Essex Senior League: Who will win the League?

With just over a month to go before the 2021/22 Essex Senior League season begins, we have a look at the sides who will be competing and rank their chances of success during the coming season. 

Ahead of the new season, teams have began their pre-season schedule as well as being busy behind the scenes, putting together their squad that they will hope bring them a good season. With the last two-seasons being cut short early, everyone is hoping for an uninterrupted 21/22 season, that they hope will see promotion at the end of a full-season.

Athletic Newham

One of the new additions to the league, Athletic Newham were promoted from the Eastern Counties League Division One South after finishing second in the combined-season table from the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons.

The Kings were second only to White Ensign during the 2019/20 season, sitting 5-points behind Ensign, but playing three games less. Having played over 64% of their games, Newham were only 12-games away from securing promotion. The following season, they were second once again, this time behind Newbury Forest. After just 12-games, they were sat a point behind the leaders and only three points in the promotion places. The total of 71 points in 34-games, gave Newham 2.08 PPG, enough for promotion.

Although the Kings did well in the Eastern Counties League, the Senior League is another step up and it would take an incredible effort to be challenging towards the top end of the table. I think they will be the towards the lower end of mid-table.

Prediction: 15th 

Clapton

The Tons went from a mid-table side to fight for their lives to stay in the Senior League last season, making the 2021/22 season a good chance for them to show they can do without the need for a reprieve.

The 2019/20 season was a content season for Clapton as they sat 12th after 27-games. The Tons were safe from relegation, sitting 23-points ahead of 19th-place with 9-games left to play, but a couple of wins could have taken them close to the top-half. The following season was a lot tough for Clapton as they sat bottom, -7 goals below Woodford Town but having played two-games less. The Ton’s failed to win any of their 11-games last season and a continuation would have seen them battling the Woods for survival in the Senior League.

Although Clapton have the capability to surprise some sides, I don’t think they’d improve over-night especially with a full-season not being played for the last two years. I don’t think they’d get relegated, but I think they’d be close to that fate and I have them finishing in the bottom three of the 21-sides.

Prediction: 19th 

Cockfosters

Cockfosters weren’t originally in the line-up for the 2021/22 Essex Senior League season, having been moved across to the Spartan South Midland’s League, but after an appeal, the decision was upheld.

Fosters were one of the surprises of the last two seasons. Although they sat 10th during the 2019/20 season, Fosters proved to be a tough side to beat. No one had expected them to do so well in their first season in a different league, but 34-points from 26-games, meant they were on course for a top-half finish. They improved ahead of the new season and found themselves 4th after just 11-games, sitting a point off Walthamstow and 3-points off Stansted. They also have games in-hand on the sides around them, giving them a springboard for a top-four finish had the season continued.

I think Cockfosters will have another good season, but a full-season could see them fall just short of the top-four. Still, I expect them to be a dark horse again in the Essex Senior League, and I think they’d finish 5th next term.

Prediction: 5th

Enfield

The E’s have looked to take a different approach to the new season under Jamie Cureton, having struggled during the last two-seasons.

Enfield were 16th when the 19/20 season was curtailed, sitting on 24-points after 26-games. The E’s were comfortably above the drop, holding a 16-point lead over the bottom side, but with 10-games left to play, the continuation could have seen a small gap. The 2020/21 looked to be a much better season for the club as they sat 10th on 14-points after 14-games. The points total was just under 60% of their total 19/20 points, having played 12-games less.

Enfield have used recruitment to go from the side they were, to immediately compete for promotion next term. The signings of Callum Ibe, Dwade James, James Bransgrove, Jack Folan, Jack Grosvenor, Vinny Murphy and Benji Crilley have them looking more like a Walthamstow side from two-years ago. It’ll be hard seeing that team achieving anything less than a top-3 place and I can see them finishing just inside.

Prediction: 3rd

FC Clacton

FC Clacton finally join the Essex Senior League after several years of rumoured hope that they’d join from the Eastern Counties Football League Premier Division.

The Seasiders have had two-seasons of mid-table finishes in the Premier Division of the Eastern Counties League. The 2019/20 season saw them sit 11th after 28-games, having collected 39-points. Clacton were a huge 35-points off the league leaders Stowmarket Town, while they were closer to relegation, sitting 19-points ahead of Gorleston. The 2020/21 season saw them sit 10th after playing just 10-games. Four wins, three draws and three losses saw them pick up 15-points, but with 28-games left to play, they could have improved throughout the season and been closer to the top of the league.

Clacton will fancy their chances in a new division, but I don’t expect them to be putting up trees immediately. They will certainly get plenty of wins, but they will also become unstuck in other games. I’ve got them finishing mid-table in their first Senior League season.

