Isthmian League North: Who will be number one?

With just under a month to go before the 2021/22 Southern Counties East Football League season begins, we have a look at the sides who will be competing and ranking 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 seasons, 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 them promotion at the end of a full-season.

AFC Sudbury 

AFC Sudbury will hope for an as good start to the 2021/22 season as they did last season as they look for a top-half finish.

The 2019/20 saw the Yellows 11th after 26-games. Their points tally of 37-points from 11-wins and 4-draws saw them sit 5-points off 7th-place with two-games in-hand. Sudbury could have even fought for a top-5 place had the season continued. The following season saw Sudbury sit second the table after just 8-games. 3-wins and 3-draws made for a great start to the season as they sat 4-points off the leaders. Although teams below had games in-hand on the Yellows and right down to 8th was within two-points, they would have been confident of battling for a top-5 place.

I think Sudbury will have another good start to the season and will find themselves battling where they were last season, but I think clubs will have more in the race for a top-5 finish. Therefore, I think they will be just outside those places.

Prediction: 7th 

Aveley

Aveley will hope to replicate their form from the full COVID affected season as they look to challenge for promotion.

The Millers sat 2nd during the 2019/20 season as they picked up 51-points from the 26-games they played. Their points put them 14-points behind the league-leaders, Maldon & Tiptree, but ahead of the sides below with games in-hand. Aveley had made a less than expected start to the 2020/21 season as they sat 9th after 6-games, winning 3 and losing 3. With 32-games left to play before the season was halted, Aveley would have been confident of improving their form.

I think Aveley will be challenging once again, but will just squeeze into the play-offs. I think other sides going for the title will be far stronger, but the Millers will get their shot at promotion.

Prediction: 5th 

Barking 

Barking have moved across from the South Central Division and will hope to challenge towards the top-end of their new division.

The Blues found themselves mid-table during the 2019/20 season, picking up 46-points in 29-games. Their haul of 46-points, put them within 6-points of the play-offs, but having played more games than some above, so it would have been a battle to make the top-5. The 20/21 season saw them sit 12th in the same division, but having played 22-games less. With plenty of games left to play, the Blues had plenty of time to rise up the table.

In a different league and what will certainly been a tough division, I don’t think Barking will do as well as they have the last two-seasons. I think they will be fighting for survival at Step-4 rather than sitting mid-table.

Prediction: 11th 

Basildon United 

Basildon United will hope for a much better season this year after finding themselves fight at the bottom end of the table.

The 2019/20 season wasn’t great for the Bees as they sat at the bottom of the table. They had played 25-games, but picked up 23-points, putting them 5-points from safety. Had the season continued, they were starring down the barrel at relegation. The following season didn’t begin the way the club had hoped as they sat 19th, after 6-games, and just a point from safety. With plenty of games left to play, the club would have been hopeful of improving their form and staying in the Isthmian League North Division.

I think Basildon will have a another tough season and I can’t see them finishing much higher than they have done in the last couple of seasons.

Prediction: 18th

Brentwood Town

Brentwood Town is another side would will hope for a better season after finding themselves at the wrong end of the table.

The blues sat 17th when the 19/20 season brought to an abrupt end. After 28-games, the club sat 2-points from safety having pulled a haul of 26-points from the 28-games they played. The following season saw them make a tough start as they sat 18th after 5-games. Last season saw them pick up just 6-points in their opening 5-games, leaving them -3 goals off safety. With the division being so tight at the start, Town would have been confident they could have turned it around.

I think it will be a tough season for the Blues. With a full-season under everyone’s belt, they will all be hoping to do well, but I can’t see that being Brentwood.

Prediction: 17th

Bury Town

Bury Town will look to challenge for promotion once again after two-seasons towards the top of the table.

The Blues found themselves 5th when the first COVID hit season was brought to an end. Town had picked up 50-points from the 29-games they played, putting them level on points with Heybridge and Tilbury. The season that followed saw them sit 4th after 4-games, winning three and drawing one. Being one of the sides to play the least amount of games, meant the Blues had plenty of chances to battle for the title, sitting 6-points behind Tilbury with 4-games in-hand.

I think Bury will have another good season, and will mimic the last two-seasons with a place in the play-offs come the end of the season.

Prediction: 4th 

Canvey Island 

Canvey Island will hope they remain safe, but also will want to improve and get a top-half finish.

The Gulls were mid-table season, sitting 10th after 27-games. Their record of 11-wins and 5-draws put them within touching distance of the top-8 and with 9-games still to play. 5-games into the 20/21 season saw the Gulls sit 15th, but with 2-3 games in-hand on the sides above. Wins in those games could have taken as high as top-spot, giving them great scope to fight for a place in the promotion places.

A full-season could see Canvey drop below the promotion places and I think a mid-table finish in the first full season for two-years, would be a fair reflection.

