Fixture difficulty matrix: National League, 2017/18
I’ve taken the newly-released National League and combined them with an aggregation of leading bookmakers’ odds to visualise where each club’s tough and easy matches appear to be next season. Each row in the matrix below lists a club’s league matches in chronological order, colour-coded based on how difficult they appear to be and the clubs themselves are sorted and numbered by where the odds imply they’ll finish in the table.
I’ve coloured the six strongest-looking clubs (based purely on the odds) in red and the six weakest-looking in blue, but you can use the numbers to identify which fixtures are which.
Tranmere are strong favourites for the title and could get off to a flying start with five of their first seven games coming against teams expected to struggle.
Hartlepool also face only one fellow promotion challenger in the first month of the season but then have a rough-looking September that sees them face four tricky games in a row.
It also looks like Wrexham could start well given that they don’t meet another promotion favourite until mid-September, but they’ll need points on the board before April when they finish with four tough games in a row.
It’s looking like a tough start for Bromley, who play six of the eight most-fancied clubs in their first nine games, while Woking and Maidenhead also have unforgiving introductions to the new campaign.
After a tough opening few fixtures, my club Torquay have a winnable run of games that could see them generate some much-needed momentum, and their run-in also contains mercifully few tough matches.
It’s a tough start for favourites Salford, who play four of their promotion rivals in August, while Southport have to play all five of the sides priced shorter than them in a row from late August to mid-September and may therefore fall away early on.
Stockport have one of the easier starts to the campaign but a run of five winnable-looking games from early March could well see them power towards the finish line. Nuneaton meanwhile have to face off against four of the six most-fancied sides in their final seven matches so would do well to have plenty of points on the board beforehand.
It’s a gentle start for Poole, who don’t face a promotion rival until late September, while title favourites Chelmsford also avoid playing any of their nearest challengers until nine games in.
St Albans and East Thurrock both have to play four of the six most-fancied sides in August, so could start their respective campaigns sluggishly.
Concord should make the most of their February and March fixtures as four of their five April matches are against clubs likely to be challenging for promotion.