The sun beat down, the trials and tribulations of the winter seemed a million miles away, and Billericay moved even closer to the Premier Division title with Dulwich Hamlet on their heels, proving categorically that even though many things change, some just stay the same. The penultimate Saturday of the season ended with much still to be decided, a number of unexpected defeats, and the best run in the top seven levels of the English game coming to an end.
Billericay and Hamlet started the afternoon with four points and twenty eight miles miles separating them, the Blues travelling to Margate whilst Dulwich were also on the Kent coast, at third place Folkestone Invicta. Margate started the day in the final playoff place, and desperately needed the points to ensure that they stayed there, so when Jay May put them ahead in the 27th minute there was delight around Hartsdown Park. It could have been two shortly afterwards as a shot from Frannie Collin was controversially ruled out for offside, but the second goal came from the away side, Sam Deering finding the net, before Jake Robinson scored what seems to be his compulsory goal to give Harry Wheeler’s men the points in the second half.
Invicta were celebrating manager Neil Cugley’s 800th league match in charge, and hosting a charity ‘Wacky Dress’ day, but that was where the fun stopped as Hamlet did all they could to keep the pressure on Billericay with a 3-0 victory. Ash Carew and two from Nyren Clunis, all in the first half, meant that the pink and blues stayed four points off the pace, although with only two matches left to play. Billericay host Harlow Town on Tuesday night, and victory will see them lift the trophy, whilst confirming that Hamlet have yet another playoff campaign to plan for. They may yet not have seen the end of Invicta this season.
Fourth place Hendon kicked off half an hour before everyone else, at 2.30 PM, and by 3 were already a goal up at home to Merstham, Michael Corcoran the scorer. They added two more in the second half to make things rather more comfortable, Ashley Nathaniel-George and Josh Walker with those, and now sit three points ahead of Leiston, Margate and Leatherhead. From those three it is undoubtedly the Tanners they still need to worry about- Margate have only one match left, are three points behind, and have and a vastly inferior goal difference- and yesterday Leatherhead and Leiston cancelled each other out in a 1-1 draw at Fetcham Grove. Margate’s defeat meant that this wasn’t a terrible result for either side, but Leatherhead must have thought that strikes in ‘Derry Time’ right at the end of both halves from striker Tom had given them the points. But Matt Blake, back at the club after returning from a loan spell at Norwich United, had other ideas, scoring two equalisers- the first on eighty minutes, the second after Derry must have thought he’d won it for the home side. Leiston move into the final playoff spot on goal difference from Margate, whilst the Tanners have the same number of points two places behind.
Leiston host Needham Market on Tuesday, before Leatherhead face Hendon in a titanic clash of the Greens on Wednesday.
There was also drama at the bottom end of the table, where Burgess Hill Town’s home point against Staines Town lifted them out of the basement as Tooting & Mitcham United lost at home to Harlow. The Hillians took a ninth minute lead through Pat Harding, with Mohamed Bettamer equalising seventeen minutes from time, whilst at Imperial Fields Alex Read- and an excellent performance from Hawks keeper David Hughes- left the Terrors in terror. Both sides have the same number of points with one game remaining- Hill travel to Harrow Borough next Saturday whilst United go to Metropolitan Police.
Elsewhere, Thurrock played what looks to sadly be their last ever home match, a goal from Lewwis Spence giving them the spoils against Kingstonian. We hope very much that, even at this late stage, someone comes along to keep the club going- but we’d like to send our best wishes to all at Ship Lane, with a big thank you for all of the joy they have given over the years.
There were one-nil away victories at Brightlingsea Regent, Enfield Town and Needham Market- Met Police, Worthing and Harrow Borough the victors- whilst Tonbridge Angels remain tenth after a 2-1 victory at Lowestoft Town, two points behind Wingate & Finchley, who took on Dorking Wanderers for the second time in two days, winning this time, 2-0.
