Written By Scott W (Twitter: @ScottMHC14)
Hello and welcome to the first of a mini-series of articles looking at the EOFL divisions thus far this season. We start off with the top tier – the Premier Division with a look at all 14 sides from the bottom-up.
The beginning of the season saw somewhat of a upheaval with the likes of May & Baker, Frenford & White Ensign moving up to compete in the new Eastern Senior League South at Step 6. To compensate, a number of existing EOFL sides were promoted into the Premier Division (Step 7) and they were Great Baddow, Hutton, old Southendian, Sungate as well as Div One Champions Buckhurst Hill.
As I write this in mid-November, most sides have played ten matches and filling the bottom two places are Manford Way and last season’s champions Catholic Utd. Manford sit bottom after a very difficult start, with nine losses from their nine matches so far. A narrow loss at Rayleigh Town on the opening day started off the train which hasn’t yet been stopped. Arguably the biggest issue on-the-pitch at present is their scoring record: Nine goals in those nine matches.
Catholic Utd are the only other side yet to win this campaign and to be fair, a transition both in terms of management and a change in venue to Bowers & Pitsea’s new 3G pitch may have added to things. The ‘Super Hoops’ have only played eight matches, mainly due to Cup action (They also heavily beat Frenford Res in the Senior Challenge Cup in August). Their only points this season have come in the shape of draws at Bishop’s Stortford Swifts and at home to Leigh Ramblers in a rare midweek match. With their form in the Anagram Records Trophy (which they won last season), surely their league form will pick up at some point.
The next three sides (in 10th,11th & 12th) are promoted sides in Old Southendian, Sungate & Great Baddow. In one of these twists, all three sides have conceded 23 goals so far. OS had a rough start to proceedings with five straight losses though a big win over Manford Way prompted a run of only one loss in their last four matches. Sungate started with promise with wins at Kelvedon Hatch and at home to Manford in their first three matches though they are winless in their last six outings as they are finding out how strong the division is perhaps. Great Baddow round out this mini-group as they started the campaign with three defeats on-the-bounce though a home win over Leigh Ramblers and at Manford suggested an upturn may come. It hasn’t as yet as they are winless in their last five though a comfort to them may be that the three sides ahead of them are within five points of them at present.
Ahead of them in quite a tight cluster are five sides in the form of Canning Town (5th), Hutton (6th), Leigh Ramblers (7th), Rayleigh Town (8th) and Springfield (9th).
Springfield started fairly slowly with one win in their opening five though have picked up a bit recently with wins at Leigh Ramblers and at home to Old Southendian and it is that home form which may be a solid base for them, as for many sides in this tier for the remainder of the season. Rayleigh Town have made a solid start to the division and the stat the stands out for me is they’ve only conceded ten goals in their nine matches to date. They count wins over Hutton and Great Baddow as part of their fairly strong record at home.
Leigh Ramblers and Hutton made good starts themselves to the season though the latter have picked up in recent weeks with three straight wins (all at their Polo Fields pitch to Catholic Utd, Canning Town and Sungate respectively) which coincides with their increased goal-scoring threat. Leigh brought in a few new signings in the summer, all of whom have played at Essex Senior League level or higher and though at least three of them have since departed, it will be intriguing to see how they get on in the next few months.
Canning Town are another of the sides who have done well at home, at their ground in Beckton. They’ve beaten the likes of Catholic Utd and Springfield there whilst also can get the odd result away from home too so they probably will be happy with their work thus far.
Now onto the top four, which have a cushion on those below though only four points separates the top lot. Kelvedon Hatch in 2nd are two points clear of Harold Wood Athletic (3rd) and Bishop’s Stortford Swifts (4th) who are separated only Ath’s superior goal-scoring prowess. Buckhurst Hill have continued their superb form of last season to top the standings by two points.
Let’s look at the 3rd and 4th-placed sides first. Swifts have only lost one in ten thus far, with that coming in their opening match at Hutton. Since then, seven wins in nine matches has brought about wins over leaders Buckhurst Hill and Canning Town in recent times. Factor in that they don’t score many, little over a goal a game on average and you need a miserly defence and they have it – nine goals shipped thus far – the second best defensive record in the division at present.
Harold Wood Athletic are a side known to pose a threat and they started well with four wins in their first five league outings showed they meant business. They are strong at Harold Wood Rec though their battling qualities were also in evidence when I saw battle to a win at Leigh Ramblers (Summary here: survivor16b.wordpress.com/2018/11/03/match-summary-leigh-ramblers-0-2-harold-wood-athletic-eofl-3-11-18/ ) earlier this month. They are unbeaten in their last four also.
Kelvedon Hatch sit 2nd, thanks largely to a run of eight games unbeaten and are the best goal-scoring side in the top-tier thus far. It’s always handy to have goals throughout the team and that logic seems to apply to Hatch. When you average nearly three goals a match, you know you’re in for a game and Kelvedon are also unbeaten away from home currently as well.
Finally for this tier, Buckhurst Hill have almost flawless record with nine wins from ten matches, with that only blemish coming at Bishop’s Stortford Swifts. They also have a knack of grinding out wins and that is no bad thing, as well as being able to pile the goals on. They are unbeaten at their Roding Lane ground and the longer that run holds, the more likely they may be to be among the top teams this term.
Thanks for reading.