S20-21 So Far: Club In-Focus – Catholic Utd [20-21 CIF 1.12.20]

Written By Scott W  [Twitter: @ScottMHC14]

Hello and welcome the seventh and last article in this current series of  ‘Club In-Focus’ blogs where figures in the Grassroots & Non-League game fill us in on their season so far and also recite some chosen moments from recent seasons too.

In this edition, I caught up with Catholic Utd boss Stuart Marshall, who made a welcome return to Non-League in this area in the close season. The ‘Super Hoops’ play in the Essex Olympian League Premier.

SW:  Hello Stuart, firstly can I thank you for your time. We’ll start with your move to the “Super Hoops” in the summer. Local Non-League fans may recall your time at Essex Senior side Southend Manor a few seasons ago. What made you decide to take a new challenge at Catholic Utd?  

SM: Hello Scott thanks for the opportunity. [Re: the move to Catholic Utd] It wasn’t something I was particularly looking for if I’m honest and wasn’t looking to get back involved.  I had a conversation with [Commercial Manager] Leon to start with and he told me about the plans for the club and his plans.  I followed this up with a meeting with Pav [Chairman James Paviour] and it went from there.  In fairness when I was at Manor I got told Catholic were a local rival even though we were in different leagues.  I’ve always kept a watch on results and having played them during my time at Thurrock and coming a poor second.  Catholic seem to gain a lot of attention from other clubs which is somewhat strange but I suppose that’s a compliment.

SW: Before the season began, we heard about the ground move which saw you leave landlords Bowers & Pitsea to play at the Len Forge Centre (artificial pitch) where your Reserve Team played last term. Was this move made out of necessity?

SM: I think our deal come to an end at Bowers and they received a greater offer from Hashtag Utd [the Essex Senior side who made the move across from Tilbury’s Chadfields].  It is a shame as Bowers is a great facility but the Len Forge (Centre) is a good facility and we have to adjust.

SW: As it stands at the season break, Catholic Utd are handily-placed in third spot, seven points off Basildon Town at the summit. Which sides have stood out for you in EOFL Premier in the first two months of this campaign? 

SM: It’s a hard one as we haven’t played all the teams as yet.  I echo other comments and have said this is the past that this league is tough.  I believe many teams could compete in the leagues above.  Look at White Ensign should have won their league [Eastern Senior League South at Step 6] last year but Covid put pay to that.  This year they have started strongly again.  Buckhurst Hill are outstanding in fairness and they beat us this season by a margin.  It was a close game for an hour but silly mistakes and fitness killed us.  Basildon have started strongly so fair play to them, we are 3rd and if I’m honest we’ve not really been consistent.  Leigh Ramblers are very strong and could beat anyone on the day.

Image from Catholic Utd 3 – 1 Rayleigh Town from November 5th [Image: Scott W]

SW: For those that aren’t that familiar with your squad, forward Aaron Baldwin has already amassed three league goals in six league starts. Who are the players that really make the team drive on?

SM: It’s a hard one as we have lots of players that have played at a higher level and should still be. “Balders” (Baldwin) has done alright and should have 6 or 7 goals but that will come, getting in the right places.  Max Kent has been outstanding for us this season in every game, he has quality on the ball and wants to win.  Pat Kearney goes very unnoticed but never allows his performance to drop and has had a great start for us.  In fairness it’s a good group, Harley Kee also adds a lot to us.  Mike Summut is another one who does a great job for the team in a very unselfish way.  Louis Godwin Green is outstanding in goal and lets the players know when he isn’t happy. 

SW: Looking longer-term, what are the club’s plans for the next two to three years or so?

SM: I think the plan is to play as high as possible.  The club have long-term plans in building not just the first team but the actual club, as a whole.  They are pushing girls football and Eastern Junior Alliance [EJA] teams which I’m led to believe will be in place for next season.  We are looking at possibly adding another development team into the Senior set-up as well.  Getting out of this league is very difficult as we are seeing this season.  I would say within three years we want to be playing in a higher division. 

SW: Away from Football, what are your sporting interests?

SM: Golf, I suppose.  I enjoy watching cricket but with football and work you don’t get much spare time.

SW: You’re a big supporter of Non-League Football in the area. How would you rate the Essex Olympian League Premier as a division? And do you think it is under-rated by some observers?

SM: The Olympian League is a strong league and I agree that it is dismissed by teams and people never involved in it.  Look at the players and managers involved in this league, lots could and should be at a higher level.  I’ve mentioned them already but Buckhurst Hill would be in the top five in the Essex Senior League without doubt.  Bishop’s Stortford Swifts have Billy Cove, Allan Fenn and George Young it’s hard to get a much more senior management setup than that.  These have managed at a higher level and properly should be. 

Alex [Goldstone] at Harold Wood has been involved with Romford for years and has lots of connections in local football.  I strongly believe the top 6 in this league would hold their own in step 5.  Teams are in the [Essex] Senior League by default and I believe this should be looked at by the bodies that run football.

SW:  Finally, how do you assess the strength of Non-League Football in Essex?

I believe that Football in Essex is flying.  I’ve been involved at several clubs and believe Essex is one of the strongest (counties). Look at the FA Cup and how the teams performed, (such as) Canvey Island & Concord Rangers.  

Hashtag made it on to the BBC from Step 5!  (v Soham Town Rangers), White Ensign topped step 6, Tilbury are strong this season and Aveley got to the last 8 I believe in the FA Trophy last season.

End

I’d like to thank Stuart for his contribution in this article and I wish him and Catholic Utd well for a good season. That also brings to an end this series of the ‘Club In-Focus’ blogs for November 2020, I appreciate the support and thank you for reading.

S20-21 So Far: Club In-Focus – Southend Manor [20-21 CIF 29.11.20]

Southend Manor club crest

Written By Scott W  [Twitter: @ScottMHC14]

Hello and welcome the sixth and penultimate article in this current series of  ‘Club In-Focus’ blogs where figures in the Grassroots & Non-League game fill us in on their season so far and also recite some chosen moments from recent seasons too.

In this article, I caught up with Southend Manor boss Craig Waters who took the post about a year ago. Manor had a tough season last time out but are holding steady in mid-table at time of writing.

SW: 1. Hello Craig, firstly can I thank you for your time. We’ll begin with marking the first anniversary of your appointment at Southend Manor, along with your assistant Garry Pond. How has the journey been so far in that time? 

CW: The journey so far has been tough but also enjoyable, I have really enjoyed my time at Southend Manor so far and have also enjoyed working with Garry [Pond] and all my management team as well as all the players.

SW: 2. How has the first two months of the season been as a management team, under the shadow of Covid-19 rules?

CW: Coaching under the Covid rules has been very different and challenging at times but everyone at the club have been fantastic and we are getting through it. the same as every other club.

SW: 3. At the season break, Manor are in ninth place on sixteen points, just four points away from the top three. Which sides have stood out for you in Essex Senior in the first two months of this campaign? 

CW: “For me, Walthamstow have stood out so far this season, they play some nice football at times and with the attacking players they have, they won’t have any problems scoring goals, they will surely be in the top two come the end of the season I feel”.

———-

SW: 4. For those that aren’t that familiar with your squad, forward Luca Frankis and midfielder Ben Allen have both amassed three league goals so far this season. Who are the players in the side that really make the team drive on?

CW: To be honest there’s not one stand-out player who drives the team on, all the lads play their part and the togetherness and team spirit is fantastic which has shown with some of the results we have had so far this season.

SW: 5. Away from Football, what are your sporting interests?

CW: Football and family that’s all I do these days, I don’t have time for anything else but I wouldn’t change anything.

SW: 6. And finally, How competitive do you feel the Essex Senior League is as a division this season?

CW: I think this season is very competitive, with the results so far this season it shows anyone is capable of beating anyone which is great to see. We will definitely be trying to get as many points as possible and hopefully cause a few more upsets along the way.

End

I’d like to thank Craig for his thoughts in this article and I wish him and Manor well for a good season. Thank you for reading.

S20-21 So Far: Club In-Focus – Springfield [20-21 CIF 27.11.20]

Written By Scott W  [Twitter: @ScottMHC14]

Hello and welcome the fifth article in this current series of  ‘Club In-Focus’ blogs where figures in the Grassroots & Non-League game fill us in on their season so far and also recite some chosen moments from recent seasons too.

