Survival Saturday!

By Ian Townsend

Or if you happen to be at the other end of the table, Certainty Saturday? It's our preview of tomorrow's crucial action- and it'll give you a headache.

So it all boils down to this. One more matchday of the regular season, several relegation slots still to fill, so many permutations at the top end of the Premier Division that just thinking about them delivers a headache, and still we don’t know who will get home advantage in the Playoffs. Let’s take a look at the matches that matter.

Premier Division

Let’s start at the top! We know that Dorking Wanderers have won the title- and they’ll receive the trophy tomorrow. We also know that both Haringey Borough and Tonbridge Angels have confirmed a playoff place. But we don’t know which playoff place Borough and Angels will end up with, who will get home advantage, or who will be in the playoffs with them, such is the jeopardy.

Borough travel to Dorking Wanderers looking to ruin their party. They know that to get home advantage in their playoff Semi-Final they need to pick up at least one point. Lose, and they can be overtaken by both Tonbridge Angels and Carshalton Athletic and could end up travelling to one or the other.

Angels are a point behind Borough, and travel to Potters Bar Town. A win against the Scholars would guarantee either second or third place and a home tie, a draw could see them overtaken by Carshalton on goal difference, and defeat could see them overtaken by either one of Carshalton or Bishop’s Stortford- but not both! Angels playoff place is secure only because Carshalton and Bishop’s Stortford are playing each other. Angels could also be theoretically overtaken by Merstham if the Moatsiders could record a very big win at Worthing, but they can drop a maximum of two places so will end up in fifth place at the very worst.

Carshalton Athletic v Bishop’s Stortford is the match where fingernails will be bitten down as far as the elbows. A win for either side would see them firmly in the playoffs, where Athletic could rise as high as second, Stortford as high as third. A draw could see them both miss out dependent on other results, as Merstham are only one point behind the Robins and level on points with the Blues, whilst Folkestone Invicta, a place further back, are two points/one point behind respectively. A defeat for either side could end in heartbreak if their rivals win- and at this point Worthing come into the equation, as they could qualify if they win, Stortford lose, and Invicta fail to record a victory.

The match at Colston Avenue will be our Bostik Matchday feature, by the way- for reasons now apparent!

Merstham are describing their match at Worthing as the biggest in their history. Certainly whatever happens they’ll have their highest finish of all time, and must be commended, but falling short after spending so much time in the playoff positions would be heartbreaking for Hayden Bird’s side. Victory at Worthing will see them qualify, as Carshalton and Stortford can’t both win! It could even see them climb as high as third place. A draw could be enough if the Blues lose, but won’t be enough if Folkestone win.

Folkestone Invicta entertain Bognor Regis Town. Three points for Invicta could be enough, however it all gets rather complicated- as if it hasn’t been already! Invicta must win, but whether that will get them a top five berth will entirely depend on other results, as if any two of Carshalton, Stortford and Merstham win that will not be enough. If Carshalton win and Merstham draw or lose, then victory for Invicta could see them qualify. If Carshalton and Stortford play out a draw, then victory for Invicta could see them leapfrog both sides, but they would have to make up a goal difference deficit of two if they were to catch Athletic- however if they end up level on points and goal difference then Folkestone will have the edge on goals scored.

Worthing know that they have to defeat Merstham. At that point they’d need Folkestone not to beat Bognor, and- ideally- for Carshalton to defeat Stortford. If the Robins turn over the Blues, then any kind of positive or neutral result for the Rocks in Kent could see the Mackerel Men climb to fifth. If, however, Stortford defeat Carshalton, then even victory over Merstham is unlikely to be enough to turn around the goal difference advantage that the Robins have over their Woodside Road rivals.

OK, if you’re not confused enough, let’s look at the bottom of the table! We know that we’ve lost Harlow Town. Burgess Hill Town aren’t yet mathematically relegated, but to stay up they’d need to turn around a goal difference fourteen goals worse than their opponents tomorrow, Wingate & Finchley, and hope that Whitehawk fail to win against Corinthian-Casuals.

Wingate and Finchley host that match tomorrow with a two point advantage over Whitehawk, but with an inferior goal difference. So they know that victory will keep them up, but a draw will only do the same if the Hawks don’t win.

Whitehawk know that they have to win to have any chance of staying up, but then will hope that their Sussex rivals do them a big favour at Summers Lane. Victory won’t be enough if Wingate win too.