Prediction: 12th

Hoddesdon Town

Hoddesdon Town will hope to continue being a form in the side of the top sides next season as they look to continue their form from the last two-seasons.

The 19/20 season saw the Lilywhites sit 7th after 27-games, collecting 41-points. Town still had 9-games to play, giving them a chance to battle for a top-5 place had the season not been stalled. The following season also saw Hoddesdon sit 7th, but having played 13-games. They sat much closer to the title challenges, sitting 10-points off second place Stansted with 2-games in-hand.

The Lilywhites should be battling for another top-half finish next season, and I think they can go one better than the last two-seasons, especially with a full season.

Prediction: 6th

Ilford

Ilford will hope for a much better season after finding themselves towards the bottom end of the table during both the 2019/20 and 2020/21 season.

The Foxes found themselves 13th during the 2019/20 season after playing 28 games. Their record of winning 8, drawing 6 and losing 14 saw them within touching distance of the sides above, although, they had played more games than the teams around them. 11-games into the following season and Ilford were hovering above the bottom two sides, holding a 6-point lead over Woodford Town and Clapton. With 23-games left of the season to play, the Foxes could have improved their form throughout the season, but didn’t get the chance to do so.

Ilford had a side that could cause several sides problems, but they weren’t given a chance to get into the swing of things. If they keep hold of the same players and add quality before the season, I think they could have a good season that would see them finish mid-table.

Prediction: 10th

Little Oakley

Little Oakley also join the league after an elevation from the Eastern Counties League Division One South. After finishing third in the combined season table, they were the last side to be promoted from Step 6.

The Acorns were third during the 2019/20 season, collecting 48-points after 24-games. Their points total put them level with 4th-place May & Baker and three-points inside the promotion places. With 10-games still to play before the season was halted, Little Oakley would have been confident to get promoted. Little Oakley were a point outside the promotion places during the 2020/21 season, but they had only played 8-games. That didn’t matter though and their combined total of 66-points in 32-games was enough to see them finish 3rd in the combined season total and granted an upward movement with a 2.06 PPG, beating May & Baker to the final spot by 0.27 PPG.

Little Oakley won’t struggle next season, but I don’t think they’ll do amazingly. Like Clacton, they will certainly pick up results, but I think they’d lose more than they’ll win in their first Step 5 season. As a result, I see them finishing closer to the bottom.

Prediction: 16th

Redbridge

Redbridge will hope for a similar 2019/20 season as they look to finish as high as possible in the Senior League.

The Motormen had a fairly impressive season as they were set to battle for a sixth place finish against the likes of Takeley and Hoddesdon. After 25-games, Redbridge had sat 8th on 38-points, 5-points off 6th-place with games in-hand on the sides around them. Had the season continued, they faced a tough battle to finish as high as possible, but would have been confident to do it. The 2020/21 season saw Redbridge on course for another decent season as they found themselves 11th after just 9-games, with a chance to get as high as 4th, had they won their games in-hand. With the second lowest games played in the Senior League last season, who knows where the Motormen could have finished.

I expect Redbridge to be another tough side, but think they’re more bound to finish mid-table than they are to finish in the top half. With plenty of sides looking to have a decent full-season, I think they’d finish towards the bottom end of mid-table.

Prediction: 13th

Saffron Walden Town

Saffron Walden Town will hope to be one of the sides up for a promotion and will hope to nick it ahead of their challengers.

The Bloods were top of the tree when the 2019/20 season was halted as they lead both Hashtag and Walthamstow by 2- and 3-points respectively. Walden had a tough challenge on their hands with their title-rivals having 3-games in-hand, but they were certainly in the running for promotion. A tough opening two-games for the Bloods saw them sit 5th during the 2020/21 season, collecting 23-points in the 15-games they played. They were one of three sides to have played 15-games, so they faced a struggle to remain 5th, but a good second half of the season could have propelled them towards the top.

I don’t expect Saffron Walden to have another tough season and I expect them to be among the promotion hopefuls. While I don’t think they’d be Champions, a second-place finish should be enough to see them promoted to the Isthmian League.

Prediction: 2nd

Sawbridgeworth Town

Sawbridgeworth Town had a much better 20120/21 season than they did the previous year as they avoided relegation with the season being expunged.

The 19/20 season was one to forget for the Robins as they found themselves rock bottom and 14-points adrift of the closest side Tower Hamlets. After 28-games, Sawbo had only won 2 and drew 2 meaning with less than 10-games to play, they were running out on opportunities to avoid relegation. The following season had seen them beat their points total of 8, collecting 12-points after just 15-games. With 19-games left of the season, Sawbo had put themselves in a really good position for survival.

