An enthralling First Division season went right down to the wire with 5 teams involved in the title hunt at the turn of April and two still in it on the final day. It was Welling Town that held their nerve though and as well as getting to lift the silverware they are the only side confirmed to be taking the step up to the Premier Division. In table finishing order here we take a brief look at how each team performed throughout the campaign.
Welling Town hit 6 on day one, went the first 14 games without defeat, had a change of Manager and then outstayed the other contenders to lift the First Division title in their debut season in the SCEFL. With Ryan Golding leading the line at one end and the meanest defence in the league at the other the ‘Boots’ were consistent, relentless and thoroughly deserving of their first placed finish. They excel off the field aswell as on it with the club setting the benchmark for how one should promote itself within the Non League game. Established Premier Division sides could learn things from these new boys and would be well advised to not take them lightly as Welling Town will not be turning up to just survive at that level.
Second placed Erith & Belvedere will still have hopes of sneaking through the back door and getting promotion. They will have to rely on the FA for that favour though but take nothing away from the Deres, they have had a fabulous season. The Divisions top scorers have been awesome in attack and solid at the back with Harry Harding as their talisman firing in 38 League goals on the way to collecting the Golden Boot. Defeats in the final few weeks to some of their rivals just cost them the chance of top spot but they did collect silverware elsewhere and should be proud of the campaign they have had.
Kennington also had a debut season to remember, with a third placed finish just rewards for their efforts this year. No side was better defensively and in attack 4 of their side reached double-figures for goals scored, proving they were worthy contenders among some of the better known teams. WIth this experience now gained they will be a real threat next time around and with 4 prizes on offer there would be no surprise if one of them ended up in Ashford.
The season was just a few games too long for Bridon Ropes who, until the final 3 matches, were simply outstanding as their deadly attack saw them cast aside most of the opposition in front of them. Jimoh and Simpson broke the 20-goal barrier with Dasofunjo and Kalonda joining them as an awesome foursome happy to tear any team apart. In the end Bridon fell just short but they entertained on the way and if the vultures do not pick this gang apart then they are sure to finish in a similar position again this time next year.
Sutton Athletic were also right in the title picture until the final month but 3 consecutive defeats in April put an end to any dreams they had on that scale. Sutton were very easy on the eye all throughout, playing football in the ‘right way’ with goals coming from various sources. Another side sure to be in the mix again next season and maybe then they will go one step further and clinch that promotion place.
With 27 points out of the first 33 on offer Holmesdale got off to a flyer this campaign and hopes were high of honours ending up at Oakley Road. It didn’t pan that way as key players were poached by rivals and then at the turn of the year the dugout saw a change of line-up too. Andy Constable not only scored most of the goals but also picked the team though having dual-roles proved to be a tricky task. Once the top spot was off the agenda plans went ahead to next year for where a new boss has already been given the keys to the shop. There is a good feeling around the place that good times are around the corner and if they start again like they did do here then maybe that feeling could come true.
It was nose bleed time at Forest Hill Park as the club from Catford achieved a best ever SCEFL League finish of 7th place. The feel good factor was brought back to the Ladywell Arena and there they got key wins that dented the title hopes of a number of the contenders. Lee Roots side showed that you don’t need to be one of the fancied teams to compete and although he will now move on, the path has been set for another to follow in his steps.
Stansfeld improved on previous campaigns by claiming a top ten finish after a solid First Division season. The no-nonsense side from Foxbury handed the League winners their first loss of the campaign and also upset Bridon Ropes and Sutton Athletic on the way to an 8th placed ending in the table. With stalwarts like Billy Shinners and Lennie Wise added to the likes of Joe Minter and, when available, Luke Rooney, Stansfeld had the ability to beat anyone on their day and any side that took points from them this year were certainly made to work for it.
SC Thamesmead spent all of the season just inside the top half of the table so it was no surprise to see them end in 9th position this year. The Acre were goal-happy in the first half of the campaign with Josh Patrick and Steve Wetherley both reaching double figures before the turn of the year whilst defensively only the top 6 sides conceded less showing they were strong at both ends of the field. SC Thamesmead shocked many by reaching the Challenge Cup semi-final, gaining wins over the likes of Beckenham Town and Sheppey United before finally being beaten by the eventual winners Chatham Town over two legs. With improved away form in the League look out for this side to have an even better finish next time around.
Greenways started their first season in the SCEFL on fire with a run of 6 wins in 7 games before an horrific collapse then saw them go 11 games without seeing another victory. They then stabilised the ship to claim their mid-table finish and with the experience gained from this debut campaign will be expected to kick-on further in season two.