In this edition, I speak to Springfield manager Dan Williams [DW] who took the post in January 2020 but has been around the EOFL for many years. Springfield play in the EOFL Premier Division and are currently in mid-table.

SW: Hello Dan, firstly can I thank you for your time. You were appointed in January 2020, replacing Glen Wilkinson who moved up to Head of Football Development. How do you assess your time at the club so far? 

DW: “Thanks Scott, and thank you for the opportunity to speak about Springfield FC and my time at such a great club. Yes, I was approached not long after I left Rayleigh Town Reserves, and to be honest it was a no brainer. As soon as I met John Meates (Chairman) and Dave Wareham Snr (Secretary), I knew that this was going to be my next home as it’s an unbelievable club with a great committee backing my every move. I took over from Glen as he stepped into the role of overseeing the development of the club. Glen did an amazing job with the first team before I took over, and he does an even more amazing job now behind-the-scenes and helping me out off-the-pitch.

I was stepping into the unknown, as I did not know any of the players. But that gave me a fresh start in the Olympian Premier where I wanted to be. My time so far has been really good and I’m enjoying every minute of it as the players are a dream to manage and welcomed me with open arms.”

SW:  Before the season began, what was the main goal for the First Team this season? [Springfield finished in sixth spot last term, three points adrift of the top three]

DW: “Before the season began Scott, we knew that this year was going to be tough. There was a lot of new managers coming in, and also these managers were stepping down from Isthmian League and Essex Senior League football. So, we knew we had to build a strong side, and that started with my backroom staff. I bought in Mark Brook who does the coaching with Billericay Town Youth set up, and Neil Robinson, who has a wealth of experience and also is a coach/scout for Tottenham. We sat down through pre-season and said that our aim is to build a structure within the next 2 seasons to take us to the Thurlow Nunn (Eastern Senior League South) and we still believe this is possible, whether it is this year or next season.”

SW: As it stands at the season break, the ‘Field reside in seventh spot with eight points from seven games. Which sides have stood out for you in EOFL Premier Division in the first two months of this campaign? 

DW: “Yes, we are sitting comfortably in seventh, but we are disappointed with the results because our performances have been brilliant, but we have not been getting the ‘rub of the green’ and taking our chances effectively. Buckhurst Hill are by far the best team we have played so far. They are a well-drilled side and the way they play football and their movement on and off the ball is proof that Mark is doing a great job with his players.”

——–

SW:  For those that aren’t that familiar with your squad, you have stalwart Dave Wareham, who is a highly-rated forward. Could you take us through some of the squad that is integral to the spine of the team?

DW: “Yes, We have Dave Wareham Jr, what an unbelievable player he is. Not only is he a great player, but his experience in the game is key with what we want to achieve at the club. He was unlucky last season, as he was sitting top of the goal- scorers table  [with 15 League goals in eighteen games] and I believe he would have stayed there. This season he has struggled through injury and has only played 45 minutes so far. But, with him in and around the changing room and training, the boys love it as he brings a massive boost to the whole squad.

Other than Dave, we have some really good players.  Ryan Batchford, Andy Elgar and Jack Mundy who won the Olympian Premier with Springfield a few seasons ago. We have Josh Bards, Charlie Nichols and Jack Gifford who signed from Hutton FC. Ollie Evans and skipper Nav Arain who stayed on with me from Glen’s team last season. Denzel Adebiyi is on loan from Grays Athletic. And we have two goal keepers, Adam French and Joe Williams (yes, he’s my Brother). We have also secured the signing of Jake Clarke who is a massive signing as he is a proven goal-scorer in the Olympian League with (former club) Sungate FC.”

SW: Looking longer-term, what are the club’s plans for the next two to three years or so?

DW: “The club’s longer-term plans over the next two seasons are to get into the Thurlow Nunn Eastern Senior League South (Step 6) and build from there. The committee are working endlessly behind the scenes and have recently got an under 13 and under 14 side in the Eastern Junior Alliance (EJA) League, which as you know is massive for a club like Springfield. The foundations are there for us now, and as a whole. Its looking great for the future of the club.”

SW: Away from Football, what are your sporting interests?

DW: “Other than Football which takes up a lot of my time, I enjoy my boxing. I used to box as a kid and find it a good way to switch off from football, especially after a bad result. Other than that, I don’t really have enough time to like anything else, I have three kids and run a business, so that takes up most of the time.”

SW: How would you rate the Essex Olympian League Premier as a division? And do you think it is under-rated by some observers?

DW: “The Olympian League this year is the strongest that it has been for a long time. As I said above, there are a lot of players and managers stepping down now because they can’t do the travelling or the commitment because of work issues or family. So, they are stepping down to play. To be honest Scott, I really don’t think that some observers think it’s under-rated. I think managers now are taking notice that the league is very strong.”

SW: Finally, you’ve been around the Olympian divisions for a while now so as a manager – which teams & managers do you particularly enjoy pitting your wits against?

DW: “Yes, I’ve been around the Olympian now for fifteen or sixteen years as a player and manager. Most of them years have been playing at Hutton FC. So, I enjoy going back there. And Shenfield AFC (also a club I managed).”

End

I’d like to thank Dan for his thoughts and insight in this article. Springfield are certainly in a highly-competitive division and I wish them well in their ambitions. Thank you for reading.

S20-21 So Far: Club In-Focus – Ongar Town [20-21 CIF 25.11.20]

Written By Scott W  [Twitter: @ScottMHC14]

Hello and welcome the fourth article in this current series of  ‘Club In-Focus’ blogs where figures in the Grassroots & Non-League game fill us in on their season so far and also recite some chosen moments from recent seasons too.


In this blog, I speak to Ongar Town Chairman Simon Boultwood [SB] and manager Richard Ponsford [RP] who have both played a part in the club’s rise in recent seasons. Ongar play in EOFL Division One and are currently leading the division by five points.

SW: Hello Richard and Simon, firstly thank you for your time. We’ll start with developments off-the-pitch, Ongar Town elected to move to the Lakeside Sports Ground artificial pitch in Thurrock, effectively replacing the folded Lakeside First team in playing there. What prompted that move?

RP: “Our move to the Lakeside 3G pitch wasn’t an elected one to be honest, we were actually left without a choice, in fact we were nearly without a pitch, until the chairman (Simon Boultwood) worked miracles by finding not just one, but 2 pitches at Lakeside, for the First team and our Reserve side also.

Our previous home ground at Fyfield was great. We’d turned it into a bit of fortress and the playing surface was fantastic and really suited our style of play, but we were totally unsupported within the immediate community and, when our rental period was up, were told by the local council the agreement wouldn’t be renewed. This left us without a home ground. Similarly, we were also told after the first lockdown that our Reserve side were being kicked out of their home ground at Love Lane in Ongar by Ongar Sports Club, (the charity set up in that area to promote sport in the local community) due to the team not spending enough money behind the bar after games. We were shocked by their decision, thus leaving the entire club scratching around for pitches eight weeks before the season started.

Simon worked incredibly hard in finding a home for us and it has worked out brilliantly in my opinion, the size and quality of the surfaces at Lakeside really suits our game and we’ve really settled in well there. The management of the Lakeside facility have welcomed us with open arms. We even have a following of local residents [Honorary Ongar fans, good to see – Ed]

As a club we are fully aware of how important it is to be playing in our local community, especially now as we are doing so well. We have a lot more local interest in the club. We have two very good sponsors from Ongar’s business community, who supported us last season, with another to follow soon. With Kelly Stone becoming our social media/digital marketing Manager, our profile has increased immensely with a healthy following online, including Olly Murs as we are his local side.”  

SB: “We have so many lads who play for the club that live within the town, in both squads and we are very hopeful that we will be playing our football in Ongar again next season and give the town a football team to be proud of. Our success can continue with the clear abundance of local talent. We as a club have big ambitions and need the support of our town to keep achieving.

Going back to the question though, we literally didn’t have a choice in the move to Lakeside, totally out of our hands as a club and quite a sad situation. But we turned that disappointment into a positive.”

SW: Let’s roll back to September and the start of the season, after finishing third in Division One in the curtailed 2019-20 season, what was the aim for the season before a ball was kicked?

SB: “Our aim this season is promotion. Simple as that. This squad is so talented and this group deserve to be playing at a higher level and have showed their quality over the last two to three seasons with the success achieved from a group considerably younger than most.

