Hello & welcome to the 2017/18 season of the Essex Senior League which starts this weekend. Once again, I’ll be (less than competitively) going up against my good friend, fellow Non-League enthusiast & Grassroot Football Show colleague Peter Dudley in predicting the results in the ESL this season on both our blogs. Do you agree with our predictions of the first round of matches?
Saturday 29th July fixtures (all 3pm KO’s)
Basildon Utd v Clapton Venue: The Hive
Scott: Basildon welcome last season’s runners-up Clapton to the Hive. As with many clubs in the division, it’s a new era for Basildon with manager Marc Harrison making his debut in the ESL, having moved from neighbours Basildon Town. There have been a number of changes to the playing squad too, so they may take a little time to gel. Clapton on the other hand, have kept the same management team from last season. Although they’ll feel the loss of the departed Ebengo & Ashman, they have also added quite heavily in the close-season and have had a good pre-season.
If the visitors are heavily backed from the stands as per usual, this could further galvanize Clapton and I can see the visitors picking up the win here.
Scott’s Prediction: 1 – 3
Peter: The Bees have had several personnel changes over the summer after previous manager Aaron Bloxham and several of his squad have departed for pastures new. In his place came ex-Basildon Town boss Marc Harrison whose first competitive match will be against a strong looking Clapton side who have had a pretty impressive pre-season campaign. I expect the Tons to start the season with a win.
Pete’s Prediction: 0-2
Burnham Ramblers v Hackney Wick Venue: Leslie Field
Scott: Burnham welcome Hackney Wick to Leslie Field for the visitors’ first ESL encounter. Burnham lost a few key players during the summer including Craig Heskey (Clapton) & Reggie Disley (Enfield 1893) and have also struggled during pre-season. Manager Lee Hughes will have a challenge on his hands to improve on last season’s bottom two finish. Hackney looked decent in pre-season though took a little while to get going in attack when I watched them v AC London earlier this month. This one is a hard one to call, it could be scrappy, but then again it could be a goal-fest.
I believe the visitors will edge it though, away win.
Scott’s Prediction: 1 – 2
Peter: The hosts have had an appalling pre-season campaign and come up against ESL newboys Hackney Wick, who took over London Bari, at Leslie Field. In contrast Wick have had a very impressive build up to their first ever senior campaign and I feel they will begin this with a heavy victory against a side I expect to struggle badly this season.
Pete’s Prediction: 0-4
Great Wakering Rovers v Stansted Venue: Burroughs Park
Scott: Wakering return to the ESL with a home tie against Stansted, whose manager Paul Pittuck makes his managerial debut in the ESL here. Wakering have understandably lost players following their relegation from Isthmian Division North though they have recruited the likes of Bradley Nobbs and Aaron Russell and retained a number of last season’s squad as they seek to attain promotion at the first time of asking. The sides have had fairly contrasting form in pre-season, though Rovers boss Iain O’Connell will know the importance of their home form if they are to have a successful campaign.
Buoyed on by the dedicated Rovers fans, I reckon Rovers will start their campaign with a win here.
Scott’s Prediction: 3 – 1
Peter: For all the turmoil off-the-pitch pre-season at Burroughs Park, Iain O’Connell’s side have had a very solid pre-season campaign and have assembled a decent squad. They come up against a Stansted side who are now managed by ex-Hannakins Farm boss Paul Pittuck and he will want to stamp his authority on this league as soon as possible. I feel the hosts will get the better of him at the weekend though.
Pete’s Prediction: 2-0
Hullbridge Sports v Waltham Forest Venue: Lower Road
Scott: Hullbridge welcome Waltham Forest to Lower Road. The hosts will be looking to improve on last season’s mid-table finish, once again under the tutelage of player-boss Rob Hodgson & player-assistant manager Aaron Hunwicks. Forest are now managed by Qayum Shakoor and have had an indifferent pre-season though last season they did create chances and if that continues here, we could be in for a highly-competitive encounter. My gut feeling is we’ll see a draw here.
Scott’s Prediction: 2 – 2
Peter: Sports have had a mixed pre-season campaign but would of learned a lot from it against sides who were mainly a level above them in the pyramid, whilst Forest have also had a mixed build up although they ended their pre season campaign on a high in midweek so this would of given them some confidence coming into this one. However, I am going to plump for a draw in this one.
Pete’s Prediction: 2-2
Redbridge v Tower Hamlets Venue: Oakside
Scott: New-look Redbridge, now under the management of Ricky Eaton & Joey May, take on Tower Hamlets at Oakside. Redbridge have looked decent in pre-season and have shown their ambition, making a number of good close-season signings & retaining most of last season’s side. Hamlets have also signed a few decent players during the summer as ex-manager AJ Ashinike returns alongside Ade Abayomi to jointly-manage the club. That said, the visitors’ defence is going to need to be on good form here to repel the Motormen’s forward line. Unless Redbridge have an off-day in-front of goal, I reckon the hosts will be too strong for Hamlets here. Home win.
