The Championship Play-Off final may often be referred to as the £100m game but further down the pyramid it could be argued EFL promotion from the National League is just as important.
The two teams lucky enough to achieve promotion will earn close to a million pounds, a figure that would make most prudent non-league clubs self-sustainable.
With this in mind, pre-season tips Dagenham & Redbridge and Bromley continue to represent the best opportunity of emulating fellow London side Sutton United by securing promotion to the EFL.
Both sit inside the National League Play-Off places at the start of the New Year having put together good unbeaten runs.
At the other end, Barnet look good for a mid-table finish having dispensed with Harry Kewell as manager early in the season while Wealdstone look to have enough about them to avoid relegation to the National League South.
Machel St Patrick Hewitt takes a closer look at all four London sides at the mid-way point…
Having initially been appointed as Head of Football to work alongside head coach Harry Kewell, Barnet’s season so far can be summed up as the pre and post Dean Brennan era.
Kewell oversaw a disastrous start to the campaign that saw Barnet take only two points from their first seven games and looking like relegation candidates.
That poor run led to the Australian’s dismissal in September with Brennan stepping in as interim coach, going on to take 24 out of the next possible 39 points to leave themselves safely ensconced in lower mid-table at the turn of the year.
The brilliant turnaround in fortune has come about with the same squad Kewell had at his disposal, suggesting summer recruitment was never the issue but it was more a managerial recruitment problem.
With the Barnet manager’s job still technically vacant the greater narrative for Bees fans will be whether Brennan decides to appoint himself permanently or if he will revert back to his previous role once safety is secured.
An 11 game unbeaten National League run saw Bromley firmly in an automatic promotion race come late November and plaudits were rightly lauded at the work done by Andy Woodman and his coaching staff.
Led once again by the 14 goals (and counting) from talismanic front-man Michael Cheek, the Ravens have more often than not found ways to win even when not playing well.
However, three defeats in their last six games have perhaps highlighted their main weakness – a lack of strength in depth, particularly in the middle of the park.
Woodman has long believed in playing youngsters if they are good enough and he has two exceptional prospects in 20-year-old Jude Arthurs and 18-year-old Marcus Sablier and whilst they have been key in Bromley’s Play-Off charge, there remains a sense the side will have to boost their squad in order to stay competitive.
Bromley cannot match the budgets of many of the former EFL clubs vying for promotion but without a savvy dip into the transfer market they may well find that it proves the difference between finishing inside or outside the Play-Offs come the end of the season.
Dagenham & Redbridge
It’s been a tale of Jekyll and Hyde for the Daggers so far but nevertheless they find themselves in a strong position heading into the second half of the campaign.
Currently fifth and on the back of four consecutive league wins, Dagenham have started 2022 in the same vein of form they ended last season and began this one.
Like many teams, they have had their injuries and Covid enforced disruptions but the key to their success has been consistency and squad retention.
Daggers manager Daryl McMahon kept faith with the core of his squad from last season, making only a few astute additions – the latest of which is former Peterborough United and Northampton striker Junior Morais.
But while Dagenham are the National League’s top scorers, possessing goal threats throughout their squad, it is at the other end where the concern lies.
If they can tighten up in that regard, particularly in crunch games against top sides, expect them to continue to be involved in a Play-Off chase for the remainder of the season.
Whilst the league position rightly suggests Wealdstone are in a battle to preserve their National League status, their performances leave room for optimism.
Only twice have they been on the receiving end of a bad defeat which bodes well for their remaining 25 games.
That said, much of their success thus far has hinged on the goals of Josh Umerah, the former Charlton Athletic youngster who has fulfilled his potential at Wealdstone with eight goals in 19 games but it is the lack of consistent goals from others that pose real concern.
Only three teams have scored less than Wealdstone and those sides occupy three of the bottom four places. It is why Wealdstone manager Stuart Maynard will continue to utilise the loan market as best as he can to boost Wealdstone’s chances of survival.
On the flip side, Wealdstone have been very good defensively for a side in the bottom six and should they maintain that defensive steel, following their enforced Covid break, they should have just enough to keep the threat of relegation at arms length.
Barnet image supplied with credit to Ben Fullylove, Wealdstone image supplied with credit to Jon Taffel and image of Byron Webster supplied with thanks to Bromley FC.