Last season, in our opinion we were nailed on to gain promotion and were looking good for another County cup final appearance as well but then the world went a bit wrong and Football took a back seat of course understandably.

Our aim is to be promoted as soon and all involved in the club are focused and driven to achieve this. When the club started the original plan was to be a step 6 [aka the Eastern Senior League South] club in five years. So far, so good.”

RP: “From my point of view as a coach, our pre-season was spot on and we learned so much about ourselves, playing against two teams from Step 5, winning one and losing one. We played a Step 4 club as well, where we were taught a bit of lesson in terms of game management and experience. The rest of the fixtures we were superb and absolutely destroyed a few teams in and around our level within the EOFL divisions, giving us real confidence and belief going into the season start.”

SW: As it stands at the season break, you’re five points clear at the summit of Division One, remaining unbeaten in your seven league games so far. How pleased are you with your start?

RP: “Obviously our start has been really good but as a Coach you’re never happy. There have been games where we have been irresistible, scoring superb goals and dominating games from start to finish and then there have games where we haven’t been quite at it for whatever reason and had to graft through difficult periods.

Our recent spell over the last month of games (in October) we haven’t been quite right. This, off the back of a dominant performance against a seriously good Snaresbrook side, which we won 6 – 0 and could’ve been more, yet the following week we were woeful from the first minute attitude wise and ended up drawing the game [at Toby]. We were quite awful on the day, finding ourselves behind and chasing it for periods because our mentality wasn’t correct going into the game.

This has since been addressed and whilst we still haven’t been at our flowing best, we’ve still out worked the opposition and been strong enough to win games, most notably away at Galleywood, which was our last game before latest lockdown. Awful conditions, one-nil down and not competing properly, then down to ten men and we still had enough fight and quality to come from behind to win the game convincingly.  So all things considered, our start has been good and we’re very pleased with our lead at the top.”

SW: For those that aren’t that familiar with your squad, forward Aaron Blair has already reached 15 league goals this term. Who are the players that really make the team drive on?

RP: “Yes, Aaron Blair is a special talent, born to score superb goals that lad. He’s been sensational since the day I stumbled upon him. A wonderful young man and a superb talent that we hope will go a long way in football and everyone at Ongar has high hopes for him.

But this team isn’t just about one player though. We are blessed with superb young footballers all over the pitch. Our midfield group are all technically superb and full of quality and goals, so much so I can’t name check them all. Don’t want to warn our opposition! [Sound logic, to be fair! – Ed]

Defensively, we are strong. We’ve added Eamon Payne to our squad and got him seriously fit. A well-known player in Non-League Football. He’s flying and really learning his game properly now. Big edition to the squad and has had such a positive impact. I expect big things from him over next season or two.

Connor Jones also joined us in pre-season and has been wonderful. What an attitude this young man has! Impressed me from the first minute and he’s given real impact in whatever role he’s been asked to play in. He has become a massive part of the team very quickly. But there are so many quality players in this squad and they’re a joy to coach and be a part of each week.

As a club we are blessed throughout. I’ve spent a lot of time creating and coaching our recently new (last season) reserve side and we now have some seriously good younger lads coming through the ranks between the ages of 16-20, that will progress into the first team over the next couple of seasons. A new reserve team manager is about to come on board as well. So the club is in a wonderful state and we are so excited as to what we can achieve moving forward with the quality coming through.”

SW: Away from Football, what are your sporting interests?

RP: “Besides cleaning all the kit after the weekend’s games, my interests away from football are watching my sons play their chosen sports. Love my Sundays chilling out watching them both! Also, I am a big Rugby Union fan and enjoy watching autumn internationals and the Six Nations, cannot wait for that!”

SB: “I love sport in general, some more than others. My interest in cricket has risen watching England and I also love basketball. Another sport I played as a youth in the Harlow League. Football is and always will be my first love.”

SW: What isn’t that well known is there are many clubs in Essex Olympian League who are ambitious to progress up the Non-League Pyramid. With that in mind, what are the ambitions of Ongar Town in the next three to five years or so?

SB: “We think it’s clear what our ambitions are for the next three to five years. We want to progress as far as we can. Firstly to move to the Thurlow Nunn [Eastern Senior League South at Step 6], with our next main aim is being a Step four team. There will be unseen obstacles to overcome, like the pandemic and others that are known, like having your own stadium, increased sponsorship, funding etc. But that’s also the challenge. Football is played off the pitch as well as on it. We have the management and the players to begin the journey.”

SW: Finally, how do you think the quality of the Essex Olympian League has progressed in the last two years? And do you think it is under-rated by some observers?

SB: “The Essex Olympian League has in our opinion improved greatly over the last two years. If you look at the County cup winners or finalists, you will always find EOFL clubs. Evidence it is the strongest of the leagues at our level. Some people think the top division might have been stronger in the past, but we doubt it. This is our fourth season and we can see an improvement. If some under-rate the EOFL, they do so at their peril.” 

End

I’d like to thank Simon and Richard for their contributions to this article. It is unfortunate that I haven’t been to see them in person yet but you can see that they are hugely ambitious for the future and that they are well-placed to progress up the Non-League ladder. Thank you for reading.

Season 2020-21 So Far: Essex Senior League [ESL 20/21 23.11.20]

ESL crest

Written By Scott W  [Twitter: @ScottMHC14]

Hello and welcome to an article looking back at the Essex Senior League 2020-21 season so far, as part of my content during this enforced break of November 2020.

In this article, we look at the Essex Senior table in general and experiences of watching the division in the opening two months or so pre-break. Also in a new feature, I’ll be joined by an expert reporting panel of fellow Non-League writers to pass on our views on the ESL. They are Matt North [MN]  (@MattNorth_) and Aaron Moore [AM] (@aaron_moore25). My thanks to them both for their time & contributions in this article.

First up, we have the full table at the time the enforced break came in (on November 5th) which will be followed by our panel looking at how their tips pre-season are doing so far and respective experiences of the Essex Senior as well.

Essex Senior table (as of Wed November 4th – Lockdown)

Panel insight regarding Season 2020-21 So Far:

Key: Scott = SW, Matt = MN & Aaron = AM

Which clubs did you tip to be in each of the following areas of the table in August & have those clubs started the campaign in the vein you felt they would and why? (a) Top Six (b) Mid-table (c) Bottom Six

AM: (a) Top Six – “I think we are all in agreement of who will be the winner as Hashtag seem to find a way to win regardless of how they play. The other five will be a fight and tough to predict. Stansted because of the start they’ve made and they look very good. Saffron Walden have built a strong team, Hadley have games in hand and are one of the toughest teams to beat as are Walthamstow as I think bringing players back has boosted them!

(b) Mid-table – I think ‘Fosters, Hoddesdon and West Essex will be at the top of the mid table sides based on their starts and the teams they are beating. Takeley had a poor start so will struggle, I don’t think Manor can keep up with their form throughout the season and Redbridge and Sawbo win some but also lose important games.

(c) Bottom Six – I think the bottom six will pretty much stay the same to what is it now. Woodford have made it hard for themselves already and will find it tough to recover, Clapton & St Margaretsbury find it hard to get wins and I think too many draws will cost them, Ilford and Enfield have decent teams but again they are so inconsistent and I think they will struggle after their start and Sporting Bengal will get limited wins again and I think they will be in the bottom six.”

SW: (a – Top Six) “Before the season began, I thought the likes of Walthamstow, Hashtag Utd and Saffron Walden Town would be up there given all three sides’ keenness to progress up the Non-League ladder and their consistency last season, which the FA might have voided officially but for writers and fans etc, it is anything but meaningless. The way that the Tags have started tells you they mean business but their levels of experience, their management team led by Jay Devereux and their togetherness are all good reasons why they could be the team to beat. Saffron Walden have started to find their rhythm after a tricky start sitting in fourth spot while Walthamstow have made strides to further improve their squad, enticing back two-time winner of the Essex Senior ‘Golden Boot’ Dwade James after a brief spell at Hendon. Their management team led by player-boss Max Mitchell and Terry Spillane also have nous & vast experience.

(b – Mid-table) Going back to last season and the way they play, I would not have ruled out Hadley, Cockfosters, Stansted, Hoddesdon, Takeley and West Essex from being mid-table sides this term, if not better given how they all can ‘trouble the scorers’. Stansted and Cockfosters have started well and are again tough sides to beat with ‘Fosters goalkeeper Brad Robinson among the best custodians in the division.

