April started with the snow having departed. Hurrah! Sadly it was raining cats and dogs (actually, in the case of Heybridge Swifts it seemed to be raining ducks). We watched as everyone without a 3G pitch played three times a week. May, of course, saw the end of the season with the Playoffs- and at that point our review ends.
On the pitch
Thank goodness for our volunteers, who forked, soaked, bailed water with milk bottles and pint glasses, and ensured that we started the month with some football. Not much, mind you, and not enough, as much of the Easter Monday programme in the Premier Division and North Division was washed away. In the games that did go ahead, Folkestone Invicta lost out on the chance to go top of the Premier Division when they couldn’t beat Margate, AFC Hornchurch got six goals against Brentwood Town whilst Potters Bar Town got four at Ware, and Lewes stayed top of the South Division- although Carshalton closed the gap. The story of the day was all about Worthing, who secured Premier Division survival with victory over Merstham only a few months after looking dead and buried. There were calls for manager Adam Hinshelwood to be given a Knighthood, the Nobel Peace Prize and a lifetime subscription to the Worthing Journal.
West Ham Utd- cup winners!
By the first Saturday of the month promotion looked assured for the Urchins, the Rooks and the Robins- and of course that’s how it turned out. Billericay were five points clear in the Premier Division a few days later, and a late comeback gave them the Velocity Trophy, too. Shoreham were as good as relegated, but fairly cheerful nonetheless, as we discovered at Middle Road. .
The first trophy of the season went to West Ham United- winners of the Isthmian Women’s Cup courtesy of victory over Charlton Athletic at Aveley.
As the month progressed it became clear that Billericay Town, AFC Hornchurch and- finally- Carshalton Athletic would take our titles, with Lewes also promoted in the South Division. But the playoff positions were only decided on the final day, with Dulwich Hamlet, Hendon, Folkestone Invicta, and Leiston making up the Premier Division quartet; Bowers & Pitsea, Haringey Borough, Heybridge Swifts and Canvey Island making up the Semi Finalists in the North Division, and Greenwich Borough, Cray Wanderers, Walton Casuals and Corinthian-Casuals getting party invitations in the South Division. Potters Bar Town managed to grab the second automatic promotion slot in the North Division, and we were there to see them do it at Barking- read about it here.
At the other end of the tables, there was a great escape for Burgess Hill Town- who consigned Tooting & Mitcham Utd to the drop on goal difference, and Romford somehow miraculously overhauled Norwich United to remain in the North Division.
Billericay Town- Velocity Trophy winners 2017-18
Dorking Wanderers said goodbye to Westhumble with an 8-0 victory over Lowestoft Town.
May brought the playoffs. We started with the South Division, as Cray Wanderers hosted Walton Casuals- which we covered, here; whilst in the North Division Canvey Island brought in National League South's top scorer to help them defeat Bowers & Pitsea whilst Haringey Borough despatched Heybridge Swifts. The Premier Division Semi-Finals had Hendon walloping Folkestone Invicta whilst Dulwich Hamlet beat Leiston in a tight game, which you can read about here.
Bank Holiday weekend, and we started with the battle of the Casuals- a headline which became true in more ways than one and a match which proved eminently forgettable in the heat- yes, it had finally stopped raining. After 120 minutes and penalties it was the orange Casuals of Walton who left victorious- as we described here- but there was a happy ending for the pink and brown Casuals too, as they ended up promoted anyway courtesy of the FA reshuffle.
The North Division served up a much more entertaining final, as an overheated Coles Park crowd watched Haringey Borough reach the Bostik Premier with victory over Canvey Island. "We're the best team, on White Hart Lane" sang the home fans, and that would have been the case even had they lost, but the joy was unbridled and wonderful to behold.
Finally, we had the Premier Division Final, and three and a half thousand people turned out to watch Dulwich Hamlet take on Hendon. Both sides knew what it felt to be recent Playoff Final losers- indeed Hamlet could have made a career of it- but the fairytale came true. No home, no money, but Dulwich Hamlet finally reached the National League South for the first time in their history after winning the match on penalties. We watched Hamlet get their Hollywood ending, and shared in the emotion of the day.
Off the pitch
April began with the sad news that Thurrock were to fold at the end of the season. Ware announced that they would be the latest club to join the 3G revolution,
On the managerial front, Malcolm Porter announced he was to leave South Park- and he was soon joined in confirming a future elsewhere by Staines Town boss Johnson Hippolyte. Aslan Odev was confirmed as permanent Sittingbourne manager, and Enfield Town Assistant Darren Purse headed to Oxford United.
Carshalton Athletic fans celebrate promotion
Into May, and South Park announced Mick Sullivan as Porter's replacement, whilst the Whyteleafe managerial duo of John Scarborough and Paul Dale left. Another managerial duo were departing Leatherhead, Sammy Moore and Jack Midson heading to Essex to take over at Concord Rangers.
And that was that! A marvellous season, and we'll kick off the next campaign in August with an extra Division and a number of new clubs. Thanks for all of your support in 2017/18.
Right, isn't it time we did it all again?!