Isthmian League South East: Who will top the charts?

With just over a week to go before the 2021/22 Isthmian League South East Division 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 continued 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 them promotion at the end of a full-season.

Ashford United

Ashford United will hope to replicate their form from the 2019/20 season as they look to challenge for the title.

The Nuts & Bolts were 2nd during the 2019/20 season, having played 30-games. 19-wins and 2-draws saw them sit 3-points off the league leaders, but having played two-games more, while they held a 14-points gap over those just outside the play-offs. The following season saw Ashford sit 11th after just 6-games. Just two-wins in their opening 6-games put them 6-points off the play-offs and 10-points off where they sat the previous season with 2-games in-hand. With plenty of games left to play, they would have been confident of improving their form.

I think Ashford will do well with a full-season behind them. Although I think they’ll miss out on the title, I think they will get their chance at promotion through the play-offs.

Prediction: 2nd

Burgess Hill Town

Burgess Hill Town will want to improve from the past two seasons as they look to avoid relegation.

The Hillians found themselves 15th during the first COVID hit season, after 9-wins and 4-draws. 31-points in the 27-games they had played, put them 3-points off the relegation zone with 11-games left to play. The 20/21 season didn’t get off to the best of starts for Hill as they found themselves bottom after 7-games. A single win and draw put them level on points with Sittingbourne, but having played 2-games more, but with plenty of games left, they had time to improve.

I think Burgess Hill will struggle, but I can’t see them finish bottom of the division. It will be close, but I can see them finishing 3rd from bottom.

prediction: 17th

Chichester City

Chichester City will look to battle for a promotion place at the end of the season and replicate their 2019/20 form.

The Lilywhites were fighting for a place in the top-5 last season as they sat 6th after 25-games. The 13-wins they picked up put them 6-points off 5th-place with 3-games in-hand, while they could have also closed the gap on the sides above with the same amount of games in-hand. A tough start to the following season put Chi City 14th after just 5-games. They were joined on 6-points with a cluster of sides, but would have hoped of challenging for a play-off place again.

I think Chichester will do well next season and I think they will make a much better start to the 21/22 season. I think they will challenge for a play-off spot once again.

Prediction: 6th

Corinthian

Corinthian were promoted to Step 4 after two superb seasons in the Southern Counties East Premier Division, that saw them sitting top of the combined table with 2.37 PPG.

The Hoops were second during the 2019/20 season after 26-games. 18-wins and 4-draws from their games saw them sit 2-points off the league leaders with a game in-hand, as well as having games in-hand on the sides below. The following season saw Corinthian sit 2nd again after 11-games. The impressive start to the 20/21 season saw them sit level on points with Chatham Town, with both sides having won 10 and lost one. The combined total of 88-points in 37-games was enough to see them promoted ahead of Sheppey United by 0.15 PPG.

I don’t think Corinthian will be one of the strongest sides next season, but I also don’t think they will come straight back down. I think a low finish, but remaining in the league is what they’ll achieve.

Prediction: 18th

Cray Valley (PM)

Cray Valley will hope to be completing at the top-end of the table as they search for a promotion spot.

The Millers were third during the 2019/20 season, having won 17 of their 28-games. Their total of 57-points put them 2-points off second-placed Ashford United, with 2-games in-hand. Cray Valley didn’t make the most impressive start to the 20/21 season as they sat 12th after 5-games. One win and three draws put them 7-points outside the play-offs with 3-games in-hand and would have been confident of challenging for promotion had it continued.

I think the Millers will have a good season and will certainly be in contention for promotion come the end of the season. I don’t think they’ll get it automatically, but will get their chance in the play-off.

Prediction: 4th

East Grinstead Town

East Grinstead Town will look to make an as impressive start to the new season as they did last season and avoiding the season they had before that.

The Wasps had a difficult 2019/20 season as they found themselves bottom of the table after 26-games. Just one win and 7-draws put them 8-points adrift of 19th-place and 18-points adrift of safety. Although they had games in-hand, they were staring down the barrel of relegation. Their form changed during the 20/21 season as an impressive start to the season saw them sit 3rd. Four wins and two draws put them 3-points off the top with a game in-hand on the leaders.

I think East Grinstead with struggle this season and will not have enough to save them from relegation. A tough start to the season could leave them playing catch-up.

Prediction: 20th

Faversham Town

Faversham are another side who will look to make the most of a good start, repeating their start to the 20/21 season.