Prediction: 12th 

Coggeshall Town 

Coggeshall Town will be searching for a play-off place, after finding themselves close during the first COVID hit season.

The 2019/20 season saw the Seed Growers sit 6th, with 46-points from 26-games. Their points tally put them within 4-points of Tilbury, Heybridge and Bury with 1-3 games in-hand on the sides above, giving them confidence they could cement a promotion spot. The 2020/21 season saw Town sit 11th after just 6-games. 8-points in their first six games saw them sit within 6-points of second and with 2-games in-hand. Had the season continued, they would have been sure of being up there again.

I think Coggeshall will certainly be up there and challenging for a place in the Isthmian League play-offs, but with a full-season and such a competitive league, I think they will just miss out this time.

Prediction: 8th 

Dereham Town

Dereham Town will look for a top-half finish during the 2021/22 after being on the fringes of that position during the 2019/20 season.

The Magpies sat 8th during the first COVID hit season having played just over 80% of their games. Having picked up 41-points from their 29-games, Dereham sat within touching distance of 6th and 7th, but having played more games. 7-games into the 20/21 season saw the Magpies sit 12th, in the middle of a crowded bunch as the season hadn’t really got going. They sat two-points off the play-offs places, with a game in-hand, but would have faced a tough battle to finish there.

I think Dereham will be a tough side to beat, but when it comes to where they finish, I think they will end up just inside the top-half of the table.

Prediction: 9th 

Felixstowe & Walton United 

Felixstowe & Walton United will hope to be higher up the table when the 21/22 season ends.

The 2019/20 season saw the Seasiders fighting for survival as they sat 18th after 29-games. Their haul of 25-points left them in damage of dropping down further as Romford and Basildon United had 4-games in-hand each and were within 2-points of them. A decent start to the 20/21 season saw Felixstowe sit 13th after 5-games. 8-points from their opening 5 saw them sit within two-points of 5th-place, but with 3-games in-hand. Had the season continued, they would have left they were in a far better position for survival.

I think Felixstowe will be away from trouble, but won’t be challenging at the top. A decent start to the new season could definitely boost their chances of remaining as a Step 4 side.

Prediction: 14th 

Grays Athletic

Grays Athletic will certainly been one of the favourites to make the play-offs, as they look to build upon a good start last term.

The Gravelmen were 14th during the first curtailed season, winning just 9 of their 29-games. They were far from safe though as Basildon and Romford sat within 8 and 7-points respectively and both with 4-games in-hand. Had the season continued, Grays had 7-games to fight for survival. The following season saw them win 3 of their opening 6-games, putting them 8th and in the small crowd of sides within 6-points of the leaders and with 2-games in-hand. With 30-games left to play, there were plenty of time to fight for promotion.

I think Grays will be up there again and will build on their good start last season, I think they will finish higher than 8th, but just outside the top-5.

Prediction: 6th 

Great Wakering Rovers

Great Wakering will hope to replicate their form from the 2019/20 season, rather than the start of last season.

Rovers found themselves 7th during the 19/20 season after 28-games. 14-wins and 3-draws put them within 7-points of the top-5, but with a single game in-hand on 4th and 5th and with only 8-games remaining. A frustrating start to the following season saw them sit 14th after 7-games. Just 2-wins and 2-draws in that time, but them within touching distance of relegation and promotion, putting it in their hands with 29-games left to play.

I think Rovers will struggle again, but not enough to see them relegated. A poor start, similar to last term could leave them in trouble, but I think they’ll have more than enough to stay up.

Prediction: 13th

Hashtag United 

Hashtag United were promoted from the Essex Senior League after two impressive seasons saw them going for the title.

The 2019/20 season, Hashtag’s first as a step 5 club, saw them well in the race for the title and promotion. The Tags won 21 of their 26-games played, putting them within a point of the leaders, but with three-games in-hand on their promotion rivals. Devs side would have been confident of achieving their promotion, which showed the following season. The 20/21 season saw Hashtag lead the chase for the title, sitting top after 12-games. 10-wins and 1-draw from those games put them 2-points ahead of Stansted, again with three-games in-hand on their title rivals. A combined total of 96-points in 38-games, put them 6-points ahead of Walthamstow, putting them in pole position to receive promotion.

I think Hashtag will have a comfortable season at Step 4, which would see them cement their place in the Isthmian League. Saying that, I don’t think they’d be quite ready to challenge for their third promotion in 4-seasons.

Prediction: 10th 

Heybridge Swifts 

Heybridge Swifts will hope to in the conversation of promotion as they look to build on two decent seasons.

The Swifts were fourth when the 2019/20 season was voided. After 29-games, they had picked up 50-points, putting them -8 goals behind Tilbury and +3 goals ahead of Bury Town, putting well within the conversation for a play-off place. The following season saw them 5th after 8-games, but the impressive start, still kept them within touching distance of the sides below, who had games in-hand on Heybridge.

