Back the Bees; Pick Reeves

  • By: Nick Hext
  • Last Updated: August 6 2014, 13:33 BST

Nick Hext is backing Barnet to win promotion from the Vanarama Conference, while he also has a top goalscorer tip.

Martin Allen: Barnet boss can win promotion
Martin Allen: Barnet boss can win promotion

Recommended Bets:

2pts Barnet to win promotion

1pt e.w. Damian Reeves to be top goalscorer

Welcome to the Vanarama Conference - the artist formerly known as the Skrill Premier, Blue Square Premier, Nationwide Conference, GM Vauxhall Conference and Gola League.

Conference has at least returned to the name of the fifth tier of English football and that's definitely a good thing to give it a little bit more identity.

The new season starts on Saturday with Bristol Rovers taking on Grimsby at lunchtime.

It will be an interesting clash between relegated Rovers and the Mariners, who lost in the play-offs last season, as they make up two of the top three in the outright market along with Forest Green.

I strongly advise not getting involved with title favourites Bristol Rovers for an immediate return to the Football League. The five-year wait for Luton to return to League 2 shows just how tough life is as the biggest name in the division.

Former Salisbury boss Darrell Clarke is the man in charge of the Pirates and won't be shocked by anything at this level but it isn't a big squad he has at his disposal and they will be a scalp for the rest of the league.

There is more to like about Grimsby and I expect them to once again be in the top five after missing out in the play-offs in both of the last two seasons.

They will be there or thereabouts but I think there is more value to be had a little further down the promotion prices.

Barnet are back under the management of Martin Allen for his fourth - that's right, fourth - spell in charge.

'Mad Dog' returned for the end of last season after the memorable reign of Edgar Davids and the less memorable spell at the helm for his fellow Dutchmen Ulrich Landvreugd and Dick Schreuder.

The play-offs proved just about out of reach but Allen has since taken the summer to remould his squad and has looked to solve his side's woes in front of goal.

John Akinde has arrived after a successful season in the Conference for Alfreton. The striker is getting his career back on track after failing to shine in the Football League following success at Ebbsfleet earlier in his career.

Akinde will be partnered in attack by the experienced Charlie MacDonald, who was all set to join Sky Bet League 2 Oxford this summer until manager Gary Waddock was replaced by Michael Appleton.

MacDonald had been in the Football League since 2007 - taking in successful spells at Brentford and MK Dons during that time - but took centre stage in non-league earlier in his career and can do so once again.

Allen knows what it takes to win promotion. It was only the season before last that he won the League 2 title with Gillingham before being shown the door at the Priestfield Stadium during the start of the next campaign.

The Bees boss is taking inspiration from last season's two promoted clubs - Luton and Cambridge - for the promotion push.

"You need characters, strong centre-backs, good athletes, goalscorers and pace in your team," he told Barnet's official website.

"We need a group of men that are committed together to the cause. What Cambridge and Luton did is the same as what I did at Gillingham and yes, without a shadow of a doubt, we have got all these things in our squad."

I agree that Barnet are big promotion candidates and I'm more than happy to take the generous 8/1 for the Bees to return to the Football League.

My other tip for the new season comes from the top goalscorer market.

Damian Reeves is back in the top level of non-league football after Altrincham's victory in the Conference North play-offs last season.

The 28-year-old scores goals for fun. Last season's tally of 21 is decent enough but the two previous campaigns saw him end with hauls of 44 and 41 to really state his case as a striker to be feared.

Reeves' last turn in this division saw him score 19 goals as Altrincham were relegated at the end of the 2010/11 season so a step up class won't be a worry.

Odds of 66/1 for Reeves to end this term as the Conference's top scorer are simply too tempting to be ignored.

He's well worth an each-way interest.