North Division

If you don’t already have a tense, nervous headache after reading all of that, we already know who has qualified for the Playoffs in the North Division. We also know that Heybridge Swifts will finish fifth barring a miracle of Arbroath v Bon Accord proportions, so will need to travel for their tie- but we don’t yet know where they will have to travel, as either Aveley, Maldon & Tiptree or Coggeshall Town could finish second! Aveley are in the driving seat, the Millers knowing that just a point against Soham Town Rangers tomorrow would guarantee them finishing second or third and guarantee them a home tie. Defeat, however, could see them fall to fourth if the Jammers and Seed Growers both win.

There are only two points between Maldon and Coggeshall, but the Jammers have an inferior goal difference so know that the only way they can guarantee a home tie tomorrow is to defeat Barking at home, whilst Coggeshall entertain AFC Sudbury hoping to pick up three points and also that Barking do them a favour.

It is rather more interesting at the bottom of the table. We know that Mildenhall Town are leaving us, but we don’t know which one of Witham Town or Romford are going with them. A few short weeks ago the answer would most definitely have been Romford, but the Boro have decided to re-enact their annual escape act and have moved level on points with Town with one match to go. Romford have to defeat Felixstowe and Walton United, and hope that Witham can’t win at Basildon United. Witham know that if they match Romford’s result, they will stay up on goal difference.

South Central

We know that Bracknell Town, Cheshunt, Marlow and Westfield have qualified for the playoffs. We also know that Westfield, unless they can inflict a rather hefty defeat on the Ambers tomorrow, will finish fifth. We don’t yet know who will have home advantage, however.

Bracknell Town are a point clear of both Cheshunt and Marlow. The Robins host Ashford Town knowing that victory will guarantee them second place and probably a home tie with Westfield, but that a draw or defeat could see them drop as low as fourth.

The Ambers will be hoping to defeat Westfield, and if they do so and Bracknell fail to win then they might get the chance to do the same again next week, but a draw could see them overtaken by Marlow if they overcome Ware. Marlow are currently behind Cheshunt only on goals scored, both clubs having the same number of points and an identical goal difference, so that home advantage is difficult to call at the moment.

Once again, the drama is down at the bottom of the table. We know that we are saying goodbye to Egham Town, but we don’t yet know who is going with them- with Molesey, South Park and Hertford Town all still in danger of filling that one remaining relegation place.

Molesey need victory over Northwood, but their future isn’t entirely in their own hands. Even that victory won’t be enough if South Park defeat Waltham Abbey, and just a point for Hertford Town at Bedfont Sports should be enough to keep them up.

If South Park don’t want to be nervously looking over their shoulders they need three points at Capershotts. One point may not be enough, as victory for Molesey would then see celebrations at Walton Road, as the Moles have a better goal difference.

If Molesey and South Park both win, then Hertford will need something at Sports, as defeat would see them down.

South East

Horsham are most definitely second, and having played all of their matches can now relax and rest a little whilst everyone else deals with the last day stress! The Hornets know that their Semi-Final opponents next week will be either Haywards Heath Town or Ashford United, who face each other at Homelands tomorrow. A draw or an Ashford victory would ensure that Heath ended the season in fifth place and travelled to Culver Road, a Heath victory would see the Nuts and Bolts making the same journey.

Hastings United know that they will finish either third or fourth, but the difference between a home tie or an away tie could be rather important, and to confirm that home advantage they will need victory at Greenwich Borough. A draw or defeat could see them overtaken by the Nuts and Bolts, who are two points behind but have a better goal difference.

That match is somewhat complicated by what is happening at the bottom of the table. Only one side goes down this season after the sad demise of Thamesmead Town, but we don’t yet know who that will be. Up until Wednesday Greenwich Borough were in the driving seat, but their unfortunate points deduction handed the initiative right back to Guernsey. Borough are now two points behind the Green Lions, and have an inferior goal difference- so they need to defeat Hastings and hope that Guernsey fall to defeat at Sittingbourne. Even one point for the Green Lions should keep them up, unless Borough can somehow turn around a nine goal deficit.

We’ll bring you our matchday feature from Colston Avenue tomorrow, a full round up of all of Saturday’s action on Sunday morning, and then feature all of our playoff fixtures next week!

Where next?

Tilbury to share Chadfields Hashtag United to groundshare with the Dockers
Saunders steps down Highly regarded Margate boss calls a halt to his spell at the helm

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