With regards to the bottom of the table, I was intrigued how the likes of Sawbridgeworth, Enfield and Southend Manor would improve on last season’s tough respective campaigns. Manor in particular have shown grit and form at Southchurch Park in patches this term but they also have shelled a few in some damaging defeats thus far too.”

MN: (a – Top Six)  “Before the season even started, I knew that Hashtag United were going to be competing at the top and are certainly clear favourites for the title. I expected it to be the same four sides as last season in the title race in Hashtag, Saffron Walden, Walthamstow and Hadley purely because of how strong those sides are. Although the majority aren’t right up there at the moment, I can still see those four being up there when the season resumes. I did think Stansted would be around the top six positions and have been in a much better position than I thought. From watching them a lot this season, I feel as though Stansted will be another side to challenge for the title. As for 6th place, I thought that position would be very open in my eyes with the likes of Takeley and Hoddesdon being around there. Hoddesdon are currently sitting 5th so I may be spot on with that whilst Takeley are 8th so I them being around that area of the table as well.

In the mid-table places (7th-12th), I expected sides such as Cockfosters, West Essex and Redbridge to be occupying those positions. However, Cockfosters have had a much better start, sitting 2nd and look like challenging towards the top. However, Redbridge and West Essex are in a similar position to what I expected whilst I would have backed Woodford to be in mid-table but they sit bottom with just one win out of 11 games. Finally, St Margaretsbury was a side I thought would be sitting towards the bottom part of mid-table but are in 16th having made a poor start.

The sides I thought would be sitting around the bottom six are currently occupying those positions. Sawbridgeworth, Enfield, Ilford and Clapton were the four sides I thought would be near the bottom considering how those four got on last season. Sawbridgeworth had a very poor season last time out but this campaign they are in a much better position this time round and look unlikely to be right at the bottom. The other two sides I expect to be near the bottom but aren’t there this season are Southend Manor and Sporting Bengal, who both sit comfortably in mid-table territory. Manor are in 9th and doing much better than I thought whilst Bengal are 12th so they could still slip into the bottom six. Apart from that, I have been near enough spot on with my predictions for the bottom six at this early stage.”

Image from Southend Manor 0 – 1 Cockfosters (in FA Vase, Credit: Scott W)

2. Which clubs have surprised you with their start to the season and why? 

SW: As I mentioned earlier, Cockfosters have to be mentioned given the strides they’ve made to improve their defence as well as their attacking options. Saffron Walden and Hoddesdon have been buoyed by their recent form too and cannot be underestimated. Finally, Southend Manor and Redbridge have had an upturn to their form in general, with the latter really finding their feet since the appointment of George Christou in terms of wins.

In the bottom half of the standings, Sawbridgeworth Town already have four more points than they got by the end of the shortened season in March. That being said, their goal difference is the second worst in the division at this point so that may count against them as the season goes on. Finally, Woodford Town are bottom of the standings, having played the vast majority of their games thus far away from home, as they have had to wait for their new home at Ashton’s to be ready. I’ve seen them a couple of times at the start of the campaign and I wouldn’t be that surprised if they get a few wins to evade the bottom three by February, but again they do leak a few goals.

MN: Cockfosters have surprised me with their brilliant start to the season, which I think many others would have said as well. Considering they were around mid-table last season, Ryan Wade’s side have really stepped up this season and have become serious title challengers this early on in the season. However, time will tell to see if they can continue to keep up this form but for now, they are looking good. Stansted have slightly surprised me too as I didn’t expect them to be as high as they are now in 2nd but I feel as though have put themselves in a very good position. Meanwhile, Southend Manor have made a good start to their campaign and sit comfortably in 9th and picked up some great results whereas other people have tipped them to be near the bottom. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, Saffron Walden and Walthamstow have both had difficult starts to the season and many would have seen them to be competing with Hashtag at this early stage. However, with that being said, we are only around 1/4 of the way through the season so there is still plenty of time for those two sides to get a good run of form going.

AM: I think Cockfosters surprised everyone with their start to the season. It was superb from them and put them in a good position for the rest of the season. Southend Manor was another surprise with the win over Stow and drawing with Hashtag. Woodford Town, Saffron Walden Town and Enfield are probably the other end of the scale. No one expected the Woods to be bottom nor did they expect Walden to have only won five out of their thirteen games this season and Enfield brought in a better calibre of players but are still struggling.

All things being good, if the season resumes in December, which sides do you believe are well-placed to go further up the standings and why?

AM: Walthamstow and Hadley will certainly rise up the table with the games in hand they have on the top five.

MN: I believe that Hadley can easily go further up the standings considering all their games in hand on other sides around them. The Bricks have won six out of their seven games this term but sit 6th so if they keep that run going, I see them competing with Hashtag United at the top. Meanwhile, at the bottom, I feel as though Enfield are well placed to get further up the table judging by their form since Jamie Cureton became player-manager. The E’s are only five or so points off the top half so the ball is very much in their court. Finally, another side who look likely to rise up the table is Redbridge. Before the start of the second lockdown, the Motormen had won four on the bounce and with games in hand on sides around them; I wouldn’t put it past them to push towards the top 6 places.

SW: I have to make it “three from three” and say Hadley will be in and around the top three. If they can make Brickfield Lane a fortress again this season and get a few wins on the road, they may still have a say in who gets the title. Takeley may also move up a few places if they can keep their impressive goal-scoring (currently on 34 goals from their eleven games) going.

Image from Saffron Walden 1 – 1 Enfield (September 14th, Image by Matt North)

What have been your favourite matches to watch live this term and why?

MN: One of my favourite matches to watch this season has to be Stansted’s 2 – 1 derby win over Saffron Walden. A huge crowd, an entertaining match along with a last minute winner for the Airportmen which sent the supporters going wild! Other noticeable matches were Hashtag United defeating Sawbridgeworth 4 – 2 and Takeley 3 – 1. However, the majority of matches I have visited so far this season have been entertaining.

AM: I really enjoyed watching the 6 – 0 win for West Essex over Southend Manor as they attacking play was superb. It was great from a neutrals point of view but also the Hashtag vs Sawbo game as it could have gone either way.

SW: I enjoyed the dramatic midweek match in early October where Southend Manor roared back from behind to pinch a 3 – 2 over Ilford. Both sides had the energy and had some class finishing to go with it. Also, on the opening day in September, Hadley started the season as they did a year previous with a strong 4 – 0 win over Woodford Town. That was a long-awaited return to the beautiful Non-League game competitively after six months out.

As a neutral, what grounds do you like visiting as a fan?

SW: I have to nominate Cockfosters’ Chalk Lane first for this. Yes, the ground is comparatively small but it has its own character and the committee also give you a really good, kind welcome. Also, St Margaretsbury’s Recreation Ground is a bit of a ‘hidden gem’ as well. Same goes for Hadley’s Brickfield Lane, though the club have catered well for visiting fans with their seated stand & a covered terrace on the other side.

AM: I’d say Lowfield (Hoddesdon Town). It is a very nice ground which some superb hospitality.

MN: Personally, when it comes to the quality of the ground, I really enjoy visiting Catons Lane, home of Saffron Walden. It’s a very welcoming club with some excellent facilities and the overall visit is an enjoyable one. I also like going to Hargrave Park which is generally down to the friendly committee and supporters and a club I am quite close to.

How different has it been watching Essex Senior matches so far this season, with all the COVID-enforced restrictions?  Has it altered the atmosphere on match day at all?

AM: I don’t think it had hampered atmosphere because it’s what the fans make it. That being said, it’s still strange having to follow the procedures, especially if you forget a mask. It’s hard knowing whether you’ll get into a game with the limited attendance (Usually 300 at this level)

MN: I have seen a difference this season but only in a positive way. Due to the COVID restrictions, no one can visit elite level matches such as the Premier League so opt to visit games in leagues further down the Non-League ladder such as the Essex Senior instead. A lot more supporters have been attracted to games this campaign in comparison to last season which I find brilliant! Of course you have a limit to the amount of supporters allowed in but I feel there is a much better atmosphere to the games now. For example, my brother started going to a few Stansted games and now he has been going on a more regular basis. I feel as though clubs have done very well to follow the COVID guidelines in place.

