Written By Scott W [Twitter: @ScottMHC14]
Hello and welcome to the first of a two-part blog looking back at the Essex Senior League 2019-20 season, as part of my Non-League ‘Season Review’ series.
In this first part, I look back at the top ten sides in the division from the dry statistics perspective and my own thoughts on seeing them in action during the campaign, followed by the stats on ‘Clean Sheets’ this season. Thanks for reading.
Essex Senior League (as of season cut-off point of March 14th 2020)
As with most Football at or below Step 3 (Isthmian Premier Division in the local area), the season was halted in mid-March 2020 before eventually being curtailed several weeks later.
We start off the Top ten rundown at the summit, where Saffron Walden Town led having grabbed sixty-six points from their 29 matches. Jason Maher’s side had another very strong campaign, with a much-admired strike force featuring the likes of Charlie Cole, Nathan Scarborough and highly-rated prospect Tyger Smalls breaking into the team in the second part of the campaign. The ‘Bloods’ hit 69 goals this term (at a Goals per game (GpG) average of 2.38) and had the fourth-best defence in the division (marshalled by the likes of Scott Pethers and club stalwart Spike Bell), conceding twenty-eight times in the league. They have all the hallmarks of a top side, being gritty when they need to be but also having searing pace going forward and can score goals almost at will when I watched them in-person. I also must give a special mention to determined forward Gavin Cockman, who struck sixteen league goals to lead his side in attack and personally he had a superb campaign.
In second place are Hashtag Utd, who memorably won the Eastern Senior League South in their debut campaign in 2018-19. It was another very positive season for Jay Devereux’s side, having accrued sixty-five points from their 26 matches prior to the season being halted. The ‘Tags’ were the most in-form side in March, with six wins from their most recent eight matches. Overall, they scored sixty-six times (a GpG of 2.54) and conceded 27 goals, the third-best defensive record in the division. Their home record was right up there but it was away from their temporary home of Chadfields that they excelled, winning eleven of their thirteen matches away from home. Striker George Smith was a superb addition to the team, firing home nineteen league goals, but canny signings during the season like centre-back Luke Wilson, goalkeeper Louis Hawes and midfielder Tom Anderson added to their momentum. I saw them in their opening ESL match where they surprisingly lost to Southend Manor, though after that they won their next ten matches on-the-reel. Then in January, an inspired spell after half-time saw them bypass Redbridge and at that point you knew they would take some stopping. For all the hype that follows them around, they are a very promising side and will expect to be right in the tussle for promotion again next season. They are on the move once again, having agreed to ground-share at Bowers & Pitsea’s Len Salmon Stadium next season, which will only add to the optimism going forward.
Walthamstow resided in third place, with new manager Max Mitchell taking the reins in late January. The East Londoners gained sixty-three points from their 26 games, winning twenty of them. They netted seventy-three times (a GpG of 2.81) and yes, Dwade James got 27 of those himself to end up the league’s top scorer for the second season in succession, you also have to applaud the stats at the other end of the pitch. Notably, they shelled only seventeen goals, the league’s best this term (a GpG of 0.65) and custodian James Bransgrove also gathered 16 clean sheets (see below), which speaks for itself. Previous gaffer Ryan Maxwell has to take some credit for assembling the team he did, and therefore was largely responsible for his side losing only one of their twelve away matches this term. I saw them since back in August where they just outshone Stansted and battle to a point at Ilford in late January though with Mitchell settling in well since his appointment, the ‘Waltham Rabble’ will be fired up once again next term for another good season at Wadham Lodge.
Next in the table were league newcomers Hadley in fourth. They garnered 57 points from their twenty-six matches and have the esteem of scoring the most goals this term, with eighty strikes (a GpG of 3.07) and letting in only twenty-four goals, the second-best record in the division this term. I saw them back on the opening day where they comfortably defeated Enfield though the best thing I recall about that day was the good atmosphere at the club, not forgetting the intriguing ‘Tennis Ball Challenge’ game which is a rather unique half-time spot of entertainment. I saw them again in October where they had to play well to win at Takeley. Forward Solomon Ofori was arguably their star player this term with eighteen league goals to his name, though I’d also mention Luke Jupp, Cameron Ferguson and Manny Hammond who also were right up there in the goal-scorers chart and for their importance to the team. I doubt I’m the only writer who hopes they remain with the league next season as they certainly played their part in it for the football they played and the good people at the club. They were the only side unbeaten at home, winning 13 of their fourteen matches at Brickfield Lane, with only Saffron Walden Town holding them to a draw in the ESL in January. Finally, who could forget the FA Cup run to the Third Qualifying Round where they lost out at National League South side Havant & Waterlooville in early October.
