The annual who are we going to play next year thread - 2019/2020 season

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Post by Roy D Hacksaw on Sun Mar 10, 2019 7:24 pm

Yes, it's that time of year where we start to cast an eye on those leagues both above and below us to see what new names and old friends/foes we'll be meeting next term. But before we start on the usual format, there is one really important consideration to take into account - we're going up. Yep, despite being the unfancied side in the play-offs, we're going to beat Woking again in a Twerton Park play-off - although this time even more convincingly - and will be playing the likes of Notts County, Salford City, and very possibly even some plucky triers called Yeovil Town in the Vanarama National. It's written in the stars!

But in the unlikely event of us being thwarted by a major injury crisis, or Billericay shipping in the entire Real Madrid second team, here's what might be happening to the shape of the dear old Vanarama South next season.

We'll begin with the junior leagues this time. As the Southern League has rather helpfully reorganised itself into a South and slightly less South configuration this year, there will be no need to drag out the famous fag packet to work out who's going where. This season the top of the table of the snappily titled Evo-Stick League South Premier Division South has been a three-way battle between a trio of familiar faces.

Weymouth, Taunton Town and Steve Claridge's Salisbury City have been swapping the top slot all year, and it's looking likely that one of them will claim automatic promotion. However, the boys in blue from the Metropolitan Police have been on a terrific run of form, and could be mounting an unexpected challenge for the top in the last six weeks. These four are nicely ahead of the rest, and three of them should be guaranteed a knock-out slot. Filling the last play-off berth as it stands are our recent oppos Poole Town on 54 points, followed closely by Kings Langley, also on 54, but with a vastly inferior goal difference, and Harrow Borough on 53. They stand a clear nine points clear of Merthyr Town, and so the last play off slot will almost certainly go to one of that threesome.

Moving east to the Isthmian League, Dorking Wanders are a clear 13-points ahead at the top of the table, and barring medical emergencies and acts of god have all but claimed the automatic slot already. If you don't know much about them, they're based near Leatherhead and have a big chicken on their club crest. Woo hoo! Haringey Borough from White Hart Lane are currently top of the play-off pile on 61 points, with Surrey village side Merstham on 58, Tonbridge Angels on 57 and perpetual play-off miss-outs Enfield Town on 54. But there's a whole lot of other sides chomping at the bit just below them to try and creep their way into the knock-out stages at the death. Early pace-setters Worthing are also on 54, Carshalton Athletic on 53, Folkestone Invicta on 52, Bognor Regis Town and Leatherhead on 51, Lewes on 50 and Brightlingsea Regent on 48. And there's still a small handful of clubs below them who aren't entirely out of the running, including Bishop's Stortford, Margate and Kingstonian. One suspects that there's plenty more to happen here in the run in.

Back up to the Vanarama national and we've got ourselves a bit of a problem. Where the leagues below have sorted themselves out into a nice, uncomplicated set of strata, that lot upstairs have decided that practically every single one of the sides fighting for the drop are from the South. Indeed, there are only three sides from the North in the entire bottom half, with only Chesterfield looking anywhere near in trouble, but still an almost comfortable seven points away from the relegation slots.

Bottom side Braintree Town look dead and buried on 25 points, with Maidstone United having a disappointing season on 29. Aldershot Town are seven points from safety on 32, while Havant & Waterlooville are continuing their up-and-down run of seasons on 35. The teams directly above the dropzone are Dover Athletic on 39, Barnet on 40 (but with a whole load of games in hand), Chesterfield on 42 and Boreham Wood on 43. And of course, nobody could have predicted Woking's late season plunge last year, so who knows who else may be dropping down at the last minute.

All of which leaves us with a North/South divide issue. Whereas in the last few years we've had to wonder who we'd be clawing back from the North, this year we have the likelihood of four distinctly southern sides coming down again, so we'd have to loose a couple of our regular old pals. And as its stands we'd almost certainly be sending Oxford City back up North, and very possibly Gloucester City as well, if they beat the drop. And if they don't, Hemel Hempstead or even St Albans could very well be looking North. One year it'll be easier to sort out, I'm sure of it!

But of course, none of this will be a problem, as we'll be spending most of next season heading up the M5 rather than the boring old M4 next season. No, really we will! Onwards and upwards!

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Post by Steve Whites Missus on Sun Mar 10, 2019 8:09 pm

and either way for us it looks like no more abandoned Weston trips.

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Post by kermit on Sun Mar 10, 2019 8:18 pm

Steve Whites Missus wrote:and either way for us it looks like no more abandoned Weston trips.
Don't bank on it......they have more lives than a very lucky cat!
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Post by daven on Sun Mar 10, 2019 8:33 pm

Yeovil and Torquay would create some mouth watering gates!

