In what has already been an action-packed festive period for the Isthmian League, we enter this latest batch of fixtures with Folkestone Invicta sitting pretty at the top of the table on 44 points. The old cliché goes that attackers win you games, defences win you titles – The seasiders are by no means bucking that trend, a large reason as to why they reside in top spot is their fantastic defensive record – conceding just 21 goals so far. That kind of defensive resilience is contributing to the goal difference (+20) that is setting them apart from title rivals Worthing, who sit in second with an identical record of 13 victories, five draws and three defeats.
Folkestone take on Merstham on their travels as their first game of the new year, where they will go in as overwhelming favourites – Merstham have picked up just one win in their last 6. Worthing visit Bognor Regis Town on New Year’s Day, a far sterner test as Bognor go into the tie off the back of a 7-2 home victory over Cray Wanderers.
Breathing down the necks of the top two is Horsham who are very much involved in this title race, just 4 points off the pace as we end the year. They welcome 16th placed Lewes to The Camping World Community Stadium, who have secured just two wins in their last 6. Horsham will know any kind of slip up could prove costly as they try and stay within touching distance of their title rivals.
Down the other end of the table, just seven points separate the bottom 5 placed sides. 18th placed Merstham have the small matter of welcoming league leaders Folkestone, whilst Cheshunt make the trip to King George’s Field today in what is set to be an interesting battle against fellow survival rivals Corinthian-Casuals. Bottom placed Corinthian-Casuals have picked up just one victory all season, yet only 6 points separate them from today’s visitors Cheshunt. Fans should not expect much in terms of goals galore, the two sides make up 2 of the three lowest scorers in the division, scoring less goals combined than any of the top 3 sides.
Second bottom Wingate & Finchley travel to Haringey Borough on the 1st as they bid to try and rise out of the relegation zone. Just one point stands between them and Brightlingsea Regent, but Wingate & Finchley will know if they are to make a serious claim in this relegation dogfight they will have to tighten up at the back, conceding 40 goals thus far gives them the second worst defensive record in the division. They currently sit bottom of the form guide, gaining just two points from their last 6 fixtures.
The other side in that bottom five, Brightlingsea Regent meet Hornchurch today aiming to improve their dire away record of just one win, one draw and seven defeats. All sides in and around the relegation area know that just one win could completely turn the tables, and Regent will be no different. Should they secure their second away win of their campaign – they could see themselves rise from 20th to 18th depending on other results going their way.
During the course of games both today and Wednesday, It’s sure to be a hectic period at both ends of the table.
FC Romania have had far from the dream season thus far, but they will be aiming to turn the tide when they welcome Westfield FC to The Cheshunt Stadium this Saturday.
The hosts currently sit at the foot of the Isthmian South-Central Division with just 2 wins all campaign. Their form guide makes for pretty grim reading too, losing 5 of their last 6 league fixtures.
Westfield F.C reside in 6th spot going into this tie, but they too have only picked up one win in their last 6 games, drawing 4 and losing the other. It’s clear this is a match-up of two teams with very contrasting ambitions for the season yet the same desperation for 3 points.
F.C Romania’s priority must lay with stopping the rot at the back. They have shipped 52 goals in 16 league games so far, and as a result find themselves with a goal difference of minus 28. However, they haven’t been as poor in front of goal as one might think a team bottom of the pile would be, and have actually outscored four other sides.
Adrian Hurdubei is the main talisman for the home side, notching 8 goals to his name thus far and will have to be at the peak of his powers to penetrate a Westfield defence that possesses the second-best defensive record in the league. Leaking just 15 goals so far, they come into this game off the back of a clean sheet with their 4-0 win over Chalfont St Peter.
The stakes are evenly matched for both sides, F.C Romania could get themselves off of rock bottom with a win, whilst Westfield may propel themselves into the top four, should they win and other results go their way.
The new-look Romford FC will aim to build on their latest victory over Felixstowe & Walton United when they welcome Hullbridge Sports in this latest round of fixtures.
Romford currently find themselves rooted to the bottom of the table, though things could be looking up for new gaffer Glenn Tamplin & co. After taking over in November, his losing streak lasted just 2 games. The Blues didn’t secure that famous ‘new manager bounce’, stumbling to defeat in the first couple of attempts to Coggleshall and Dereham Town, however, they go into this tie off the back of just their second win all season. To give context, it took Romford until Mid-October to get their first set of three points this campaign, for Tamplin to take just 3 games to get the club’s second should not be scoffed at.
Standing in the hosts way of back to back wins is a Hullbridge Sports side that sit 15th, with their last 6 games making for as grim reading as Romford’s, the visitors have just 4 points out of a possible 18. Hullbridge’s fans haven’t had the luxury of seeing much action going forward, their side possessing the joint second worst attacking numbers, scoring just 18 goals thus far this season.