In fifth spot are Stansted, who got fifty points from their 27 matches this term. A mixed start to the campaign was swiftly nullified from the memory banks during mid-season as they achieved a new club record of twelve straight league wins which shot them up into the top six. They were in good nick towards the ‘end’ of the season as well. Having scored fifty-five goals in all this term (a GpG of 2.04) and their form at Hargrave Park was to be envied, with ten wins from their 14 matches at home. Paul Pittuck and John Watters’ side also made the last 64 of the FA Vase, and had a grand away day at Thurlow Nunn Premier high-flyers Stowmarket Town to show for it. Connor Hammond ended up their top scorer with eleven league goals, though in fairness the goals were well spread out this term. These two canny managers are known for having determined sides and that was certainly the case again this season. I saw them narrowly lose out at Walthamstow early-doors before besting Clapton in November. You wouldn’t be surprised if the Airportmen are competitive once again next season.
Takeley were once again in the upper echelons of the table in sixth place, garnering forty-three points from their 24 matches, as the indecent weather in the winter heavily affected their fixtures. Interestingly, their form away from Station Road was slightly better than at home, as Marc Das’ side won seven of their 13 matches away, with only three losses. They struck 46 goals this term, whilst the familiar steely backline remained, conceding thirty-four goals (a GpG of 1.42) – the fifth-best record in the ESL. Bryn Thorpe deserves a mention for being top scorer with nine league goals (15 in all competitions) and stopper Matt Gill also racked up six clean sheets as well. When I saw them back in late October, they were beaten by the better side in Hadley and their form toward the season’s halt wasn’t super with two wins and three losses in their last eight matches though it is a testament to the reputation that Das & co have built that you can’t rule out his side from having a good season, even if they are not the most spectacular.
That thought remains with the next club in seventh which was filled by Hoddesdon Town, having won 41 points from their twenty-seven matches. The solid nature of the previous season was maintained, with the Lilywhites conceding 35 times (a GpG of 1.29) and notching a half-century of goals too. Isaac Marfo-Jacobs was their top goal-getter with twelve goals, prior to his departure for Isthmian North side Witham Town. Jordan Halls got six league goals as well to help cover during the latter part of the campaign. Goalkeepers Simon Dent and Aaron Bull got ten clean sheets between them as well and you would feel Simon Riddle’s side are well-placed for another top-half finish at least in 2020/21.
Redbridge are next in eighth spot, having recovered from a mid-season lull to notch thirty-eight points from their 25 games. Weather also affected the improving Oakside stadium, though the fact that they scored 57 league goals (a GpG of 2.28) says a lot for manager Micky Wetherall and his coaching staff. They also shelled 56 goals in defence which arguably held them back a bit but you also have to credit the manner of how they play. Their high-scoring draw at Sporting Bengal Utd in late September was one of my matches of the season, just for the attacking intent shown by both sides. Then in early October, they showed a more gritty side as they won at Southend Manor. Finally, a rare Friday night outing at Oakside in early November saw them just lose out to Woodford Town in another highly-competitive game. Incredibly, eight of their 12wins this came on-the-road and overall, I believe Micky will be happy enough with their campaign.
In ninth place were Woodford Town, after claiming thirty-four points from their 28 matches. Their season could ably be labelled as inconsistent though they did end up finishing well, with four wins from their last eight matches. Remaining at the Harlow Arena this term, they got six wins from their fourteen home games while having their struggles on away days, with four wins and nine losses from their fourteen matches away from home. I saw them lose out at West Essex in September before winning at Redbridge in early November. If they have a more settled squad next term, you would think they will finish higher next term, given they have some talented prospects in the young side. Finally for this part, in tenth spot are Cockfosters, another new side to the division. Ryan Wade’s team gathered thirty-four points also from their 26 matches and ended below Woodford on goals scored. Their Chalk Lane base saw them win six of their twelve matches and going forward, they are an enterprising side to watch, with Billy Healey and Ned Clarke among those impressing. I watched them narrowly defeat West Essex in late October and as some of my peers have said on radio this season, on that occasion they showed how much of a welcoming club they are and they should be congratulated for that. I also saw them make the most of a first-half blitz to win at Southend Manor in November before they ground out a win at Tower Hamlets in early December. All in all, they are a god side to watch and much like Hadley, I hope they remain in the ESL as they have added to the division this term.
Essex Senior League – Goalkeepers’ Clean Sheets
|Nicholas Eyre||Saffron Walden Town||13|
|Tim Pitman||Hashtag Utd||7|
|Simon Dent||Hoddesdon Town||6|
|Alex Read||Woodford Town||6|
|Jack Coker||West Essex||5|
|=11||Aaron Bull||Hoddesdon Town||4|
|Louis Hawes||Hashtag Utd||4|