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Post by Palms on Sun Mar 10, 2019 9:06 pm

kermit wrote:
Steve Whites Missus wrote:and either way for us it looks like no more abandoned Weston trips.
Don't bank on it......they have more lives than a very lucky cat!

The Conference South's unflushable turd will no doubt float once more
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Post by yuffie on Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:04 am

The teams promoted via the play-offs is more complicated this season now there are four Step 3 divisions (Southern League South, Southern League Central, Northern Premier and Isthmian).

Once the four league winners have been sorted there are only two places left, so the 'winners' of each play-off will face each other in two Super Play Offs!

It potentially means that the two teams who come up through the play-offs could be southern based meaning that 8 of the 10 teams heading to Step 2 could end up in the South. Which (I think) means three teams would have to move North.

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Post by Jon_BOA on Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:18 am

Thanks as always Roy, makes it so much easier than having to work this out myself!

Yuffie, any idea how the super play-offs work? I've been trying to find reliable info on it since the 4th league was created last year. The Northern League side, do they have to play the Southern Central play off winner or the Isthmian?

Definitely got more confusing this year, what's the betting we'll end up with Met Police?!

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Post by yuffie on Mon Mar 11, 2019 12:13 pm

I think once the four teams are decided the FA (or National League) decide the games on a geographical basis. I guess it would have to a odd set-up if that wasn't Southern South v Isthmian and Southern Central v Northern.

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Post by Roy D Hacksaw on Tue Mar 12, 2019 7:54 am

I should have known that it wouldn't be as simple as 'win and go up'!

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Post by LB on Tue Mar 12, 2019 5:11 pm

Bring back Dennis Strudwick's fag packet!

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Post by Roy D Hacksaw on Wed Apr 03, 2019 1:10 pm

So we've been looking at the clubs we'd be playing if we stay where we are - and there's still an, ahem, outside chance that this might happen. But what if we go up? Who can we be looking forward to playing in the Vanarama National after our clear play-off glory?

Well aside from all the familiar faces who've passed through on the way up in recent years, or who haven't left since the last time we played at that level, there are potential trips North to Hartlepool, Halifax, Harrogate and Fylde, if they don't go up. But there's also a couple of very tasty teams looking like they could be making the drop from the 92 into the non-league fold.

The bottom of the Football League's League looks like it's a three horse race to fill the two relegation slots. Macclesfield Town are currently at the foot of the division on 35 points, one point shy of Notts County on 36, who have been rallying of late, but still face a stiff test to catch fourth from the bottom Crawley Town on 43. But wait, what's this? Level on points with County, and with large string of consecutive defeats behind them sit our lovely old friends Yeovil Town. Currently in something of a freefall, the Nottingham club could very well rescue their league status at their expense. Imagine that at home as the first game of the season!

Switching across to Vanarama North, the top of the table now seems to be a two horse race between a stuttering Chorley, and former league faves Stockport County on 74 and 72 points respective - although the County have a game in hand.

Below them, and occupying the play-off slots sit Brackley Town (64), Spennymoor Town (64), Bradford Park Avenue (62), Altrincham (59) and Telford United (58). The only sides with an anything like realistic chance of catching them are Kidderminster Harriers (53), Chester (53), Boston United (52) and Blyth Spartans (51) - although it's looking unlikely for the lot of 'em.

Obviously there's a lot of football to be played between now and then, but the chance of some potentially Northern facing games must surely be a spur on to cement a play-off place - and beyond!

(Normal and less dewy-eyed Vanarama South information will be updated over the weekend).

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Post by comrade powell on Wed Apr 03, 2019 2:27 pm

Excellent stuff, Hacksaw! Should we go up my preferences would be...

Notts County, Yeovil, Stockport, Telford and, of course, Woking.

(Although I fancy another 8-0 v Boston!)
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Post by Luton Roman on Wed Apr 03, 2019 3:16 pm

Yes any trip to Stockport must be better than the awful, awful performance City put in last time which must go down as probably the worst display I have ever seen in 51 years of support.

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Post by stillmanjunior on Wed Apr 03, 2019 3:33 pm

I often characterise a poor performance in terms of the opposition. The Grimsby game that season is laughably labelled by some as our worst performance of all-time. They were a good side that outplayed us and took their chances. Stockport weren't brilliant that season but I can't remember it being any worse than other matches in that era. Historically both are massive clubs.

Matches like Thame away stand out more. We were a league above and played like we were about five below, they wiped the floor with us. I'm sure there are more but it's not an ideal way to cheer me up.
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Post by comrade powell on Wed Apr 03, 2019 4:05 pm

I guess that's a set up for me to drone on again about THAT game at Sittingbourne, but the ETU cup match was worse.
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Post by stillmanjunior on Wed Apr 03, 2019 7:39 pm

I can’t believe I forgot East Thurrock. That’s like forgetting our manager’s name.

