The Rams have the Millers breathing down their necks- can they get back to wining ways?

By Ian Townsend

It’s a big weekend at top and bottom in Pitching In Isthmian South East, with our top five at home. Here’s our preview.

Our leaders Ramsgate will have an unfamiliar feeling as they head into their fixture with Broadbridge Heath- the feeling that if they slip up against the Bears they might find themselves knocked off the top! The Rams defeat against Merstham last time out was something of a shock, and it will have suggested to forthcoming opponents that they are suddenly vulnerable, so they’ll want to quickly get back to winning ways- and they are letting everyone in for nothing, so there should be a big crowd cheering them on. The visitors are down in fourteenth, but their recent good run seems to have ended, two defeats from their last two. The Rams won the first meeting between the sides by two goals to nil, but the Bears did play that one with ten men- and the player sent off was their keeper!

Second place Cray Valley PM welcome East Grinstead Town to the Artic Stadium. The Millers remain the only unbeaten side in the League, and have closed to within two points of the leaders with a game in hand, so will be rather determined to carry on winning! They’d perhaps rather be playing this one in Sussex than on their own patch, as every point they’ve dropped this season has come in front of their own fans, although we have no real explanation for that. Eleven wins out of eleven on the road, more draws than victories at home! The Wasps have lost their last three and start the weekend in sixteenth place, five points above the drop zone. Cray Valley have won the last three meetings between the sides, including a four-nil win at College Lane in October- and the Wasps haven’t scored against the Millers in their last four meetings.

Sittingbourne are in superb form. The third place Brickies won’t have given up on their title hopes just yet, six points behind the leaders but having won their last seven matches whilst conceding only two goals, but they have a tough match in prospect, Chichester City the visitors. City sit in seventh place, only five points away from a top five spot, and are three unbeaten- having held Cray Valley PM to a draw last time out. The sides have met six times since City joined our ranks, the Brickies winning the last two, City winning one, the other three ending all-square.

Lancing are back at home once more, our fourth place side having hit an inconsistent patch with two wins and three defeats from their last five. The Lancers still have a seven point cushion between themselves and sixth place Sheppey United, having played a game more, but they’ll want to get back to winning ways against visitors Phoenix Sports. The visitors have worries of their own, only a point above the relegation zone, and have gone six matches without a win. The Lancers won the first meeting between the sides this season, two-one- but hadn’t won any of the previous five meetings between the sides.

Herne Bay welcome bottom side Beckenham Town to the seaside. Bay have won six of their last seven, promotion form if ever we saw it, and will hope to continue that to ensure that they stay ahead of sixth place Sheppey and perhaps get even closer to fourth place Lancing. Becks find themselves six points from safety, but they have looked improved of late, losing only one of their last four. The first match of the season between the two ended in a three-three draw, Town ahead three times but each time seeing Bay level.

Sheppey United are on the road to Horndean. The Ites find themselves three points away from the top five but have lost only two of their last ten, whilst their hosts are on their best run of the campaign, with only one defeat from their last six, and start the weekend in thirteenth place, twelve points behind the Ites with three games in hand. The Deans have already defeated the Ites this season, a three-two win at Holm Park in October.

Three Bridges, in eighth, travel to Littlehampton Town for a Sussex derby. Bridges, fighting for top spot for much of the early part of the season, have fallen to six points away from a play off spot after a run which has seen them lose seven of their last eight matches, but they’ll be looking to do the double over the Golds, an Ibrahim Jalloh hat trick helping them to a three-one victory in October. Town start the weekend in fifteenth place, six points above the drop zone, and will hope that they’ve finally found some consistency and are ready to climb up the table. Their last home match was a crazy four-four draw with Hythe Town.

Sevenoaks Town got back to winning ways against Lancing last weekend, that four-two win ending a seven match streak where they didn’t add to the numbers in the W column. Oaks welcome second bottom Erith and Belvedere to Greatness Park, the Deres hoping to take a victory which might lift them out of the relegation places. Two wins a draw and two defeats from their last five constitutes improved form, and they lost only narrowly to Town the last time they met, a one-nil victory in early November.

Burgess Hill Town are back on their own patch with an eleven point gap between themselves and the top five. Hill have only lost three of their last ten, but haven’t managed to play for a fortnight, which is a long time to stew over their five-nil hammering at Sittingbourne last time out. They welcome Hythe Town, The Cannons six without a win of which four were draws, and needing to get back to winning ways if they are to deliver on their play off ambitions- thirteen points behind fifth place Herne Bay albeit with FIVE games in hand. 2023 saw the sides meet four times in league and cup, the Cannons winning three of those, their last meeting a two-two draw at Reachfields in October.

Ashford United find themselves in eleventh place, but the Nuts and Bolts will be boosted by their Velocity Cup win over Premier Division Hastings United in midweek, and by the fact that they also won their last league match- a fortnight ago- ending a run of five consecutive defeats. They travel to face a side who will be cock-a-hoop after victory at leaders Ramsgate last weekend, Merstham surely feeling suddenly invincible! The Moatsiders are in seventeenth, four points above the drop zone, and that victory was their first in six, but they couldn’t have had a better confidence booster. United won the first encounter between the sides- a five goal thriller that saw them come from two-one down to triumph three-two.

Follow the Pitching In Isthmian League on Instagram. Head here or search for theisthmianleague on your app. We're also on Facebook and Twitter.

Where next?

Highlights: Horsham 1 Haringey Borough 0 Another Hornets win- another narrow defeat for the struggling visitors
Can the Chips become the first side in five months to silence the Curfews? Chertsey look to extend their six point lead, We’ve fourth v third as Leatherhead welcome Marlow, Westfield try to regain a top five spot whilst Binfield look to maintain their escape hopes. It’s our South Central preview.

The Pitching In Isthmian Football League newsletter

Keep up-to-date with our exclusive email newsletters.