Written by Scott W (Twitter: @ScottMHC14)
Hello and welcome to the new Isthmian Division North season, now known as the Bostik League Division North after twenty years of it being known as the Ryman League. It’s been mentioned that only one club will be relegated come season’s end and two will be promoted. Below is a list of the fixtures on Matchday #1.
Saturday 12th August (3pm KO’s)
AFC Hornchurch v Soham Town Rangers Venue: Bridge Avenue
Jimmy McFarlane’s Urchins welcome Soham to Bridge Avenue. Hornchurch have recruited a number of good players during the summer, including the likes of forwards Bradley Warner and Theo Fairweather-Johnson. Soham’s late revival of form at the latter stages of the season certainly assisted them in averting relegation last term and will look for a positive start here.
AFC Sudbury v Canvey Island Venue: Wardale Williams Stadium
This encounter sees two sides that were both relegated last term clash as Canvey travel to Sudbury on the Suffolk/Essex border. Both sides will also be looking for a favourable campaign and may well be in the play-off hunt come season’s end. Former Bowers & Pitsea forward David Knight are among the signings Danny Heale has made in the close-season.
Aveley v Bowers & Pitsea Venue: Parkside
Aveley welcome Bowers & Pitsea in what is their first league match at their brand-new Parkside home, which they will continue to share (as they did with Mill Field) with tenants Grays Athletic for the next two seasons. In what could be an even more highly-contested division than last term, both sides may be angling for another run at the play-offs this term.
Barking v Waltham Abbey Venue: Mayesbrook Park
Essex Senior League champions Barking welcome Waltham Abbey to Mayesbrook Park in their first match back at Step 4. The hosts have a much-changed squad and a new co-manager in Justin Gardner this term, joining Glen Golby in the dug-out. The Abbotts will be looking to avoid the nerves of a relegation dogfight this season, as they had at times last campaign. Will Barking see previous ESL champions Bowers & Pitsea’s ‘yardstick’ of a top-six finish last season as encouragement for them? Perhaps, though I suspect they’d be content with a mid-table finish in April.
Brentwood Town v Hertford Town Venue: The Brentwood Arena
Brentwood welcome Bostik North newcomers Hertford Town to the Brentwood Arena. Craig Shipman starts his first full season in charge with a squad largely the same as last term, though forward Lamar Reynolds clinched a big move to EFL Two side Newport County during the summer. Hertford might be thankful for the temporary reduction in relegation this season, though it’ll be an adventure for Gavin Kelsey’s men this term.
Bury Town v Romford Venue: Ram Meadow
Romford travel to Ram Meadow in their season’s opener. Both these sides achieved creditable mid-table finishes last term. Paul Martin’s side has stayed in the division for around a decade and will look to continue to progress this term.
Dereham Town v Cheshunt Venue: Aldiss Park
Dereham welcome Cheshunt to Aldiss Park. The Magpies appointed Neal Simmons in the summer as their new manager, as they look to improve on their 18th place finish last term. Cheshunt, who for a while last season looked to be contenders for a play-off spot, eventually finished a very creditable 10th. Jonny Ashman is among their summer signings as they perhaps quietly seek another tilt at the play-offs this term under manager Paul Wickenden.
Heybridge Swifts v Mildenhall Town Venue: Scraley Road
Jody Brown’s side have made a number of intriguing signings in the summer as they look to avert another scramble with the drop, after their final-day heroics last season. They welcome newcomers Mildenhall to Scraley Road. I saw Heybridge in pre-season at Southend Manor in which they played very well, they might fancy a tilt at a top ten-finish, under the radar.
Norwich Utd v Haringey Borough Venue: Plantation Park
The Planters take on ‘Borough in their league opener. Both sides perhaps performed above expectations last term as they achieved top-ten finishes.
Tilbury v Grays Athletic Venue: Chadfields
Tilbury welcome Grays to Chadfields. Tilbury finished 12th last season, as Grays finished bottom of Isthmian Premier last term. Grays though have overseen somewhat of a squad re-construction which has seen old faces such as Lamar Johnson and Jamie Slabber return to the club. Under Jamie Stuart’s tenure, they will be going for an immediate return to Bostik Premier.
Ware v Maldon & Tiptree Venue: Wodson Park
Ware, who were reprieved from the drop in the summer, welcome last season’s play-off finalists Maldon & Tiptree to Wodson Park. Maldon’s top-scorer last term Liam Nash grabbed a huge transfer to League One side Gillingham in the summer though Kevin Horlock’s Jammers will again look to be in the promotion reckoning this season.
Witham Town v Potters Bar Town Venue: Spa Road
Finally, Witham welcome newcomers Potters Bar to Spa Road. Ex-Stansted forward Sam Ashford is among the additions to Adam Flint’s side this term. It could be an ‘open book’ as to how these two get on this season.
Check back at the weekend for the the first Bostik League Division North results round-up of the new season.