Although the Robins were on course for survival in the Senior League last season, you can’t deny how a young Sawbo side struggled during the 2019/20 season. I think the coming season will be a tough one for them and although I think they will finish low, I don’t think they’d be relegated.

Prediction: 20th

Southend Manor

Southend Manor will hope to use the form they picked up at the start of the 2020/21 season as they look to recover from two tough seasons in the Essex Senior League.

Manor found themselves 17th when the 19/20 season was halted, having won just 6 of their 26-games. The 23 points collected kept them 15-points ahead of Sawbo, but still within reach of some of the sides that sat above. With a continuation of the season, they could have easily picked up a mid-table finish to build upon. The following saw them have some good early form despite losing the opening game as they beat the likes of Walthamstow. They had picked up 19-points in 12-games, putting them on terms with Hoddesdon Town in 7th, although a 6-point deduction meant they slipped down to 13th when the season was voided. It was another season that could have seen them place higher had they been given the chance.

Unfortunately, I can’t see Manor having an impressive start to the new season as they did and I think they will struggle. A poor start could leave them playing catch-up, but I also don’t see them getting relegated.

Prediction: 18th

Sporting Bengal United

Sporting Bengal can be a tough side to beat, but failure to put a long run of form together has meant they haven’t been able to challenge towards the top end of the table.

The 2019/20 season was a tough one for the Bengal Tigers as they found themselves 15th after 26-games. They were a point short of a 1 PPG average which put them towards the bottom, but not in danger of going down as they were comfortably ahead of the bottom side. With 8-wins behind them and a couple of games in-hand on sides around them, they had the chance to push on, but the situation didn’t allow for that. The 20/21 season saw them get the 1 point average as they sat 12th with 13-points in 13-games. Having played 13-games meant sides around them had games in-hand and Imrul Gazi’s men would have faced a fight to say above the many below.

I think Sporting Bengal could picked up some important wins, but I don’t see them having an amazing season. They’ll beat those that should beat them, but also lose games they should win and I see them finishing just above the bottom four.

Prediction: 17th

St Margaretsbury

St Margaretsbury are a side with so much potential, but two tough seasons have meant they haven’t showed their full capability and found themselves towards the lower end of the table.

The 2019/20 saw the Bury sit 14th after 28-games. Their 6 wins, eight draws and 14 losses put then just ahead of the likes of Sporting Bengal, Enfield and Southend Manor, but having played 2-games more. Had the season continued, they would have had to battle to stay above them sides and finish as high as possible. The 2020/21 also saw them sit 14th, but after 11-games. The remaining 23-games would have allowed for St Mags to push up the table, but they hadn’t been able to do that with the season voided.

I think St Mags could unleash some of their potential, but I still don’t see them as a side that will be challenging at the upper end of the table. Good recruitment from the last two seasons could see that proven wrong, but I think they will finish just outside the top-10.

Prediction: 11th

Stansted

Stansted are always expected to be challenging towards the top end of the table and will hope they can do it again this season.

The Airportmen was more likely to finish fourth or fifth during the 2019/20 season after finding themselves 5th after 27-games. The points total of 50 during the first curtailed season meant they were still in touching distance of the top sides with 9-games to play, although, it seems unlikely they’d catch either Walthamstow or Hashtag United. The following season was much better as they found themselves 2nd, just behind Hashtag United by three-points, but having played 3-games more. Although Stansted had played 1-7 games more than the teams around them, they were very much in the battle for promotion and would have taken it right to the wire had the season continued.

I think Stansted will be in the fight for the promotion once again, but I think will the competition around them, they will fall just short. Stansted are no doubt a decent side and will continue to challenge, but I can’t see them finishing in the top three.

Prediction: 4th 

Stanway Rovers

Stanway Rovers were moved across from the Eastern Counties League Premier Division and will hope to challenge at the top end of the table after finding themselves challenging in the last two-seasons.

The 2019/20 season saw Stanway battling for a place at Step 4. After 28-games, they sat 3rd and level on points with Norwich United on 59-points. Although Norwich had a game in-hand, Rovers were sure to take the promotion fight right to the wire. After just 12-games during the 2020/21 season, Stanway sat 7th with 16-points, but they were still within reach of the sides above. With 27-games left to play, Rovers would have been confident of achieving another good points total and challenging ay the upper end of the table.

Although Rovers were a good side in the Thurlow Nunn, I think they will find it tough in their first season in the Senior League. They will get enough wins to stay in the division, but they I think they will finish below the top half sides.