SW: I think the biggest difference is all the Distancing regulations, it does feel a bit eerie. That being said, it is brilliant to see fans of professional clubs visit their local Non-League sides during the stadia closure in the Premier League & the EFL. If anything, I also believe the fans that have stuck with Non-League for years have savoured matches a little more this year and the fact that it is reflected in attendances for many Essex Senior clubs is a good thing and long may that continue.

End

My thanks to Aaron & Matt for their valued contributions to this article and here’s a few snippets of info on them.


Matt North is a Non-League writer focused mainly on the Essex Senior League and also is an avid fan of Chelsea. He’s on Twitter – @MattNorth_ and his blog is at https://mattnorthfootball.wordpress.com/ 

Aaron Moore is also a Non-League writer, mainly for Walthamstow FC in the Essex Senior League and also is part of the media team of Harlow Town Ladies. He can be found on Twitter – @aaron_moore25 and his blog is at http://footballreview.net/ 

S20-21 So Far: Club In-Focus – Corinthians [20-21 CIF 21.11.20]

Corinthians logo (Image: Corinthians FC/Twitter)

Written By Scott W  [Twitter: @ScottMHC14]

Hello and welcome the third article in this current series of ‘Club In-Focus’ blogs where figures in the Grassroots & Non-League game fill us in on their season so far and also recite some chosen moments from recent seasons too.

In this article, I speak to Corinthians manager Chris Stoneham [CS]. Chris has continued the rapid progress of the club’s First Team up the Essex Olympian League divisions since they initially joined the EOFL as an Under-21 side in the 2016-17 season. They now play in EOFL Division Two, having been one of many teams there were thwarted from obtaining promotion last term due to the curtailed season.

SW: Hello Chris, firstly thank you for your time. Looking back to September and the start of the season, after finishing fourth in Division Two in the derailed 2019-20 season, what was the aim for this season before a ball was kicked?

CS: “I appreciate the opportunity to speak about Corinthians FC, thank you Scott. To be honest, our aim has never changed, that is to improve the ability of our players and progress the squad so that they compete in all competitions with a push for promotion on a regular basis.” 

SW: As it stands at the season break, Corinthians sit in second spot, two points adrift of Beacon Hill Rovers at the summit of Division One (but with two games in hand on them). How would you assess your start of this campaign?

CS:  “I’m really impressed with our start but not surprised as we had a good pre-season, training went really well and we played against some higher (division) opposition, during those games I was filled with confidence and we more than held our own. We have been disappointed by two serious injuries, one to Alfie Knight (eye injury) and one to Luke Owen (ACL), but other than that it has been really encouraging. As we all know these are testing times and we need to pick up where we left off which will be tough, but we feel we’re ready.  Plans are hopefully for a 5th December restart and we will be at home to Laindon Orient, which is always a competitive game.”  

SW: The sides around you in the table are Beacon Hill Rovers, Leigh Town, Landon Orient and Wakering Sports. Which sides have stood out for you in EOFL Division Two in the first two months of this campaign?  

CS: “The teams you have mentioned, you would expect to be competing for promotion without a doubt.  I will say I have been impressed with every opposition we have played this season so far, whether that is in terms of team or individual performances within the team.  I can certainly see some upsets along the way though and if you’re not on your game, teams will punish you.”

  

Image from Corinthians 2 – 2 Epping Town back in late September 2020 [Image: Scott W]

SW: Much of your squad has stayed together as they moved up the youth sides until the present day, along with a well-known & experienced goal-scorer in Nathan Dewberry, who already has amassed eight league goals this term. In your view, which of your players makes up the ‘spine of the side’ and drives the team on?

CS: “Yes, our squad has hardly changed since youth football and we have had minimal turnaround of players since joining the EOFL as U21 4 years ago. We have strong level of stability and a lot of talent in the squad, some of whom could play at a much higher level. There is no lack of ambition from the players they all have an ambition to progress as a squad, which is refreshing in football. You mention Nathan Dewberry and yes, he is an out and out goal-scorer who can win a game with a bit of individual quality – proven with the goal he scored against Rochford Town just recently.

What I will say about Nathan and another player of ours, Sammy Ayres, is that the experience they bring has been brilliant. You need that in the changing room and on the pitch with a relatively young squad around them. You mentioned the spine of the team, and of course this is a big factor when looking at your side, but as I mentioned earlier injuries can play a part in the season as we experienced last season so it’s important to have a strong squad. The squad we have now is the strongest we have ever had, having cover in every position. The squad always work together and when players are given a chance, they will always give 100%, which makes my team selection a challenge.  We have 21 players signed on and each of these players has different qualities and fully deserve to be in a very good squad.” 

SW: Away from Football, what are your sporting interests?

CS: “I’ve always been interested in martial arts and boxing.  I enjoy the gym and like a game of golf (badly) occasionally.”   

SW: What isn’t that well known is there are many clubs in Essex Olympian League who are ambitious to progress up the Non-League pyramid. With that in mind, what are the club’s plans for the next three to five years or so?

CS: “The Club has come a long way in a short period of time and had great success with various titles and promotions. We have progressed from having two teams to eleven teams within a few years and we have some great people at the club such as Ben Adams (Chairman) and Kayleigh Ayres (Secretary) who both work tirelessly. Also, my match day team of Graham Owen, Trevor Burrell, Ross Hooper and Andy Tapster all work so hard with me every week. We have some fantastic managers from our newly formed U8 right up to our Veterans football teams. I regularly watch U16 games and see some exceptional talent coming through which is always encouraging for the club who have a good junior and youth policy. The Club are looking to add a Ladies Team, we have had great interest and are already building a team to compete in the Essex [County] Women’s League.

We are an ambitious club and our main aim at this present time is to progress to the Premier Division of the  Essex Olympian League. We believe we are more than capable of doing this in the coming seasons. This will allow us to enter teams in the EJA (Eastern Junior Alliance) which will attract a different standard of player at an earlier stage in their progression. There has been massive progress made at our home, The Stambridge Memorial Ground.  The changing rooms are exceptional for this standard and the playing surface is looking better all the time with the hard work of Graham Owen.  Ben Adams has put a plan together for the club, which is progressing well, and we can see good things happening at the ground already.”

SW: And finally, having watched a few Division Two matches myself last season, I would suggest that the quality in the division is under-rated. How would you sum up the division and the two Olympian League divisions above it in the last two seasons or so, has it improved?  

CS: “Our division has certainly improved going by the early matches we have played.  I could certainly see several teams competing at a higher level in due course.  Since we joined the EOFL it is my opinion the Premier Division is stronger and more competitive. Basildon Town have had a great start and remain unbeaten.  Buckhurst Hill who have been a quality side over the past few seasons look to be pushing for promotion once again.  I do not know anyone that would disagree that they do deserve to be able to move the club forward after some very bad luck.  What I will say about that division although I have mentioned only the top 2 teams, any team is capable of having a run of results ,you just have to look at last season as an example. Take Leigh Ramblers and Bishop Stortford Swifts who both had great results and decent performances which pushed them up the league and I fully expect similar this season. 

So, I will be looking out for a few challenges from teams that have not had the best start to the current campaign. I’m always interested in Ongar Town’s progress since our competitive games against their U21 side a few seasons ago, I’m not surprised that they have also started really well again, I expect them to push into the Premier division at the end of this season along with Runwell Sports who impressed me when they beat us in a close game at the start of the season, we fell to a late winner in the league cup.   Once again this looks a competitive league and hopefully one that we will be able to compete in next campaign.”  

End

I’d like to thank Chris for his thoughts on the club and the EOFL as a whole. Corinthians is one example of a club that gives the impression that it is ‘just beginning’ its journey up the divisions, even though they have won several trophies & promotions in the last few seasons already.

It also has to be noted that the people at the club are consistently really welcoming and helpful to the likes of me and my colleagues on match days. Once you factor in that they are an exciting side to watch (one of many in these divisions), you wouldn’t be surprised to see them continue their upward trajectory in the next few seasons.

If your club (at Essex Senior or Essex Olympian level) would be interested in contributing to this blog series then please DM me on Twitter. Thank you. Hope you enjoyed the article.

S20-21 So Far: Club In-Focus – Hutton [20-21 CIF 18.11.20]

Hutton FC club crest [Credit: Hutton FC/Twitter]

Written By Scott W  [Twitter: @ScottMHC14]

Hello and welcome to a second of the current mini-series of ‘ Club In-Focus’ blogs where figures in the Grassroots & Non-League game fill us in on their season so far and also recite some chosen moments from recent seasons too.