I think the Swifts will definitely be in the conversation for promotion, and I can see them having one of their best seasons yet with a top-3 finish.

Prediction: 3rd

Hullbridge Sports 

Hullbridge Sports will look to improve on the last two-seasons, which have seen them sit just above the relegation places.

The Bridge were a mere 2-points above the drop-zone as they won just 7-games on the 27 games they played. They had games in-hand on some of the sides below and above, so would have hoped that had the season continued, they would have had enough to survive. Sports sat 16th again after a tough start to their league campaign saw them win just 2 of their opening 5-games, but with plenty of games left to play, they would have been confident of remaining a Step 4 club.

I think Hullbridge will have another tough start to the season, but I think come the end, they will have enough to survival and will slightly improve on their previous positions.

Prediction: 15th 

Maldon & Tiptree

Maldon & Tiptree will be one of the favourites for the title and will hope to secure promotion without any trouble.

The Jammers sat top during the 2019/20 season, having won 22 of their 26-games. More impressive, the club held a 14-point lead over their title rivals, giving them the best possible platform to secure the Isthmian League North title. An impressive start to the following campaign saw them as one of two sides to go unbeaten. After 5-games, 3-wins and two-draws put them 3rd, but 5-points behind the leagues leaders with 3-games in-hand.

I think Maldon will be up there again and will certainly be one of the favourites for the title, but I think they will just miss out on that feat, but will secure a play-off position comfortably.

Prediction: 2nd 

Romford 

Romford will hope to put their less than impressive 2019/20 campaign behind them and improve on their start to the season last term.

7-wins from the 25-games they played during the 19/20 season put them 19th and within a point of the bottom side. Romford still had a chance of survival though as they had up to 4-games in-hand on the sides above and sat within 4-points of safety. They had a good start to the 20/21 season as they sat 10th after 8-games. 2-wins and 3-draws put them a point off the play-offs with plenty of games left to play, giving them a decent chance at remaining in the division.

I think a full-season with no go the way Romford want it to, and I think a tough start to the new season will leave them trying to catch-up. This time, I can see them surviving.

Prediction: 19th 

Stowmarket Town

Stowmarket Town were the second side to be promoted alongside Hashtag United after finishing 0.23 PPG ahead of Norwich United in the combined season table.

The Old Gold & Blacks were top of the Eastern Counties League Premier Division during the 2019/20 season, holding a 15-point lead when the season was curtailed. The side had remained unbeaten in their 28-games, putting them within 6-wins on the title. Stow remained unbeaten during the start of the 2020/21 season as they had won 4 and drew 3 of their opening games, but 15-points put them 11th. Had the season continued, they would have been confident of challenging Wroxham and Norwich United for the top post. A combined season total of 89-points from 35-games, put them in pole position for promotion.

While they dominated the Thurlow Nunn across the two curtailed season, I think Stowmarket will sturggle at Step 4 next season. Saying that, I don’t think they’ll get relegated.

Prediction: 16th 

Tilbury 

Tilbury will hope to compete for promotion and the title as they look to replicate their form over the last two years.

The Dockers were 3rd during the 19/20 season, sitting a point off second, but having played a game more. Although they had played 75% of their games, the Dockers were still confident of challenging for a top-two place. The following season had seen Tilbury make the best start out of any side. After just 8-games, The Dockers sat top by 4-points. They had played more games than Maldon and Bury Town, but would have been confident of compete for the top-spot with plenty of games left to play.

I think Tilbury will have another decent start to a season and will definitely be competing for the North Division title. With a full season, I can see them achieving what they set out to do.

Prediction: 1st 

Witham Town 

Witham Town will look to improve their form from the last two-seasons as they fight to avoid the drop.

Town were 15th when the 2019/20 season was brought to an abrupt end, having won just 8 of their 28-games played. The 29 points they had tallied kept them within touching distance of those below in the relegation places with sides also having 1-3 games in-hand, making it a nervous to the season had it resumed. A tough start to the following campaign saw Witham sit bottom after 8-games. 1 win and 7-defeats put them 3-points from safety, but having played more games than those above, would have found it difficult to close the gap.

I think Witham will struggle again. While the 20/21 didn’t indicate whether they’d be alright come the end of the season, I think a first full-season could see Town face the top to Step 5.

Prediction: 20th

AFC Sudbury Grays Athletic
Aveley Great Wakering Rovers
Barking Hashtag United
Basildon United Heybridge Swifts
Brentwood Town Hullbridge Sports
Bury Town Maldon & Tiptree
Canvey Island Romford
Coggeshall Town Stowmarket Town
Dereham Town Tilbury
Felixstowe & Walton United Witham Town