfordshire’s Cheshunt: they reached the last 16 of the FA Trophy, won the county cup and on Monday secured promotion to the National League South through the playoffs. Their opponents in the final were Hornchurch, who may have felt fate was on their side when they came from 2-1 down in the 87th minute against Enfield Town in the semis. Cheshunt triumphed, though, thanks to goals from Amadou Kassaraté and Zack Newton. Kassaraté, a former Senegal youth international, fits perfectly into an eclectic squad that includes players with senior caps for Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, not to mention an Italian, Dutchman, Frenchman and Australian. “The team’s resilience is unmatched,” says Kassaraté, who had a spell in the Greek third division. “Throughout the season we have been counted out, but as players and management we always find a way to unite and win. That belief comes from the amazing fans, board and everyone associated with Cheshunt. ”

Cheshunt players celebrate promotion
Cheshunt celebrate promotion after beating Hornchurch in this week’s playoff final. Photograph: Gavin Ellis / TGS Photo / Rex / Shutterstock

Scarborough Athletic

Any club nicknamed the Seadogs deserves success and respect in equal measure. Scarborough Athletic have earned promotion to the National League North, 23 years after their now defunct predecessors Scarborough dropped out of the Football League thanks to goalkeeper Jimmy Glass’s famous last-minute goal for Carlisle. The phoenix club were founded in 2007 and are 100% owned by fans. The Seadogs can even boast a Champions League winner as manager, in hometown boy Jonathan Greening, who had a more enjoyable May in 1999 than Scarborough. Among his charges is fellow Scarborian Michael Coulson, who started his career with Scarborough before spells at Barnsley, Grimsby and St Johnstone. Fittingly he scored in the playoff final win over Warrington Town to secure sixth-tier football.

Taunton Town

“If you have our corner flag and post could you please return it to the club for our remaining events,” read the Taunton Town tweet, finally a statement befitting a corner flag photo. The Peacocks required their precious flag and post back after winning the Southern League Premier Division to guarantee promotion to the National League South, the highest level the club have competed at in their 75-year history. An incredible 2,303 turned up at the Cygnet Health Care Stadium to watch Taunton beat their promotion rivals Farnborough to seal the title, and one member of the crowd has been rewarded with a signed corner flag after returning it.

Within their squad was 50-year-old coach Michael Meaker, a midfielder who represented Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League, making his debut as a 19-year-old against Manchester City way back in 1990. Meaker appeared 13 times for the Peacocks this season but has decided the step up to the National League South would be too much for his aging body. “I’ve been lucky to have enjoyed such a long career when I’ve played in all divisions of the Football League, apart from League Two, and have been involved in winning league titles, playoffs and various Sausage Cups *,” Meaker said. the club’s website after hanging up his boots.

* Sausage Cup is a nickname for the Southern League Challenge Cup.

Isle of Man FC

Clubs are often criticized for taking short flights to games but it has been very necessary for Isle of Man FC, who enjoyed their inaugural season in the North West Counties First Division South. They traveled for games against teams such as Abbey Hey, Barnton and Eccleshall but a home playoff against New Mills was the most important. A 4-2 win over the Derbyshire side sealed promotion. The islanders, who are unpaid, had to play many home fixtures away because Covid restrictions meant opponents could not enter the Isle of Man, making their achievement all the more remarkable. Before challenging those from the mainland, the club sought advice from clubs around Europe, including Athletic Bilbao, in an attempt to learn how to operate as outsiders. Like Athletic, there is a regional selection policy, with only Manx players allowed. Next stop: the North West Counties Premier Division.

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