Despite there being 267 days between the first and last games of the season we had to go into the final minutes of the last round of matches to finally confirm our Premier Division Champions. When the dust settled it was Cray Valley PM standing tallest but the battle was a tough one with 4 teams still in contention with just 2 weeks to go. Here we take a brief club-by-club look at how each team performed over the past 9 months in the best Step 5 League in the country.
If Carlsberg did Centenary celebrations they would have done this one as Cray Valley PM marked their 100th year with the SCEFL Premier Division trophy to go alongside their forthcoming trip down Wembley Way. Surprisingly the Millers started the season slowly with a defeat and a draw coming before Kevin Lisbie’s 4 goals in 18 minutes kickstarted their campaign at Lordswood. From there they never looked back. They went on a decent FA Cup run, that ended in Oxford, began their FA Vase journey and strung together a impressive set of victories in the League that pushed them towards the higher places in the table. After an average November and December 2019 began with 12 consecutive wins before finally coming unstuck at Star Meadow. That was a mere hiccup though as 6 further wins got Cray over the line and now they head to the National Stadium as our Premier Division Champions.
Corinthian did all they could to win silverware this year so are sure to have mixed feelings about getting so close yet ultimately coming away from this season empty handed. A decent start was made better when Sam Bewick returned from injury in November to inspire the Hoops to go on a 12-match winning run that saw them head to the top of the table. Losses against Lordswood then Fisher took their destiny out of their own hands and despite a good last-day performance, they were to finish the season as runners-up. Similar was to happen just a week later in the Challenge Cup Final but this young side will have learned a lot from this campaign and they are sure to be among the contenders again next time around.
After sneaking into the Premier Division via the back door not many people were expecting much from Fisher this year and there certainly cannot be anyone out there that expected them to go on to having as good a season as they did have. After a mixed start a great run from October saw the Fish become one of the surprise contenders for the title and it was only after successive defeats to their main rivals in February that the trophy was taken just out of reach. A solid ending, with wins against the 2nd and 4th placed teams, resulted in a top three finish for Fisher which was a stunning achievement for a side that only just made it here.
Chatham Town were the only side to stay in the top four from the first day to the last and despite them not claiming glory in the League the silverware earned in the Cup competitions means that this was a very good campaign for James Collins side. The Chats found getting goals easy with Michael Hagan, Jon Pilbeam and Byron Walker all passing comfortably through the double-figure mark as the side scored 7 or more in 3 different matches. It was Paul Vines that earned the plaudits though, earning the Golden Boot while netting over 40 times in all-competitions. With the Kent Senior Trophy and SCEFL Challenge Cup now in the trophy cabinet Chatham will go all out to add next years League title to the collection and when August comes around many will have them as favourites to do just that.
In a season that echoed the previous one Beckenham Town started well, appearing top be one of the contenders, before falling away and having to settle for a 5th place finish. Top after 9 consecutive wins it was looking good until a poor October let their rivals catch-up. A strong end to 2018 kept them in the mix and people were begining to talk about Beckenham as promotion possibilities. Inconsistency then cost Becks from the turn of the year and once the title was out of reach the foot came of the gas and the club cruised through to the end of the campaign. Is it in Beckenham to have another good crack at it next year? We shall see.
The final whistle of the final game signalled the first time that Erith Town had entered the top six all season. Due to impressive Cup runs the Dockers were always playing catch-up, in terms of League games played, so their mid-season mid-table positioning always had the potential to be improved on. Few expected a 6th place finish though but with the help of an excellent final few months Erith Town got there. Steadman Callender was the star man as his side racked up 9 wins from 12 games through March and April to step over their rivals one-by-one and claim that season-high placing.
Sheppey United had held that 6th position for much of the campaign so will be disappointed to have lost it so late on. A winless March cost them dear but otherwise it had been a reasonable year for the Ites. Once again it was Dan Bradshaw on the end of all things good and his 31 League goals came very close to seeing him hold the Golden Boot. With him up top and a further improved squad Sheppey are sure to be one of the sides competing for the two promotion places on offer next time around.
It was very much a season of two halves for Glebe as an average 2018 was improved on in 2019 enabling the side from Chislehurst to finish in a club record 8th place. Inconsistency throughout the first half of the campaign prevented Glebe from breaking into the top half and a disappointing double-loss to Croydon proved a tough pill to swallow. So much so that the turn of the year signalled a management change and an upturn of fortune was soon on the way. New Gaffer Peter Sweeney quickly led his side on a long unbeaten run, helping them break into the top half where they ended with that impressive top 8 finish.