Sittingbourne was extraordinary.
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Post by LB on Tue Apr 09, 2019 9:58 pm

Macclesfield won their game in hand over Yeovil this evening putting our old friends in the bottom two, and for good measure Miles W-H came on as a second half substitute.

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Post by SteveBradley on Wed Apr 10, 2019 1:02 am

Was at Leyton Orient v Eastleigh tonight.

Orient are selling all tickets for a fiver for this and their next home game against Braiintree. And it drew an almost sell-out crowd of 9,203 (incl 159 Eastleigh fans). Which is a ridiculously impressive crowd for Tier 5 of English football.

A huge shame that Orient look likely to go up next season, as would be fantastic to see us play in front of a crowd even vaguely close to that if we were lucky enough to go up.

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Post by Paul1978 on Wed Apr 10, 2019 10:57 am

We played infront of 7000 at Luton in the league. Think that was the highest during our 2 year spell.
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Post by the demon headmaster on Wed Apr 10, 2019 6:54 pm

Make Braintree go north! I hate going there, even if our record isn't too bad.

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Post by Roy D Hacksaw on Thu Apr 11, 2019 1:51 pm

the demon headmaster wrote:Make Braintree go north! I hate going there, even if our record isn't too bad.

The way things have panned out with the National it's looking very much like that is going to happen!

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Post by Roy D Hacksaw on Thu Apr 11, 2019 2:21 pm

So, here's the latest update for those of us in the glass half empty camp who fear that we won't quite make the step up for next season. Y'know, just in case, like.

The winners of the Isthmian League has been confirmed, with Dorking Wanderers having a gained thirteen point lead with just four games remaining. I don't know too much about them, but they have a stylised chicken on their badge, so they can't be all bad.

Currently occupying the play-off slots below are the boys from White Hart Lane, Haringey Borough on 68, our old pals Tonbridge Angels on 66, seasiders Worthing on 63, and Carlshalton Athletic on 62. But nipping on their heels with 61 points apiece are Leatherhead and Merstham, while Bishops Stortford, Lewes and Folkstone Invicta aren't too far behind to be totally out of it, on 58, 57 and 57 respectively.

The Southern League though isn't entirely cut and dried. Weymouth have opened up a seven-point gap at the top, and must be looking good for the title. But behind them the Metropolitan Police (74), Taunton Town (73) and Salisbury (70) seem sure of their play-off places. Kings Langley (63) sit in the final berth, and with Poole only three points behind they can't afford any slip ups. The next six sides in the table aren't mathematically out of it, but their chances don't merit me typing out their long and often complicated names for another week or so.

And of course, as we have learned, winning the play-offs here now doesn't automatically guarantee promotion, as the victors will have one final play-off against the winners of the Southern Central division, and every team in with a shot of it (shy of Kings Lynn on some league maps) are too far north to worry about.

Looking now to the league above, and the relegation places are all pretty much sewn up. Braintree and Maidstone were confirmed for the drop at the weekend, while Aldershot Town are eleven points shy with twelve available, and Havant & Waterloo look almost certain to continue their unprecedented run of consecutive promotions and relegations, being nine points behind Dover Athletic with a much poorer goal difference.

All of which creates a bit of a problem with the geographical arrangement of the Vanarama South. With all four sides above us being fairly south facing, the league faces a smudge of a reshuffle. Chucking Braintree straight up North would be perhaps the easiest outcome - but then what else happens? Well looking at the map, Gloucester City seem most ripe for a northwards plucking. But will they be so keen on all those mammoth trips up north again? And if they don't escape relegation this term, things could get even more awkward, and we could see the likes of Chelmsford City, St Albans, Oxford City, Hemel Hempstead or even Billericay arguing amongst themselves over who gets the short straw. And who's going to be brave enough to make that call at the league headquarters?

If ever there was a time for that fag packet...

However, all this is moot, as we're clearly going up!

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Post by 2weirdtown on Thu Apr 11, 2019 5:15 pm

As an aside, our Somerset cousins Street FC (currently mid table) are voluntarily dropping out of the Southern League. They cite 'a paucity of volunteers to fulfil roles at the club and an inability to cope with the demands of Southern League football'. All of which makes me eternally grateful for the efforts of those who help keep City running.
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Post by Ashley on Mon Apr 22, 2019 7:51 pm

East Thurrock join WsM in being relegated. Truro will join them too unless they beat Slough next weekend and Hungerford lose at home to E Thurrock.
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