Bristol Rovers can consider themselves more than a little misfortunate to be playing Conference Premier football this season, having gone into the last match of the 2013/14 League Two campaign two places and three points above the dreaded dropzone.
Darrell Clarke’s men are market leaders to top the division this term at 5/1, but with no relegated club so much as managing promotion straight back into the 92-team football league ladder since Carlisle in 2005 – never mind taking the Conference Premier title – they hold little appeal.
Last year’s Conference South champions Eastleigh are surprisingly short for an outright triumph at 10/1, but the Spitfires have to be respected due to the new money behind them, which has seen former League Two hotshots James Constable and Jack Midson arrive at Ten Acres.
Coach Richard Hill will look to follow in fellow nouveau riche small-fry Fleetwood’s footsteps by making the leap into the big time, while 6/1 title second-favourites Forest Green should be buoyed by the acquisition of former Cod Army ‘beast’ Jon Parkin.
However, the March return of Martin Allen to Barnet – who can be backed at a top-price 18/1 in this market with Ladbrokes.com – could prove hugely significant to the outcome of the Conference campaign.
Allen has taken the reins at the north London club for the fourth time, having kept them in League Two with a brace of wins during his last three-game stint in charge at the end of the 2011/12 campaign.
In his first spell at the helm a decade ago, ‘Mad Dog’ led a universally unfancied Barnet squad into the play-offs before accepting an offer to take over at Brentford.
The 48-year-old has hopped around a number of managerial situations since, with a League Two-winning 2012/13 term at Gillingham clearly the highlight thus far.
A Conference Premier title with his first club in management would surely come close to topping even that feat.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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