How the National League could look next season following Banbury United's promotion

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Puritans promoted, but who else will be joining them?

A home draw with Tamworth on Saturday was enough to secure Banbury United the Southern League Premier Central title - and a place in what looks nailed on to be the National League North next season.

The Oxfordshire-based Puritans may be more than 200 miles south of the likes of Blyth Spartans, Gateshead, Spennymoor Town and Darlington, but they are more northerly than current incumbents Hereford United, Gloucester City and Brackley Town.

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Banbury are the first club to secure promotion to step two this campaign, but which other new teams could be joining them in the National League North?

Banbury United will be moving up to the national League North.Banbury United will be moving up to the national League North.
Banbury United will be moving up to the national League North.

Starting at step one, King's Lynn Town are the only side which could be classed as northern in the National League's bottom eight.

They currently occupy the third and final relegation spot, but have found some form in recent weeks.

If they finish in the relegation zone they are the only side who would come into the National League North.

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If they survive then Weymouth and Aldershot Town would appear favourites to join relegated Dover Athletic in the National League South, although Maidenhead United, Wealdstone - possibly even Eastleigh and Barnet - are not mathematically safe yet.

Looking to join Banbury in promotion from the Southern League Premier Central are Peterborough Sports, Coalville, Town, Rushall Olympic and AFC Rushden & Diamonds - who are currently in the play-off spots - while Alvechurch and Leiston could make late bursts into the top five.

Any one of these sides would, again, be placed in the North.

Of course, it's pretty straightforward that the two sides coming up from the Northern Premier League with be headed for the National League North.

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Buxton currently top the table while South Shields, Matlock Town, Warrington Town, Scarborough Athletic, Whitby Town, Bamber Bridge and FC United of Manchester are the other sides who appear to be in with a shout of going up.

The promotion chasers in the Southern League Premier South - Hayes & Yeading United, Taunton Town, Metropolitan Police, Farnborough, Weston-super-Mare, Chesham United, Yate Town and Truro City - would all be shoe-ins for the South.

Chesham are the furthest north of that group but still reside further south than National League South clubs Chelmsford City, St Albans, Oxford City, Hemel Hempstead and Braintree Town.

In the Isthmian League promotion would mean a place in the South for Worthing, Enfield Town, Hornchurch, Lewes, Folkestone Invicta and Cheshunt, but possibly not for second-placed Bishop's Stortford.

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In a crazy twist of fate, the Blues, could actually end up back in the North, where they played for two seasons between 2011 and 2013, much to their chagrin.

This summer the National League want to get the number of teams in the North and South up to 24. There are currently 22 in the North and 21 in the South.

With four teams coming up into both divisions from step three, but both sides losing one team via relegation and a further two who will be promoted into step one, that will leave the North with 23 sides and the South with 22.

This is where the fun begins.

If King's Lynn are relegated they will drop into the North, while Dover and a third club will head South, giving both divisions 24 teams. Nice and simple enough.

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But if the Linnets beat the drop and three southern clubs come down then there will be 23 in the North and 25 in the South, meaning a sideways move for one side.

At present, Braintree Town are the most northerly of the National League South teams and would likely be the ones to move, the National League historically deciding their divisions by geography and not proximity to other teams or transport networks.

However, if Bishop's Stortford were to gain promotion from the Isthmian League, they could possibly be the side placed in the North - but only if Braintree, currently 15th and eight clear of basement side Welling United, who have a game in hand, finish bottom.

Bizarrely, if King's Lynn and Braintree stay up in their respective divisions and Bishop's Stortford earn promotion then two sides just 20 miles apart down the A120, on virtually the same longitude (Braintree 51.87600N, Stortford 51.87327N), could well find themselves playing in different divisions of step two.

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Another option likely to be put forward would be returning Oxford City to the North, where they would have possible derbies with Banbury, Brackley Town an relatively short trips to Leamington, Gloucester, Kettering and maybe even Rushden and Alvechurch.

However, they are not the northernmost club in the South and, given the travel costs of heading north, they may well be against the idea.

Yet - again with many ifs and buts - were King's Lynn to stay up, Braintree to plummet to the bottom of the South and Bishop's Stortford not go up, that may well be the scenario Oxford face.

Regional football indeed.