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Five Non-League Starts From 2018/19

Friday Apr 26, 2019

 Who have been this season’s star performers in the fifth-tier – who could be ready to make that step up?

 Adam Rooney

 The striker, a tireless worker who loves to plough the channels, signed for Salford City in the summer with a high pedigree for National League level. He was appreciated at Birmingham during their 2011-12 campaign in the Championship and Europa League – he has played in the SPL, too, with Aberdeen – so one can imagine how effective he is in the fifth tier.

 Although Rooney has scored 21 goals, the joint-fourth most in the division, it’s not necessarily his finishing ability that is his most distinctive quality. Rather, it is his ability to make selfless runs into the right channel and thus create space centrally for the likes of Lois Maynard and Danny Lloyd.

 Salford are 1/2 with Betway as of 25th April to win at Hartlepool on the final day and if that were to happen, Rooney would likely play a big part.

 Shaun Pearson

 The York-born centre-back is set to be competing in a Play-Off competition for the sixth time in the last 10 years of his career. Pearson was part of two Play-Off campaigns with Boston, one successful one not, then a run of three consecutive near misses with Grimsby was ended with fourth-time lucky in 2015-16, when he was part of the side that beat Forest Green 3-1 at Wembley prior to spending a year in League Two.

 The one-time Spalding United Player of the Year brings a wealth of experience for this level which will be invaluable to Wrexham, if they are to win their Play-Off eliminator – likely against either Harrogate or Eastleigh. Pearson competent in the air and brings excellent leadership qualities to a Wrexham rear-guard that has been very strong defensively over the last two seasons.

 Under Dean Keates, Sam Ricketts, Graham Barrow and now Bryan Hughes, they have conceded a combined 87 goals in 91 games, 86 of which Pearson started in central defence.

 Alex Gudger

 Having played previously for Nuneaton, Rugby and Brackley, Gudger represents something of a throwback to old-school centre-backs. There are no positional rivals in the fifth-tier who execute defensive headers with more authority than the no-nonsense Gudger, who fits Solihull Moors’ style of play perfectly.


 The Moors, who were bottom of the division in November last season, do not have the financial clout at this level to attract the types of players who will allow them to win games by dominating possession. Instead, they have to play to their strengths which is counter-attacking; early balls into target man Danny Wright or to outlets like the tricky Jermaine Hylton and the creative Jamey Osborne.

 Because Gudger does not spend too much time on the ball, it allows them to go back to front quickly and to keep 20 clean sheets – the most in the division - is an excellent achievement. The 26-year-old poses a set piece threat, too, chipping in with six goals including the winner against Wrexham in August.

 Macauley Bonne

 While Bonne was at Colchester, the club at which he came through the academy, he frequently made a strong impact from the bench. Manager Tony Humes then Joe Dunne however, appeared reluctant to give their unproven forward a run of starts within the severity of a relegation battle.

 That created something of a catch-22 situation: Bonne’s inexperience appeared to count against him – but how was he to get experience in the first place? The answer was to move to Leyton Orient, which he did in July 2017.
 The National League outfit have started Bonne 88 times in contrast with one substitute appearance - -and the 23-year-old has repaid that faith in spades.

 He has formed an excellent understanding with Josh Koroma and has scored 22 goals this for an O’s side very likely to clinch promotion this weekend. An honourable mention, too, goes to left-back Joe Widdowson, who has been a handy technician for Orient and should step up to League Two with ease.

 Danny Rowe

 The striker was initially on the books at Manchester United as a youngster, but his hopes of making it at the top level ended when he was released in 2008. After that, there was period at which he began to fall out of love with the game and it looked possible that he might not make a career for himself at all.


 However, a couple of years at Kendal Town helped him reconnect with the game in simple, human terms rather than under the pressure of being held to unjustifiably high standards. After that, Rowe moved to Fleetwood and found form in the National League with various other clubs, before joining AFC Fylde in 2014 – which is where he has truly taken off.
 Dave Challinor is a passionate man manager, but he has also been clever in his use of Rowe: the Liverpudlian has relieved him of one or two pieces of defensive work in order to free him up to produce moments of magic from outside the box.

 That is exactly what Fylde’s fine finisher has done over the previous two campaigns, scoring a combined 55 goals - with 55 rather casual celebrations! When we consider the impact that a similar type of striker in James Norwood has had on League Two, it is understandable that EFL clubs such as Cheltenham have cast admiring glances in Rowe’s direction.

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