The 2018/19 ESL Season So Far (part 1 of 2)
Written by Scott W (Twitter: @ScottMHC14) – ESL Writer & Grassroots Football Show Contributor
Avid readers of this bulletin may recall I did an article earlier in the season about how all twenty clubs in the Essex Senior League Premier Division (ESL) started the campaign. As we are now approaching the end-of-season ‘run-in’ – this is the first of a two-part piece, looking at the bottom half of the table ahead of the action on Saturday February 9th.
This article was written primarily for the Essex Snr Lge’s news bulletin CentreSpot this week.
So we start with the battle at the foot of the table. At time of writing, there are four sides who are most ‘in danger’ of facing the dreaded drop to the Eastern Senior League South division (Step 6), even if the powers that be (ie. The FA) are yet to absolutely mention how many relegation spots there will be this term. Leyton Athletic currently sit bottom with 15 points from 25 matches, after a winless run that sits at 11 matches. I can only describe their season thus far as ‘chaotic’ with player-boss Eli Benoit recently announcing his departure, meaning they will have had four managers this term. In my view, two things have hurt the club the most and that is 1) defensively they can be over-run in the latter third of a match and 2) struggling to find the net consistently.
Barkingside are second-bottom, having had somewhat of a renaissance under interim boss Alex Goldstone. All three of their league wins have come in their last seven matches, two of those victories coming at Cricklefield. They have eleven matches remaining to get themselves out of the danger zone. A few months ago it looked perilous for them and with some canny signings now they’ve given themselves a decent shot at evading the drop.
The other two sides in that scrap are Tower Hamlets (18th – 22pts from 26 matches) & Southend Manor (17th – 22pts from 25 games). Both sides are finding wins very hard to come by in what perhaps is a sign of an ever-tougher division this term with more sides being tough opponents ‘on their day’. Hamlets have won three of their last 13 matches though to their credit, were resolute in holding Hullbridge at Mile End recently. Even so, Hamlets need a few wins to both get themselves out of danger and draw other sides closer to the bottom four. Manor are in the same ‘ball-park’ with three wins from their last 11 matches. Scoring goals is their main deficiency (they are the second lowest scorers in the division), though with an inexperienced squad you can certainly understand why it’s been a hard season for them. One other interesting note is that they’ve conceded the least amount of goals (38) of all the sides in the bottom half (at time of writing).
Redbridge (16th – 27pts in 26 games) and Enfield (15th – 28pts from 24 games) are two sides that are still peering over the cocoon that houses the bottom four. New boss Micky Wetherall has started to make an impact with two crucial wins in recent weeks, assisted by a raft of new signings including proven goal-scorers Jay Knight and Daniel Gilchrist. Defensively they still have concerns though that may well take some time to rectify. The goals are coming as well though and you suspect they are a few wins from being out of relegation contention entirely. Enfield’s form has tailed off somewhat, though despite being useful going forward, it is defensively where they need to ‘baton down the hatches’ somewhat. Other than that, three wins may be enough to eradicate any worries of going down.
The three sides above them are Clapton (14th – 32pts from 27 matches), Ilford (32pts from 27 games) and Stanway Rovers (12th – 33pts from 27 games) all embody traits of one word – inconsistency. They’ve also scored around 40 goals each so far this term. The Tons and the Foxes have struggled to win matches at home thus far this term, while 70% of Stanway’s wins at come at the Hawthorns so far. Recent results do indicate that the Foxes and Rovers are getting a little stronger, as the Cricklefield-based side have welcomed back the likes of Yemi Adelani and Terry Spillane’s team have settled down after a heavy squad turnover earlier in the campaign. All three sides can still break into the top ten and further congest an already tight mid-table.
Two points above Stanway sees Sawbridgeworth (11th – 35pts from 27 games) and West Essex (10th – 35pts from 29 games). Both teams have won four of their last ten matches and although they concede a few, they are both dangerous opposition as Sawbo showed in their recent win at home to Sporting Bengal and the Stags showed in their wins over Enfield and Saffron Walden in recent weeks. They are both only eight points adrift of Sporting in 7th spot so a top-ten spot may not elude them come the end of April. Regardless, they have both had decent seasons already, with respect to how they have played in a more competitive division.
This article was written on Thursday 7th February.