The Lilywhites found themselves fighting relegation as they sat 17th after 30-games. Their points total of 28 put them level with Sittingbourne, who was just outside the relegation places, but faced a battle to stay their as sides above and below had games in-hand. Faversham remained unbeaten in their opening 6-games of the 2020/21 season as they sat 6th. Three wins and draws put the Lilywhites 5-points behind the leagues leaders with one-game in-hand and with plenty of games left to play.

I think Faversham will have a mediocre season. A good start or end could see them rising up the table, but I think a mid-table finish is what they will get.

Prediction: 13th 

Hastings United

Hastings United will hope it’s third time lucky as look to get promoted to Step 3 of the National League System.

The U’s were on course for promotion during the 2019/20 season as they found themselves top-of-the-league after 28-games. 18-wins and 8-draws in those games put United 3-points ahead of Ashford United with 2-games in-hand. Hastings made a great start to the following season as they sat top once again. 5-wins and 2-draws in their opening 7-games narrowly put the U’s ahead of VCD United by a point but with a game in-hand and would have been confident of remaining ahead.

I think the only outcome for Hastings United is promotion. A great start to the season could see them well ahead at an early stage and on course for upward movement come the end of the season.

Prediction: 1st

Haywards Heath Town

Haywards Heath Town will hope to build on their 19/20 midtable finish as they look to avoid the drop.

The Blues found themselves 12th after 27-games during the first Covid hit season as they had won 10 and drew 9. Their points total put them within touching distance of the top-half as they had games in-hand on many of the sides above while also seeing them 11-points off the relegation battlers. Heath struggled to build on their 2019/20 season as they found themselves in the relegation zone after 7-games. One win and two-draws in those games put them a point off the bottom two sides, but also just a point off safety with plenty of games left to play.

I think Haywards Heath won’t be relegated, but I don’t think they will be miles away from those places. Another difficult start to the season could make life difficult for the Blues, but I think they will be safe.

Prediction: 14th

Herne Bay

Herne Bay will hope to be competing for a place in the play-offs as they look for their chance at promotion.

During the first Covid hit season, the Bay found themselves 5th after 28-games. Their points total of 51 put the club 8-points off second with two-games in-hand, giving them a solid platform to challenge for a promotion spot. A slow start to the 20/21 season saw Herne Bay sit 10th after 6-games, having picked up just 7-games. With plenty of games left to play, they would have been confident of challenging for a promotion spot, after only sitting 6-points outside the play-offs with two-games in-hand.

I think Herne Bay will certainly be up there again and challenging for a spot in the play-offs, however, with a difficult season in prospect, I think they will just miss out.

Prediction: 7th 

Hythe Town

Hythe Town Will look to be close to the play-offs places next season as they look to build on their midtable finishes.

The Cannons sat 11th when the 2019/20 season was cut short after 29-games. 11-wins and 7-draws put the club within touching distance of the sides above, but having played more games that most. A good start to the 2020/21 season saw Town sitting 8th after just 6-games. Three wins and a draw put them 6-points off 2nd-place with 2-games in-hand, giving them something to target had the season continued.

I think Hythe Town could be a strong side, but I think a lot of other side will be stronger. I think a midtable finish would be a fair finish for the Cannons.

Prediction: 10th

Lancing

Lancing join the South East Division after being promoted from the Southern Combination Football League Premier Division with a 2.2 PPG average.

The Lancers were on course for promotion during the 2019/20 season as they held a 7-point lead over Eastbourne Town after 29-games. While Lancing had played a game more than their title rivals, they would have been confident of achieving promotion. A slow start to the following season saw them sit 11th after 11-games, having won 6 and drew 2. While there were 33-games left to play, it would have been difficult for the Lancers to make up the 11-point gap to the promotion spots.

I think Lancing will struggle next season, with the step-up, however, I don’t think they will be relegated, allowing them to build a good Step 4 side.

Prediction: 16th

Phoenix Sports

Phoenix Sports will hope for a top-half finish as they as they look to build on their mid-table finishes over the last two-seasons.

Sports were 9th during the 19/20 season as they won 13 and drew 2 of their 27-games. Their points total of 41 kept them within reach of the remaining play-off places. A poor start to the 2020/21 season left them just above the relegation places, having played 7-games. Sitting a point above the drop-zone left them in a difficult position, especially having played more games than a couple above, but they would have been confident of challenging for survival.

I think Sports could struggle and won’t have the best season, but I think they will be a side that will finish mid-table, rather than facing relegation.

Prediction: 12th

Ramsgate

Ramsgate will hope to replicate their form from the 2020/21 season as they look to avoid the tough season they had previously.