I’m pleased to continue the new series by welcoming Hutton manager Matt Singh [MS]. Matt was the club’s Reserve Team Manager in EOFL Division Three last season before being promoted to the first team (who play in the EOFL Premier Division) in the summer.

Thanks also to @fitinaflash1 for the match photo.

SW: Hello Matt, firstly thank you for your time. We’ll start with this extraordinary season being your first as Manager of the Hutton First Team. How has the last three months been, dealing with all the uncertainty that Covid has presented at the same time looking to keep Hutton in a really tough division?

MS: “No worries at all Scott, It’s a pleasure considering the amount of time you spend covering our lower leagues. It has been a very difficult season to start with a new side. I know there are a number of other managers in the same position who are in our division and I am sure they will agree. Pre-season was a challenge for many with pitches being unavailable for most sides, players quarantining every time they went on holiday (largely due to Covid-enforced rules) and teams not being able to field a side, but we all got through it. We have some top people running our club and they made mine and Rob’s (Lorkins – assistant manager) job a lot easier. Greg Hall (Secretary), Darren Hall (Chairman) and John Hall (Facilities Manager) along with Kevin Lorkins (Treasurer) have been great and allowed us to focus on the football side of things rather than COVID issues.

In terms of the division – We knew it was at probably the strongest it has been in a number of years. There are some very good managers and players involved, with a lot of experience at other levels and I am sure it will be an interesting one to watch.”

SW: As it stands at the season break, your side sits in a creditable sixth place after wins in your last three games. How do you feel the season has started?

MS: “Considering the side finished in the bottom two last season, we are very happy with the current position with two games in hand. Unfortunately we got off to a slow start against a very well-organised Basildon Town side, who are surprising many this season. Since then we have had so many injuries mixed with Covid interruptions, but that aside I must give a lot of praise to our lads. They have all bought into mine and Rob’s ideas and the results are starting to show. We are now really looking forward to getting back to try and pick up where we left off.”

SW: The EOFL Premier Division is a strong division and arguably getting stronger each season. Which sides have stood out for you in EOFL Premier in the first two months of this campaign?

 MS: “As mentioned already, Basildon Town were a very strong side. I am happy Marcus [Bowers] is doing well there. We have had a few conversations since pre-season, as we were two new faces to the division, taking over two sides that were fighting relegation last season. He has pulled in some experience mixed with talent and they will be a tough side to beat. As everyone knows Buckhurst Hill are always a very strong side. I have watched them a few times over the past few seasons and they have some very talented players. The way they play considering they are in a physical division is a credit to their players and more so their manager! We are really looking forward to two tough games against them this season.”

Will Marlowe (#10) about to strike v Rayleigh Town [Credit: @fitinaflash1]

SW: For those that aren’t that familiar with your squad, forward Will Marlowe has netted three league goals so far this term. Who are the players that really make the team drive on, in your opinion?

MS: “Yes, Marlowe was starting to find some form. We all know what he is capable of, it’s just getting the best out of him. We are hopeful he will score and create many more goals for us. This season we have used all nineteen players on a regular basis. We have had numerous Man of the Match awards and have spread the goals across the whole squad. It will be a real tough call to pick the squad when we finally get everyone fit and available. We have a good mix of young teenagers to experienced Olympian League players. Our two older players – Adrian (Faherty – Goalkeeper) and Vice-Captain Kyle (Linzell) have been excellent characters for the side. Their attitude and hunger to win at training and on match days is right up there for the younger players to see. If we are to achieve our goals this season, every player in our squad will be needed to do so.”

SW: I’ve heard that plans are in progress to advance the facilities for the club’s future, could you tell us a bit more about that and on the same lines, what are the ambitions for the club in the next two-three years?

MS: “You’re correct that the club have plans for a new ground and training facility but this is based at a larger site in Shenfield. It’s a really exciting project which will hopefully include multiple pitches. We are also hoping for a 3/4G artificial pitch (commonly known as “astro turf”) to be placed next to the main grass pitches. This is a long-term plan that will hopefully be completed in the next two to three years. The hope is that the first team can maintain their Essex Olympian Premier Division status or push higher between now and then. We are also in the first season of Eastern Junior Alliance (EJA) Football at Hutton and along with others, I hope this helps to progress our youth players into our first team.

As a club, we are also looking to have a real drive on Girls’ football and Disability football. As one of the largest clubs in South East England, it’s vital we get this facility sorted, to ensure all 67 (!) teams are catered for. We have grown so big that we need somewhere to continue to provide the quality that we do. As someone who coaches the U6’s, multiple youth sides, EJA sides and the Men’s first team on a weekly basis, I get to see just how important it is for us as a club.”

SW: And finally, as you’ve previously headed the Hutton Reserve team, you’re well-placed to gauge the quality further down the EOFL divisions. How do you think the quality of the top-four Essex Olympian League divisions has progressed in the last two to three years? And do you think it is under-rated by some observers?

 MS: “Last season was my first season in management with our reserves. I am really pleased we done it as myself and Rob learnt a hell of a lot. The division was tough and had teams of different abilities. One reason I left academy football was to get a taste of needing to win three points each week. I had it briefly as assistant at Witham Town but it is different being the manager. I can safely say that division three of the Olympian was certainly the place to do that. It took a few weeks to get used to the needs at that level but we ended up in a county cup final and climbing the league before Covid kicked in. One thing that was pleasing to see was how much Reserve sides are looked after by certain clubs.

Like ourselves, reserve sides like Toby, Corinthians and Buckhurst Hill all had talent in their ranks and were well-prepared. That Toby reserve side are now playing for the First Team in Division One and holding their own. We promoted five of our reserve team players from last season and all have had an impact in the Premier . It shows just how much quality there is in the lower divisions. Above that, I was looking at some up and coming sides last season like Chingford and Ongar Town, who were smashing Division One. I know a lot of the young Ongar players and hear good things about their manager. They will make our division even stronger next season which will be exciting for all.

I would confidently say that some sides in the Premier (Division) would give many Step 5 or 6 teams a good game. You see many players switching between those levels now – which demonstrates how close the gap is. There are even players being loaned by Isthmian League teams which I think speaks volumes. Olympian Premier clubs are starting to realise they are in a strong position with the investment into facilities, coaching staff, players and physios too at many clubs.”

End

To close this second article I would like to say a big thank you to Matt for his thoughts here as one of the newest managers to the top division of the Essex Olympian League. Thanks also to Matt for supporting those who do watch and write about this level of the Non-League/Grassroots game.


If your club (at Essex Senior or Essex Olympian level) would be interested in contributing to this blog series then please DM me on Twitter. Thank you. Hope you enjoyed the article.

S2020-21 Round-ups: Essex Olympian League (Wk 9 – Sat 31 Oct) [EOFL 20-21 1.11.20]

Written by Scott W [Twitter: @ScottMHC14] – Non-League Writer

Hello and welcome to another edition of the Essex Olympian League round-up, here on my blog, looking at the action from Saturday 31st October from the Premier Division all the way to Division Three this week, also including results from Senior Four & Five. Thanks for reading.

EOFL Crest

EOFL Premier Division

Despite the awful weather this week, most of the Olympian League programme went ahead. In the top-tier, Buckhurst Hill temporarily went back to the top of the standings after edging a titanic tussle to win 5 – 4 at Harold Wood Athletic. Harold Wood started the better of the sides with Tom Ward and Connor Hartwell goals giving them a 2 – 1 lead, with Alfie Harris initially responding for Hill. Louis Wynter levelled things up for Mark Williams’ side who then found another gear with Suleyman Zuhdu’s 14th league goal of the season and a brace from Reece Tranter putting the high-flyers 5 – 2 up. But any notion that they would canter to victory soon dissolved as Wynter was dismissed for a strong tackle and in the latter stages, Athletic ensured a nervy ending for the visitors through strikes from substitute Jack Sykes and Robert Whitnell. Hill did hold on for an important win which takes them back top on goals scored. Harold Wood fall to tenth spot.