This was very much a transformation year for Lewisham Borough who despite many changes on and off the field managed to have their best campaign in recent memory. Indeed the points number gained this season was greater than the previous two combined so full credit must be given to Justin Fevrier for his leadership this year. He managed to bring in some high-profile names to the club and that combined with a good final month saw them claim a well deserved mid-table finish.
After just the one win in the first ten games it was looking like a long fight against relegation for Lydd Town this year. Results did pick up though and with plenty of points gained in 2019 the Lydders finished comfortably away from the bottom two. Dale Horton was the star man for the side with his 20 goals earning him a place in the top 6 of the goalscorers table. 13 of those came from February when he and Tom Barton formed an impressive duo that shot Lydd Town up to a 12th placed finish.
It was all change at FC Elmstead this season as a new home, followed by a switch of management resulted in a campaign of transformation for them. It was all looking fine until December when an all-competitions run of 9 consecutive losses led to the change in the dug-out. Enough points were then gained to stay away from danger but a top-half finish was rarely on the cards. The form of Alvin Turyatemba was a positive for this side as he netted important goals, including some crackers, to break through the double figure barrier. With the new boss now settled and with time to shape his squad over the summer more than a 13th place finish is expected of FC Elmstead next season.
It was also a big season of change at Glentworth Sports Club as Kent Football United saw ups and downs before having to settle for a relatively safe 14th placed finish. It was mainly downs to begin with though as the club didn’t collect maximum points until their 8th match and by game 16 only 2 wins had been acheived. That signalled the arrival of Danny Wakeling and an immediate transformation of form. A League season record 7-0 win was quickly in the bag as a whole new squad of players was brought in to get the points on the board that would guarantee survival. Another league record was gained with 30 different players getting on the scoresheet this campaign as KFU comfortably cruised through to the end and that 14th positon in the table.
After a 6th placed finish in the previous season there was an air of expectation at Snodland Town but that soon disappeared after a poor start and dry October and November left the club at the bottom of the table and looking for new guidance. That arrived in December and Snodland were able to climb away from trouble with some impressive performances that put plenty of points on the board. New faces arrived on the team sheet but it was an old one that ended the campaign as top scorer with Dave Sherwood hitting 14 as his side finished comfortably clear of the drop zone in 15th place.
With by far the youngest squad in the Division it was never going to be an easy year for Phoenix Sports Reserves and after losing the first 8 games straight there was a strong feeling around that this could be their last season with us in the SCEFL. That was to come true but not due to relegation. A change of direction by the Bexleyheath-based club means that they won’t participate at this level next time around but Phoenix wanted to leave us on their terms, not due to a drop-zone finish. December then February proved to be profitable months for these lads with the points gained meaning that a third-from-bottom finish was to be in their own hands. Only a last day win at Rochester would confirm that though and with 15 minutes to play and two goals down it was not looking likely. To prove how much they had come on through the season though Phoenix turned the match around, got a last minute winner and can now proudly depart us in the way they had always wanted.
Rochester United were the only side to enter this Division from above and many were expecting a quick return to Step 5 for them. We soon found that was never going to be on the cards though as from the start United were always in the bottom reaches of the table. A departing manager and then top scorer didn’t help as a run of 12 league games without a win from November saw them enter the danger zone and looking at back-to-back relegations. The last day loss with Phoenix and a second-from-bottom finish means they await to find their fate although they should find luck with that same side calling it a day with us among other outside factors. Once their stay is confirmed Rochester will look to build a side ready to compete at the top end of the table as they certainly will not have enjoyed their season in the First Division this year.
There is no disguising that this has been a poor season for Meridian VP as their finish at the bottom is now likely to see them depart from the SCEFL. 6 losses from the first 7 games signalled that this would be a tough year for Meridian and their poor form continued in a similar fashion throughout the campaign. Statistics prove they deserve their place at the foot of the table. They ended with just 31 goals from their 34 games and had just 10 different scorers which was by far the lowest number in the division. Their top scorers only managed to find the net 6 times, their goal difference was the worst of any team by a distance and in only one match did they manage to score 3 or more goals. After losing in all 4 Cup competitions at the first hurdle they played the least games of all sides at just 38 and they obviously lost more games than any other side in this League. They now look to the FA to do them a favour and should that be granted then clear changes and improvements will need to be made to avoid a repeat of something similar next time around.
– Full First Division Review –