Hartlepool United promotion hopes boosted in National League

Hartlepool United's promotion chances have been increased - before a ball is even kicked in the National League.

Sunday, 11th June 2017, 6:34 pm
Updated Thursday, 15th June 2017, 8:41 am
Not a play-off fan: New Hartlepool United manager Craig Harrison

Clubs have voted to extend the play-off system for the 2017-18 programme. The end-of-season ‘lottery’ will feature six teams after proposals were approved at the league’s Annual General Meeting at the weekend.

NL South and North, a division which features Darlington and Spennymoor, will also have six contestants, though the Quakers were not allowed to participate last season because Blackwell Meadows does not come up to NL standard.

National League chief executive Michael Tattersall believes the three divisions will be more exciting, right to the final Saturday.

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To date, only the champions qualified automatically for the Football League with the sides placed second to fifth taking part in ‘traditional’ two-legged semis with the winners meeting in the final at Wembley.

The National League required 75 per cent of clubs to vote for the proposal and Tattersall said: “With more clubs having the opportunity to reach the play-offs, we will have a better season. It’s that simple.”

At the end of next season, sides finishing second down to seventh will qualify.

The first round of fixtures will see the teams who end fourth and fifth host those who finish seventh and sixth in one off games.

Then the winners of fourth v seventh will travel to the club who finished third, while the winners of fifth v sixth will travel to the side who finished second in the table.

That will then produce two teams who will go on to compete in the play-off Final at Wembley, with the winners going into League Two.

SportMail reported last week that Harrison was not a fan of the play-off system.

“I’m not a believer in play-offs, full stop,” said the 39-year-old. “Certainly in this league the team who finish second should go up. If you finish second then you are second for a reason.

“They’ve played lots and lots of football, lots and lots of games and travelled the length and breadth of the country, they deserve promotion.

“That’s just my opinion.”