Prediction: 14th

Takeley

Takeley are always a tough side to beat and whether they had a good patch or a bad patch throughout the season, they also find their way to the top 6-7 in the Senior League.

The 2019/20 season was set to be a decent one for Takeley as they battled for a place in the top-5 of the league. They sat 6th after 24-games, putting them within reach of Stansted with 3-games in-hand. Had the season continued, they would have been sure to be fighting for a 5th-place finish amongst a few other challengers. The following season saw Takeley have a tough start as they sat 9th with 16-points after 11-games. With 23-games still to play, there was certainly room for improvement.

I think Takeley will have a similar season to what they normally do. They’ll either make a really good start and fall off towards the end, or have a poor start and improve as the season draws to a close. As a result, I think they will be a top-7 club.

Prediction: 7th 

Walthamstow

Walthamstow narrowly missed out on promotion to the Isthmian League after two impressive seasons, and will hope it’s third time lucky.

The Stags were third during the 2019/20 season after 26-games, having collected 63-points. They sat two-points off Hashtag United and 3-points off Saffron Walden Town, but both Stow and the Tags had three-games in-hand on the league leaders and would have led the title-race. As expected, Stow were third again, having played 12-games. They sat 2-points off Stansted, with 3-games in-hand and 4-points off Hashtag United. With 22-games left to play, Stow were expected to challenge Hashtag United for the top-spot. The club sat second in the combined season table after collecting 90-points in 38-games, putting them 6-points off Hashtag and seeing them miss out on an elevation by 0.16 PPG.

Although Walthamstow have lost a lot of players from the last two-seasons, the ambitions are still there for promotion to the Isthmian League. With the Tags elevated, I think Stow will finally see it over the line.

Prediction: 1st

White Ensign

White Ensign were the best side in the Eastern Counties League Division One South over the last two seasons, giving them the passage to the Essex Senior League for the first time.

Ensign were well on their way to getting promoted during the 2019/20 season and after playing 25 of their 34-games, they sat top of the table with 55-points. They held a narrow lead over Athletic Newham, sitting 5-points ahead of the East London side in the battle for the title, but had played 3-games more. More importantly, they held a 10-point lead over Holland just outside the promotion places, with 9-games to play. 10-games into the 2020/21 season saw Brett Munyard’s men sit in 3rd and two-points behind the leaders Newbury Forest. With such little games played, it was unclear where they would finish at the end of the season. Instead, a points total of 75 points in 35-games saw them finish top of the combined season total with 2.14 PPG.

White Ensign will no doubt find it tougher in the Senior League next season, compared to their last two-years in Thurlow Nunn, but I think they could be one of the dark horses of the 21/22 season. Looking at the quality of their squad compared to others in the league, I think they could finish in the top half.

Prediction: 8th

Woodford Town

A young Woodford Town side was fighting from survival at the start of the 2020/21 season after seeing them drop from mid-table during the 19/20 season.

When the 2019/20 season was halted, the Woods were 9th and fighting for a place in the top-10. The haul of 34-points after 28-games narrowly put them ahead of Cockfosters, West Essex and Clapton, but having played more games. They were set to face a tough battle to say 9th, although, with plenty of points, it was achievable. The following season saw a change of fate as the young Woods were 17th and just ahead of Clapton by a +7 goal-difference. 1 win and 1 draw in 13-games made for a tough start to the season and the Woods were set for a relegation battle rather than challenging higher up the table.

I think the Woods will have another tough season and I think a poor start could put Woodford on the path to relegation to Step 6. As a result, I see them finishing bottom of the pile.

Prediction: 21st

West Essex

West Essex are another side with plenty of fight and spirit, but haven’t showed their true potential, sitting mid-table in the last two-seasons.

In the first COVID hit season, West Essex sat 11th after 24-games. The collection of 31-points from their 24-games, meant they were in reach of the sides above with games in-hand. A continuation of the season could have seen West on course for a top-8 finish. The 2020/21 season saw West sit higher up the table, but having only played 12-games. 17-points put them 12th and in a good position to challenge for a top-5 finish had the season continued and with plenty of games.

I think West will get a top-half finish, although, I also think they will not finish as high as many would expect. The loss of players like Michael Mignot could prove damaging for the Essex side.

Prediction: 9th

 

Athletic Newham Little Oakley Stansted
Clapton Redbridge Stanway Rovers
Cockfosters Saffron Walden Town Takeley
Enfield Sawbridgeworth Town Walthamstow
FC Clacton Southend Manor White Ensign
Hoddesdon Town Sporting Bengal United Woodford Town
Ilford St Margaretsbury West Essex