The weather in December and January really took it's toll on the fixture list leaving the table looking a bit odd with just a few weeks to go. For instance Bideford have already played 38 of their 44 games, whereas Poole Town still have 14 remaining fixtures to fulfil. This imbalance of games to play makes predicting the run-in even more difficult but, here at BotP Towers, I have polished the crystal ball, fed the psychic octopus and thrown a dart left-handed in an effort to take a scientific approach (Lawro eat your heart out).
First of all, let's clear up the automatic spot. Despite some bravado on social network from their supporters Chesham, in my opinion, won't quite have enough to catch Hemel. So, prediction one is that the Tudors will win the league.
To the play-off spots. Looking at the current table their are seven teams contesting the 4 places. They are, Chesham United, St Albans City, Cambridge City, Stourbridge, Bideford, Poole Town and Hungerford Town. See current table below (20 March, 2014).
So, 2 places up for the taking and 5 contenders still in with a shout. It has to be said that Hungerford Town are a long-shot in the play-off race, but are worthy of inclusion in this discussion.
Poole Town, should they win all of the games in hand, would even be threatening Chesham for second place. However, with only a few weeks left in the season, they are going to have to play 3 games in some weeks and certainly a minimum of 2 games every week. I feel that this load, combined with midweek travel, could prove to be very testing for them. Having said that, Poole still have to play the bottom 3 as well as Banbury, who are on an appalling run of form at the moment.
Cambridge City, having put together a great run a few months ago, are looking a little inconsistent in recent weeks. Their fate could well depend on crucial away games at Stourbridge and Poole Town.
Stourbridge, whilst generally excellent away from home, have been in really bad form at home lately having taken only 7 points from the last possible 21.
Bideford have played more games than any other team in the top 8 and have lacked consistency in the past month or two. I really can't see them amassing enough points in their remaining 6 games to trouble the others.
Finally, Hungerford. With 12 games left, including both Poole and Bideford at home, they still have an outside chance of making it. However, as with Poole, the extra games having to be squeezed into a limited period could count against them. This was added to by the abandonment of their last game against Chippenham, due to a serious injury. Possibly a bridge too far in their first ever season at this level.
So, here is my predicted final table:
Chesham v Stourbridge. Chesham went through a flaky home run earlier in the year but seem to have put that behind them recently. Stourbridge have been a little shaky at home all season, but have looked great away from Amblecote.
I am sure that I will get some stick from my fellow Glassboys for this but I can't really see past Chesham. I don't think it will be a walkover by any means, but I just don't think that Stourbridge will have enough left in the tank to overcome the Generals. I predict Chesham 3 Stourbridge 1.
The other semi-final could be a really tight affair in my opinion. Cambridge have been up there all season, at one point challenging for the title, St Albans have come good towards the latter part of the season and are taking the momentum (barring any late disasters) into the play-offs. I'm going for a narrow 2-1 to St Albans.
So, that makes my play-off final Chesham United v St Albans. As I said before, St Albans could well be carrying a lot of momentum into the play-offs whereas Chesham have been in the top 3 pretty much all season. As a one-off game it is extremely difficult to call but, I have got this far, so why not stick my neck out and make a prediction.
I am going with Chesham United to edge a very nervy and close final mainly down to their extra fire power up front.
So there you have it. Hemel and Chesham to go up. Possibly not the most surprising of choices given that both teams have been at the top of the league all season. I dare say, when all of my predictions are proved totally wrong, I will get a number of messages especially from the teams that I have written off in this piece. It's just my take on the race based on the current form in late March.
Whoever goes up, I will wish them well next season.