Just 4-wins and eight-draws in 30-games for the Rams left them sitting 18th and 8-points off safety. being one of the sides to play 30-games during the first Covid hit season put them on the backfoot as they risked being pushed back further. Ramsgate sat 9th when the 2020/21 season was halted, having played just 6-games. 7-points collected in those games put them 6-points off the play-offs with 2-games in-hand, giving them a great platform to build upon.

I think a good start to the new season could set the Rams up nicely for the season, but I think mid-table finish towards the top end is where they will finish.

Prediction: 8th

Sevenoaks Town

Sevenoaks Town will look to replicate their start to the previous season, hoping to finish as high as possible.

The 2019/20 season saw the Oaks sit 10th after 29-games. 11-wins and 8-draws in those games put them within touching distance of the sides below, having played more games. A great start to the 2020/21 season put Sevenoaks Town in a good position to challenge for a promotion spot. After 8-games, they sat 5th, having won 3 and drew 4. Although they had played more games than the sides around them, they would have been confident of continuing their good form.

I think the Oaks will be towards the top end of the table, but I don’t think they will have enough to compete for a play-off spot. A mid-table finish would be a fair result.

Prediction: 9th

Sittingbourne

Sittingbourne will hope for a much better season as they look to avoid relegation.

A tough season left the Brickies sitting just above the relegation zone, having played over 70% of their games. They held a +10 goal-difference over Faversham Town, having played a game less, putting it in their hands. Things didn’t improve the following season as Sittingbourne were 18th after 5-games. Just a win and a draw in those games left them two-points from safety, but with games in-hand, giving them a chance at survival.

With the first full-season in two-years, I think Sittingbourne with have another tough season. A poor start to the season could leave them playing catch-up and I don’t think they will have enough to avoid relegation.

Prediction: 19th 

Three Bridges

Three Bridges is another side who will want to avoid a repeat of the 2019/20 season as they look avoid relegation.

The Bridges were fighting a losing battle for survival during the 2019/20 season as they found themselves 19th after 29-games. Their points total of 18-points left them 10-points from safety with just 9-games left to play. The following season saw the club sitting 13th after 6-games. Just 2-wins was enough to see them sitting a point out of the drop-zone with plenty of games left to turn their form around.

I think Three Bridges will be towards the bottom end of the table, but I don’t think they will face relegation as a good start could boost their chances of survival.

Prediction: 15th

VCD Athletic 

VCD Athletic will look to challenge towards the top-end of the table with the hope to challenging for promotion.

The Vickers found themselves 8th when the 2019/20 was brought to an abrupt end, having played 30-games. Their points tally put them within touching distance of the play-offs, but having played a couple of games more than the sides around, making it unlikely they have achieved that. An excellent start to the 20/21 season saw Athletic well within the conversation of play-offs as they sat 2nd after 8-games. Although they had played more games than the sides around them again, they had a great platform to challenge for promotion had it continued.

I think VCD United will be within the conversation of play-offs again and a good start to the new season could put them in a good position for the rest of the season.

Prediction: 5th 

Whitehawk

Whitehawk will hope to be the side they were during the 2019/20 season as they look to compete for promotion.

The 2019/20 season was a good one for the Hawks as they sat 4th after 28-games. 16-wins and 8-draws from those games put them 3-points off second with 2-games in-hand. The following season didn’t make for a great start as Whitehawk were 16th during the shortened season. Just 1 wins and 2-draws from their opening 6-games left them in the drop-zone, but still within touching distance of the sides above.

I think Whitehawk will leave the 20/21 season behind them and I think they will comfortably make the play-offs, giving them a shot at promotion to Step 3.

Prediction: 3rd 

Whitstable Town

Whitstable Town will look to finish towards the top-end of the table as they look to build upon their mid-table finishes of previous seasons.

The Oystermen found themselves 14th during the 2019/20 season after 28-games. The points they had accumulated had put them 7-points behind 8th-place VCD United with two-games in-hand, giving them something to work towards. The following season saw them sit 7th after 9-games, having won 3 and drew 2. Their points tally of 11-points from the 20/21 season put them within touching distance of the play-offs, but with plenty of games left to play.

I think Whitstable will have a mixed season from what they’ve had in the last two-seasons, and I think a mid-table finish would be a good indication of where the club have been over the toughest period for any club.

Prediction: 11th 

Ashford United Hythe Town
Burgess Hill Town Lancing
Chichester City Phoenix Sports
Corinthians Ramsgate
Cray Valley (PM) Sevenoaks Town
East Grinstead Town Sittingbourne
Faversham Three Bridges
Hastings United VCD United
Haywards Heath Town Whitehawk
Herne Bay Whitstable Town