Elsewhere, Catholic Utd are up to third spot after a hard-fought 3 – 1 win over Rayleigh Town in the match I attended this weekend. An early header from Michael Sammut and a brace from livewire Brad Rowland ensured the ‘Super Hoops’ first home win of the season. Bailey Moss got one back for Rayleigh but they drop to 11th spot. If you’d like more on this match, my report is here: https://survivor16b.wordpress.com/2020/11/01/s20-21-match-report-catholic-utd-3-1-rayleigh-town-saturday-31st-oct-eofl/

Kelvedon Hatch finally got their first league win this term as they narrow defeated Canning Town 1 – 0 at New Hall. Lewis Young got the crucial goal to ensure his side leaps off the bottom of the table. Canning drop to eighth spot. Leigh Ramblers also got a narrow win, 1 – 0 over Bishop’s Stortford Swifts at Belfairs Park, Matt Brinklow with the crucial goal in that contest to see Ronnie Bridges’ side up to fifth. Swifts’ sixth loss this season means they drop to third-bottom. Finally in this division, Springfield got only their second win this campaign, as they defeated Shenfield AFC 2 – 1 at Arun Close. Andy Elgar and Charlie Nicholls got the strikes for Dan Williams’ side as they rise to seventh spot in a congested bottom half of the table. 

EOFL Division One

In Division One, Ongar Town are five points clear at the summit after a fine 4 – 1 win at rivals Galleywood. Frank Goodall’s hat-trick and one for Aaron Blair secured Town’s third consecutive win and reached thirty goals scored already this term. Harry Bond netted Wood’s reply but they dropped to fourth place. Runwell Sports had a Daniel Okah goal to thank for a 1 – 0 win over Shoebury Town as they went second. Shoebury drop to the bottom of the table as Rayleigh Town Res got a 2 – 2 draw at Herongate Athletic with Pat Mills and Robbie Allen goals helped Dave Gip’ side claim a point at St Clere’s. Herongate drop to ninth place.

Elsewhere, Ramsden Scotia held Chingford Athletic to a 1 – 1 draw at Town Mead, with Jamie Auvache netting for Scotia in this one. Chingford’s tricky start continues as they remain tenth, seven points adrift of the top five. Also, Old Chelmsfordians powered to a 7 – 2 win over Toby at Lawford Lane to go up to third spot, ahead of Galleywood and Snaresbrook on goal difference.

EOFL Division Two

Things are getting tight at the summit in Division Two. Beacon Hill Rovers remain top after a 3 – 2 win over Epping Town. Callum Turner and another goal-scoring cameo from substitute Dave Limber accounted for the Epping goals but Rovers scored three of their own to go two points clear at the summit. With Leigh Town’s match at Ryan postponed, Corinthians had a chance to go into a second spot, which they did after a tough 3 – 1 win at home to May & Baker ‘A’ at Stambridge Memorial Ground. Strikes by John Bolton-Smith, Ollie Brickwood and Sammy Ayres were enough to give Chris Stoneham’s side their fifth win this term.

Also, Laindon Orient are up to fourth spot after a hard-fought 1 – 0 win at Rochford Town. Ashley Blackburn got his sixth league goal this term to help his side to the win which keeps Rochford in 8th spot. Orient went above Wakering Sports as the Shoebury-based side lost 2 – 1 at home to Harold Wood Athletic Res. Del Hawtin and Tommy Harber goals sealed their first win of the league campaign and go level on points with May & Baker ‘A’ and Ryan above them. Ben Rowe netted for Sports in this one. Old Southendian Res also got a big 5 – 1 win over struggling AS Rawreth at Garon Park, which keeps them seventh, five points away from the top four.

EOFL Division Three

Finally this week in the round-up section, in Division Three this weekend the top three sides all won. The leaders are still ACD Utd after their hard-fought 4 – 3 win at Manford Way Res. David Hornsby netted another double to reach ten league goals this term for Manford’s second-side who drop to fifth, who also had an OG to thank for their other goal. But, ACD are known for scoring bundles and they made it 27 goals in just five league games thanks to Michael Wade’s double (he is now on 13 league goals this term) and strikes by Billy Wren and Paul Mangan. Wakebury remain the nearest challengers, two points adrift in second after they won 3 – 1 at Hutton Res. The cast of William Wheeler, Charlie Little and replacement Harry Kateley did the job for Matt Cardy’s side. Hutton’s Reserve side remain third-bottom.

The turnaround at Hullbridge ‘A’ this term continued as they won 3 – 2 at bottom side Leigh Town Res Joe Ives got a brace to make it three matches in a row he’s netted in, with Harry Boswell also scoring to put the Lower Road development side in third and are one of only two sides that are unbeaten in this division, alongside ACD Utd. Collier Row went up to fourth after a hard-fought 2 – 1 win at Toby Res, who remain second from bottom. Lastly, Basildon Town Res got a fine 4 – 2 win at Lakeside Utd to go up to sixth with Michael Clark getting another double here to reach five league goals this term, with Sam Marsh also notching twice here. David Alele and Harry Davison’s 5th league goal this season accounted for Lakeside’s goals, but they slide down to 8th spot.

EOFL Reserve League Cup Result

Ongar Town Res  2 – 3  Wakering Sports Res

EOFL Division Four Results

Catholic Utd Res  5 – 1  Chingford Athletic Res

Leytonstone Utd 0 – 6  Galleywood Res

Shenfield AFC Res  3 – 1  Canning Town Res

EOFL Division Five  Results

Bishop’s Stortford Swifts Res  6 – 4  Herongate Athletic Res

Old Barkabbeyans 0 – 0  Runwell Sports Res

S2020-21 Round-ups: Essex & Suffolk Border League Premier (Wk 8 – Sat 24 Oct) [ESBL 20-21 26.10.20]

Hello and welcome to a bonus blog, going through the action in the Essex & Suffolk Border League Premier Division on Saturday 24th October. Thanks for reading.

Written by Scott W   [Twitter: @ScottMHC14] – Non-League Writer

Essex & Suffolk Border League – Saturday 24th October


ESBL Premier Division

At the top of the standings are Gas Recreation, despite being held to a 3 – 3 draw by Lawford Lads at Salary Close. Strikes by Aston Firkins, Shane Goodyear and Callum Rogers’ ninth league goal of the season wasn’t enough to grab their eighth league win of the campaign as Lawford responded through a brace from Jack Wood and one from Oliver Mann. Dean West’s side are still four points clear at the summit, whereas Lawford remain 15th after one win in their eight games thus far. Nearest challengers Colne Athletic were also held at home this weekend as they drew 2 – 2 with White Notley. Daniel Bradley and substitute Aran Yarwood both netted for Notley but replacement Gareth Evans was dismissed. Kane Dobrowolski scored his fifth league goal of the campaign for the visitors, with Regan Farley-Hearn also on the score-sheet to keep Notley in seventh.

There was no such trouble for third-placed Great Bentley who comfortably defeated Dedham Old Boys 4 – 0 at the Village Green. Joseph Hurd struck twice to take his tally to five this term already, with Archie Herbert and lead scorer Louis Olymbios notching his eighth this season to see Jack Murray’s side to the points. Dedham’s usually tight defence was outclassed here and drop to ninth spot. West Bergholt continued the theme of stalemates for the top four as they drew 2 – 2 with Hatfield Peverel with Benjamin Adams and Joshua McFaull netting for Peverel in this one.

Elsewhere, Stanway Pegasus notched their fifth win in their seven matches this term to rise to fifth spot. They won 2 – 1 at Flitch Utd with Callum Griffith grabbing his seventh league goal of the campaign and Jake Plane both scoring for the visitors. Alresford Colne Rangers drop to sixth after being held 3 – 3 by draw specialists Earls Colne at Ford Lane. Ryan Lewis got two goals for Rangers here with Jack Johnson getting the other goal but strikes by Keiran Adams, Connor Randall and Benrico Stripe made sure of a point for Earls who have drawn five of their seven games thus far.

Also, Tiptree Heath rise to eighth after a 3 – 1 triumph over Felixstowe & Walton Utd Res, thanks to goals from Charlie Green, Joe Chester and replacement Billy Coe. Declan Cameron responded for Felixstowe but Rhys Henry saw red which only made the afternoon for the strugglers, who remain 17th. In the last game this weekend in the division, Little Oakley Res defeated Sudbury Sports 3 – 0 with Robert Pratt getting two goals here, plus Jamie Eades notched his sixth league goal this term to send his side up to tenth, with Sports a place and two points behind, though they do have four more matches in hand on Oakley’s second-side.