Scott’s Prediction: 3 – 1
Peter: The Motormen have impressed in pre-season and have a decent squad to make a challenge for the top spots this season maybe, whilst Hamlets, now with AJ in as assistant manager, are looking to improve on last season’s difficulties and have added some useful players to their squad. It should be a decent game at Oakside however I expect the hosts to prevail in this one.
Pete’s Prediction: 3-1
Sawbridgeworth Town v West Essex Venue: Crofters End
Scott: Sawbridgeworth begin their campaign at home to last season’s ‘surprise package’ West Essex at Crofters End. There’s been no change in either side’s management teams and both sides may be aiming for a top-ten finish, maybe higher in Sawbridgeworth’s case, though their home form is usually good and that will need to continue if they’ll have a good season. West Essex have retained last season’s top scorer Michael Mignot and with ‘keeper Jack Coker returning after a spell on the sidelines, they will be a threat. Again, this match could go either way though I can’t separate these tough outfits, I’m going to go for a battling draw.
Scott’s Prediction: 1 – 1
Peter: Both sides have had useful pre-season campaigns in the build up to the new season, the visitors even took a trip to France for their final pre-season workout and came away with a 1-0 win. How this one will go is a tricky one with Crofters a difficult place to get a result at for many a visiting side. I feel this may sway the result Sawbo’s way and therefore I will go for a narrow home victory.
Pete’s Prediction: 3-2
Takeley v Sporting Bengal Utd Venue: Station Road
Scott: Takeley welcome Bengal to Station Road. Takeley, who won both the Gordon Brasted Trophy & the League Challenge Cup last season, may have lost ESL record-scorer Charlie Cole to Billericay though in Stuart Zanone they may have a suitable replacement in attack as they look to be part of the promotion-hunt this term. Bengal also seem in a good place with most of last season’s squad retained though Takeley are tough to beat, particularly at home and although it may be a tough encounter for both sides, I expect a home win.
Scott’s Prediction: 2 – 1
Peter: Takeley in my eyes will be one of the ones to watch out for this season and although they lost striker Charlie Cole in the summer they have a more than able replacement in Stuart Zanone, who has already netted a few goals in pre-season. Along with Mitchell Das they have a potent strike force again and have impressed in pre-season too. Sporting Bengal have had some good results themselves and Imrul Gazi is happy with his squad going into the campaign although the loss of Jack Lamb, a key player for the Bengalese, in their final pre-season game is a blow. I feel the hosts will have too much for the visitors in this one and so am predicting a home win.
Pete’s Prediction: 3-0
Wadham Lodge v FC Romania Venue: Match Day Centre, Kitchener Road
Scott: It’s all change in the boardroom for Wadham after the sad departure of the Fitch’s & co in the summer. James Falaise & Kevin Lucas do remain co-managers though as they entertain FC Romania at Kitchener Road. Wadham will look to be more consistent, particularly at home. The visitors will be looking to start well here though and if they play near their best, they could well come away with the points.
Scott’s Prediction: 0 – 2
Peter: Lodge have had a largely impressive pre-season campaign whilst the Romanians have had a mixed campaign themselves although if they turn up on any given day they can cause any side issues. I’m expecting this game to be a fairly even and decent battle and I am going to go for a score draw in this one.
Pete’s Prediction 1-1
Woodford Town 2017 v Ilford Venue: Goffs Lane
Scott: Woodford welcome Ilford to Goffs Lane. The hosts, managed by ex-Brentwood boss Tony Ievoli, have looked decent in pre-season though they’ll know the league is a different matter entirely. They have a chance of being a ‘surprise package’ this term though they face an Ilford side that is in transition following the events of the close-season. The signing of goal-machine James Peagram from Barking could be a master-stroke though their pre-season has been mixed. Manager Allan Fenn has a history of producing tough, competitive sides though and coupled with the ‘unknown factor’ at Woodford, they could sneak a win here.
Scott’s Prediction: 1 – 2
Peter: Tony Ievoli leads his Woodford side, who have changed their name from Haringey & Waltham, into the new season with some promise after some decent performances in pre-season. Ilford’s pre-season difficulties are well documented but they can now look forward to a season where they can try and challenge for honours; however their final two pre-season outings ended in heavy defeats so this will give manager Allan Fenn plenty to ponder ahead of what will be a tough first game at Goffs Lane. Difficult one to predict this one but I feel the Foxes may scrape a result here.
Pete’s Prediction: 0-1
You can follow me, Scott W on Twitter: @ScottMHC14
You can follow Peter on Twitter: @ped1980 and on his website at http://www.leaguewebsite.co.uk/unofficialesl/LeagueNews
Also, you can follow the ‘umbrella’ that is the Grassroot Football Show on Twitter at @ELRFootball & also online at elrgfs.blogspot.co.uk where myself & Peter take on a different third ‘contestant’ with our predictions every week. This week it is Canvey Island fan & Non-League enthusiast Andy Wilkins (Twitter: @andywilkins2015).