After a decent start in the League hopes were high for Canterbury City but distractions came elsewhere and priorities rightly went in that direction. This season quickly became all about that FA Vase run for City who, once they were out of the running for the title soon put their full focus on it. History was created as they moved through the rounds, pulling off some remarkable victories that ended with that classic semi-final double-header with Cray Valley. Despite recent off-the-field issues, this season will be long remembered by the City fans and the hope is that it will lead to even better things for the club in the years to come.
It was a 10th place finish for Lordswood who were probably just a bit too inconsistent to be able to challenge for positions much higher up the table. The abscence of a high-scoring striker was obvious but in Joe Kane they did have a man who was able to hit the net regularly with the defender racking up 10 League goals for the Lords this Season. There was potential for a top 6 finish at one stage until a poor start to 2019 ended those hopes leaving Lordswood having to settle for their final mid-table position. Look out for more from this side next year.
Deal Town got off to a decent start in this 2018-19 season losing just 1 out of the first 9 games. Indeed, until Christmas all seemed to be going well for the Hoops but then a poor festive and New Year period left them scrapping with many others for mid-table honours. Despite a last day win the rest of April didn’t fare well and Deal Town were left to finish in 11th position, 5 points worse off than the year before.
K Sports had a tough start to the campaign but results picked up in October and from then their Premier Division survival was never at risk. An unbeaten December gave them thoughts of a top-half finish but competition for those spots was fierce and the Paperboys had to settle for a very reasonable 12th place. With a strong first year at this level now behind them K Sports can no longer be called a First Division side, let alone Pub Team and they will be aiming to make further progression again next season.
It was a very different Crowborough Athletic side that started this season compared to the one that had finished in third place the previous year and it showed as they struggled through the opening few games. Once settled the points soon stacked up though and they found themselves vying for the mid-table positions alongside many others. A poor December knocked the Crows back a bit but they then re-grouped to have a decent end to the season, with help from the goals of Jack Funnell.
It was a surprise to see AFC Croydon Athletic finish three-quarters of the way down the table as for most of the season they were operating far higher up it. 13 points from the first 15 available gave the Rams an ideal start but from there it went slowly downhill. The good results against teams like Beckenham and Chatham Town were too infrequent and just 1 win in the final 12 games meant their end position was far lower than they would have liked.
Bearsted lost their first 3 games then won the next 6 in what was clearly an unusual start to the season for the Bears. Their first drawn game was not registered until December and by then Bearsted were nicely positioned in the top half. The FA Vase was providing a nice distraction but their achievements in that competition were being overshadowed by another two of our sides. David Baranowski, Reece Collins and Peter Williams were the main source of goals for this side who once out of contention for any honours looked towards youth as they build for another campaign in the Premier Division from August.
If this was Tunbridge Wells school report the teacher would be writing ‘Must Do Better’ at the end as this was another disappointing campaign from Wells. Their ‘homework’ was the main thing that let them down as they picked up just 7 points from a possible 57 at the Culverden Stadium made worse when, unlike last year, they did not have a decent Cup run to appease the loyal fans. The only positives that could be taken from this season would be the good goalscoring form of new recruits Jason Thompson and Jamie Humphris plus the unbeaten 8-game run around Christmas that yielded 22 of the 37 points earned overall. This Division gets tougher year-on-year and Tunbridge Wells need to improve alongside it as they have a big fan base and that loyalty deserves more.
In the end Punjab United comfortably retained their place at Step 5 but there would have been a few worried faces at the Elite Venue as we entered the final month of the season. Staying unbeaten for the final 5 games saw them move away from danger though and they will now look to learn from their experiences and progress the club further next year.
After a mixed start Hollands & Blair then went on a 10-game losing run which put them in a place that they struggled to get away from. After a rare win in November it was then 10 further games before they saw another leaving Blair firmly in a relegation fight. March was more fruitful though with 4 wins helping them move away from the drop zone and now with a new Manager in place they will be hoping to figure higher up the table in the season that follows.
After a win in game 2 it then took Rusthall 22 matches to earn another, leaving them in a season-long fight against relegation. Improved results under new leadership in February gave them a fighting chance but in the end the damage had already been done and the Rustics are on the way to the First Division.
Croydon have had a tough season, losing their first 11 League games and then staying in the drop zone from the first day until the last. Wins were only gained against 2 different sides all campaign as the Trams finished bottom losing 33 of their 38 games played.