National League season predictions: Wrexham look a cut above

James Milton
Spotlight
Paul Mullin could be celebrating a top goalscorer and title-winning double with Wrexham this season
Paul Mullin could be celebrating a top goalscorer and title-winning double with Wrexham this season

National League 2022-23 kicks off this weekend with 24 teams dreaming of winning promotion to the Football League.

Wrexham were beaten in last season's play-off semi-finals and are strong favourites to win the division and claim the only automatic-promotion spot.

Teams finishing in second place down to seventh will have to take their chances in the end-of-season play-offs.

Wrexham primed for award-winning performance

Actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney completed their takeover of Wrexham in February 2021 but there was no Hollywood ending to the Red Dragons' 2021-22 season.

Having finished second in the league, six points behind promoted champions Stockport, Wrexham crashed out of the play-offs after an extraordinary 5-4 semi-final defeat to Grimsby after extra-time at the Racecourse Ground.

The Mariners went on to beat Solihull Moors in the play-off final, again sealing victory in extra-time, and Wrexham and their ambitious owners will be looking to bounce back with National League glory in 2022-23.

They finished last term strongly, winning 14 of their final 19 matches in the regular season, and have strengthened an already-formidable squad with the signings of Luton forward Elliott Lee, Crawley centre-back Jordan Tunnicliffe and midfielder Anthony Forde, who played for Oxford in League One last season.

Phil Parkinson is a vastly experienced manager and the quality of the Wrexham squad, which includes prolific striker Paul Mullin, means anything other than a title-winning season will be a disappointment.

Several other clubs who came up short in last season's play-offs will look to take the next step with Notts County looking to be the biggest threat.

The Magpies lost at home to Grimsby in the play-off quarter-finals in 2021-22, which was something of a surprise as they had endured only two defeats in 22 regular-season games at Meadow Lane, and they should be pushing for promotion again.

Solihull spurred on by play-off disappointment

Solihull Moors have established themselves as serious contenders in the National League since surprisingly finishing second in 2018-19.

Under former AFC Wimbledon and Notts County boss Neal Ardley they ended up third last term and only the top two clubs, Stockport and Wrexham, scored more than their 83 league goals.

No team in the division suffered fewer defeats than Solihull's seven and they will be looking to banish the disappointment of losing in the play-off final by winning promotion this season.

Chesterfield should also be in the mix. 

They were in the hunt for the title until striker Kabongo Tshimanga suffered a season-ending injury in February, having scored 24 goals in 27 league appearances, and the Spireites will hope their fit-again star can recapture that form.

Tshimanga is certainly a candidate to be the division's top goalscorer, although Wrexham star Mullin is an understandable favourite, having finished top of the scoring charts last term with 26 goals, on the back of winning the League Two Golden Boot with Cambridge the season before.

Kabongo Tshimanga scored 24 goals before injury struck last season
Kabongo Tshimanga scored 24 goals before injury struck last season

Relegated clubs face battle

The six-team play-off format in the National League means plenty of clubs start the season with hopes of reaching the EFL and free-scoring Dagenham and progressive Torquay are of interest in the promotion race.

Last season's play-off winners Grimsby bounced straight back after being relegated from League Two and Oldham and Scunthorpe are aiming to do the same this term.

Oldham, the first former Premier League club to drop into the fifth tier of English football, and Scunthorpe endured tough campaigns in League Two and there may be something of a hangover.

The Iron won just four of their 46 league games last season and a 7-0 final-day defeat against Bristol Rovers took their goals-conceded tally to 90.

Both they and the Latics may take time to find their feet in a competitive division having had to remodel their squads following relegation.

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