End

S20-21 Round-ups: Essex Alliance League (Wk 8 – Sat 24 Oct) [EAL 20-21 26.9.20]

Hello and welcome to a guest blog, going through the action in the five Essex Alliance League divisions on Saturday 24th October, along with the Olympian League action, it is good to have guest content on other Grassroots Leagues, thank you Rob. This round-up is posted with the author’s permission, with thanks. Thanks for reading.

Guest Blog written by Rob Parker for EAL  [EAL Twitter: @EssexAllianceFL]

Essex Alliance League – Saturday 24 October

SENIOR DIVISION

It was a goal-filled weekend in the top flight with thirty-two goals scored across the six fixtures, ten of those coming in the clash between Chigwell Town and CSM London where Town ran out emphatic 9-1 victors. Mark Howe scored four of his sides goals, Ross Chimes got two and one each from Joe Creasey, Lewis Mcgillicuddy and Harry Burgess. Keifer Cole grabbed the CSM goal back in reply.

At the top end of the division it remains very tight with FC Baresi still leading the way by a point, aided by a narrow win over the weekend as they took home all three points against Tower United at Mabley Green. Recent signing Ashley Godwin made the difference with the only goal of the game to win it 1-0.

DTFC are just behind and with a game in hand as they continued their quest for the title with a trip to West Ham to take on London Cranes. Two goals from Billy Golledge were accompanied onto the score-sheet by efforts from Terry Olivo, Jermaine Francis, Jake Kissiedu and Jamiah Plentie which saw them to a comfortable 6-0 win.

West Essex Reserves saw their chances hit as Blue Marlin took maximum points in Newbury Park, edging the contest 4-3. Goals from Jordan Mills-Smith, Josh Morris, Nathan Desnoes and Tyreese Robinson proved just enough as they overcame the three goals scored by West to hand Blue Marlin their second league win of the season.

That result allowed Lymore Gardens to close the gap on the sides at the top of the table after they returned home from Hainault with all three points in a 4-0 victory at All Prospects. A goal apiece from Andre Rashford, Dylan Roberts, Dushane Powell and Karel Francis earned Lymore a fourth league win in seven as they moved fourth.

Completing the top flight action, it was a good afternoon for Rapid Chingford as they continued their much improved recent form and put a temporary dent in Jolof Sports’ title credentials, holding their opposition to a 2-2 draw in Chingford. Gabriel Prisecaru and Andrei Boga goals accounted for Rapid’s goals while Papa Ndiaye and Mamadou Sene struck for Jolof as Rapid moved up a place to eleventh in the standings.

DIVISION ONE

There were some huge results at the top end of Division One as present leaders, Leyton Royal, missed the chance to extend their lead too much at the top as they were held to a draw against Chadwell Heath Spartans in the battle between the division’s two unbeaten sides. Defences were on top of this one with the game ending 0-0 to keep both sides undefeated.

Second placed Woodford East couldn’t capitalise on those sides dropping points as they fell to second successive defeat as third placed Eastside beat them 4-0 at the Marshes. Johnathan Odutulu scored twice with Lawrence Amadi and Michael Dager grabbing one each to take their side to a fourth league win in six, extending a very promising start to the season.

Kit Out London remain very well placed to stay in the mix as the fifth placed side made it three wins from four on Saturday as they hosted old rivals London Park City at Noak Hill. In a closely fought game, Amalraj Kakmanu and Kachi Yassine goals were the difference on the day to secure a 2-1 victory.

Francis Luke continue their improved form and moved away from the bottom of the table after taking all three points home from their trip to Ilford to face Frenford A. Jordan McLaughlin had got on the hosts’ score-sheet but his efforts were in vain as Francis Luke scored three goals themselves through Louison Kamba, Saico Djop and Saif Altamash to win it 3-1.

The remaining game in the division came from the Marshes were North East Lions were the hosts to take on Kwanzas London Sport. The two teams had to settle for a share of the points as Louis Blake’s goal for Lions was cancelled out by a Kwanzas strike to end this contest level at 1-1 on the day.

DIVISION TWO

It was first versus second in the game of the day in Division Two as Cowley Community hosted Belfry at the Leyton County Ground, the sides meeting for the first time. As predicted, this game was a close contest but Jeremy Lynch once again got on the scoresheet, Jamie Redington netting the other to secure a crucial 2-0 win for Belfry in their battle for the title.

Chingford Athletic A closed the gap on the sides above them as they got the better of Rainham Working Mens Club at Town Mead. Nathan Wilson scored for the Workies but braces from Luke Primett and Eric Kelly in reply plus an Aaron French goal enabled Chingford to run out 5-1 victors.

Keeping chasing with Chingford are Newham Wanderers with only goals scored keeping Wanderers below them in fifth. Newham’s promotion push was kept up with a big away win as they picked up a 6-2 local derby victory away at Forest Green. Malam Injai scored twice adding to Bradley Harris, Macane Caleir, Robertson Morais and Shazib Miah efforts.

Unitey also scooped themselves a big win, their second in succession, as they picked up all three points from their home clash against Old Esthameians in Loughton. Brandon Fulton had a memorable debut scoring four of the Unitey goals, Eddy Litambolo scoring the other in a 5-1 success.

Also in Loughton, Royal Forest had a much improved afternoon as they picked up their first league win of the season with an important win against St Francis. Tom Osmond scored four of the goals in a sparkling performance, Joe Owers and Samuel Gregory netting the others to earn their side a 6-2 win.

There was also a first league win for Barkingside A at the second attempt and it was a huge win as they were up against third placed Dagenham United at Nutter Lane. They bounced back well from defeat last Saturday to earn all this points this time around, ending as 3-0 winners and will be hopeful of extending that form with games in hand.

DIVISION THREE

The big result of the day in Division Three came from Barkingside where Fairlop Rovers made it two excellent wins in succession with a 4-1 victory against the league leaders, FHN Athletic. Cory Regisford scored for FHN but Rovers were in great form with Logan Simmonds netting two and one each from George Birch and Louis Goodman rounded it off.

That result allowed Melbourne Sports to close the gap on the leaders to just two points with a game in hand as the Mels’ good start continued with a 4-2 away win against Flyers Under 23s in Romford. That was Sports’ fourth win in six as they moved second while Flyers continue their quest for their maiden points this season.

Loughton Lions took advantage of results around them to go third and are another side likely to be in the chase, aided by their most recent victory, a 2-0 home win against ASA. That enabled them to also pick up a fourth league win and lie just a point off the promotion places going into the second quarter of the season.

Just through the hedge, there was a topsy-turvy game involving Glendale and Old Barkabbeyans Reserves where second half Dales goals from Mouhamed Gueye and Wesley Kangi looked to be sending them to victory. But late Old Barks goals from Klodian Meta and Kudzai Madziya earned them what had looked like an unlikely point in a 2-2 draw.

DIVISION FOUR

There was plenty of goal action in most of the Division Four games with Emerson United Reserves grabbing the result of the day with a big 8-1 victory against Newham Royals in Upminster. Archie Pitfield done most of the damage with a hat-trick with goals from Ross Braybrooke, Joshua Gibbins, Joe Reece, Harry Wilkins and Marcus Williams finishing things off.

Unbeaten Custom House United also made ground on the league leaders as the third placed side came out on the right side of a 5-2 win as they returned home with the points from their trip to Brentwood United Reserves. Jamie Wooster scored twice with Matthew Guy, Paul Wooster and Liam Sullivan efforts also making the scoresheet in their third league win.

There are always goals in Together United games and Saturday was no exception, combining with Avondale Rangers in a seven-goal thriller in Walthamstow. Chris Harper scored twice and Laurence Brady once for Rangers but their efforts proved just consolation as United got it together to score four themselves in a 4-3 win.

The form of Collier Row A hasn’t gone unnoticed as their recent form continued over the weekend, earning them a third league win in seven as they took maximum points from their clash at home to Dagenham United Reserves. Row edged the game by the odd goal in a 2-1 scoreline which sees them move up a place to fifth in the standings.

The day’s remaining game in the league involved the league leaders, Royal Forest Reserves, who were at home in Hainault against Chingford Harriers with the sides only having one defeat between them this season so far. You could have predicted a tight game therefore and so it proved with the matching ending in a rare goalless draw as defences reigned supreme.