The away side know they will need their main talisman Joseph Wright to be firing on all cylinders, the striker responsible for 38 per-cent of all Hullbridge league goals. Though they currently sit 5 places above Romford with double the points tally, Romford are a side with their tails up. The Blues know a win could potentially take them to within one point of getting off of the foot of the table.
Burgess Hill Town will be aiming to continue their fine vein of form when they welcome Faversham Town to Leylands Park on Saturday afternoon.
Having won 3 times in their last 6 fixtures, succumbing to defeat just once – Simon Wormull’s side will know a win could be so important to the league table come the end of the season, with Faversham being one of the many teams alongside the hosts lurking in that area around the lower half of the table.
After beginning the season in scintillating fashion with a 7-2 home win over Hythe Town, The Hillians seemed to hit a fork in the road over the early autumn period and now have nine league losses to their name this campaign. Warren Mfula scored four that day and is his sides top scorer with 8 so far - a stat less impressive when you hear it in December and realise 50% of his goal tally came on the opening day.
Yet scoring goals hasn’t actually been Burgess Hill Town’s problem, the issue lies at the other end of the pitch. Conceding 34 goals, they have the joint worst defensive record in the division. Fans of The Hillians will be pleased to learn that their opposition on Saturday have the exact opposite problem – finding the net.
To give context to Faversham’s woes in front of goal, Burgess Hill Town’s seven opening day goals is more than half of the goals scored by Faversham so far this season. Though Faversham currently sit above Burgess Hill Town (14th & 16th respectively), The home side are just 4 points behind, and will be looking to heap further misery to their guests who are without a goal in 3 games, let alone a victory.
The two sides are so intriguingly matched it should make for an interesting tie, the joint worst defensive side against the lowest scorers in the division, something has to give.
Here are your weekly match reports from Essex Senior League matches covered by WDSportz.
West Essex 2-4 Walthamstow
Walthamstow have bounced back from late disappointment against Hashtag United two weekends ago excellently - beating Hoddesdon Town last week and hitting four at West Essex on Saturday.
A clumsy tackle on Crilley gave the visitors the chance to take the lead from the penalty spot and James made no mistake - planting his effort in the bottom corner.
‘Stow doubled their lead as Yexley’s cross found Ibe at the back stick. The forward showed great desire to get something on the ball and poke past the goalkeeper.
The visitors then capped off a great first-half and Yexley was the provider once more. His cheeky pass from a free kick caught the West Essex defence napping and James finished excellently for his second of the match.
As darkness fell in the second half there were some issues with the flood lights, but play resumed and there was an own goal to forget for the ‘Stow centre-half as he diverted a cross into his own net - 3-1.
But West Essex’s chances of a comeback were dashed as a foul on Ibe led to a second yellow for a West Essex shirt.
James and Yexley combined once more to restore a three goal cushion, with the latter picking up his hat-trick of assists after finding Francis at the back post to head powerfully home. Francis’ acrobatic celebration was straight off Fifa.
Callum Bloss’ terrific free kick pulled one back for the hosts in injury time and the final score was 4-2 at Mayesbrook Park.
‘Stow now trail Hashtag by one point, but the league leaders have a game in hand. Next up is a trip to Sporting Bengal on Saturday 14 December.
West Essex find themselves in mid-table in the league and they host Stansted in the cup on Wednesday 11 December.
Sporting Bengal United 1-1 Clapton
Sporting Bengal were held to a 1-1 draw by Clapton a week after Hoddesdon left Mile End with the same result.
Chances were hard to come by throughout the match, but Zakariya Muhammed opened the scoring for Clapton brilliantly. The winger cut in from the left with quick feet and rifled home into the far corner - 1-0 to the visitors.
But Bengal were able to hit back in the second half as the ball deflected off Clapton defenders into the path of Sporting Bengal skipper Rookie Choudhury - who scored powerfully to score his first goal for the club.
Sporting Bengal now sit 13th in the league ahead of the visit of second place Walthamstow.
A point means that Clapton stay in touch of the league’s other struggling sides. They are still second from bottom but have the chance to pick up a valuable three points when they face Sawbridgeworth Town - who only have five points this season - later in December.
Wingate & Finchley will host fourth placed Hornchurch F.C at the weekend as Steven Clarke’s men aim to improve on their dire home form that has resulted in them currently occupying the relegation zone as The Blues sit third from bottom in 20th.
Josh O’Brien is one of our sports journalists. He currently studies a multimedia sports journalism degree at the UCFB Wembley campus. His previous roles include writing for You are my Arsenal blog, The Sun’s Dream Team app and betting company Kwiff.