The North Division title had already been decided- congratulations again Urchins- Hornchurch picking up the trophy and moving to 101 points on Friday night, when defeating Aveley 2-1. The second automatic promotion place is not yet clear cut, however, with Potters Bar Town, Bowers & Pitsea, Haringey Borough and- mathematically at least- Heybridge Swifts still in with a chance. The Scholars currently occupy it, and they did their chances a power of good with a 3-0 win at Waltham Abbey- Michael Murray and Jack Bennet (2) the scorers; but Bowers are only a point behind with a game in hand, although they left it late to defeat Soham Town Rangers yesterday, both goals- from Fahad Nyanja- coming in the last four minutes. If they defeat Hertford Town on Tuesday night they’ll take an advantage into Saturday, when they host Brentwood Town and the Scholars are at Barking.
The play off places are decided (if not their order), with Maldon & Tiptree missing out after they fell to defeat at home to Cheshunt whilst all of their rivals won. A goal in each half from Ricky Sappleton and Kyle Roberts gave Craig Edwards men the points and finally banished any relegation fears. Haringey Borough kept their recent run going with a 1-0 victory over Witham Town, and are only one point off the automatic promotion places, whilst Heybridge Swifts continued their magnificent season with a 4-1 win at Grays Athletic. Canvey Island cemented their playoff place with a 3-1 win at Mildenhall Town.
At the bottom, what a difference a week makes. Last Sunday morning Romford sat second bottom, a point ahead of Norwich United. Today they are propping up the rest and five points behind the Planters with two games to go- and a vastly inferior goal difference. After winning at Canvey Island on Tuesday United took on AFC Sudbury at Plantation Park yesterday, and second half goals from Shaun Wones and Adam Hipperson (2), gave them victory after Milo Grimes had given Sudbury a first half lead. Boro travelled to Brentwood Town, and were undone by a Tony Stokes double as Brentwood kissed goodbye to any lingering relegation worries of their own, Carlos Djalo Oso getting the Romford consolation- but it looks to be little consolation.
In the other matches there were wins for Barking, Tilbury and Bury Town.
The top four in the South Division surprisingly all failed to win.
The destination of the title has yet to be decided, a point still separating Carshalton Athletic and Lewes with one match remaining. The Robins took an early lead at Sittingbourne, Ola Sogbanmu with the goal, but the Brickies roared back with three of their own through Seyfettin Akdeniz and David Smith (2) to leave the away side worrying about what was happening down the road at Faversham. They didn’t have to worry for long, however, as a goal in each half from Mobolaji Dawodu and Harry Stannard meant that the Rooks stay a point behind.
Greenwich Borough are third, but they managed only a point and were perhaps lucky to get that against Hastings United, a last gasp Sam Corne goal- his second of the game- levelling matters after Christie Sinnkaye and Antonio Walker had given the away side the lead. Borough’s playoff place is confirmed, but which place they will occupy at the end of the season is not, as only four points separate third and seventh, and seventh place Corinthian-Casuals have two matches yet to play.
The other Casuals, Walton, desperately needed a victory yesterday, and they got one in emphatic style, four goals from Josh Kelly (and one from Youseff Bamba) seeing them come from behind to defeat fourth place Cray Wanderers 5-2 at the Xcel Sports Hub. That leaves them above Corinthian-Casuals only on goal difference, whilst the Tolworth side have a game in hand, which they play on Tuesday night at home to Guernsey. James Bracken’s men seem to have had a dip in form at entirely the wrong time. Yesterday they crashed 3-1 at home to Herne Bay, and have now taken only two points from their last fifteen. Are you keeping up?!
Hythe Town sit in fifth spot, their magnificent run continuing at East Grinstead yesterday- and given it was our #Bostikmatchday feature you can read about that HERE.
With Shoreham already confirmed as relegated the rest of the matches had no impact on the top or the bottom, but Ashford United won their first away game of the season with a 3-2 victory at Chipstead, Shoreham went down 5-1 at home to Ramsgate, South Park won by the same scoreline at home to second-bottom Molesey, whilst Thamesmead Town recorded a 3-1 victory at Whyteleafe.
Finally, VCD Athletic defeated Horsham 2-1.