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Who are we going to play next season? 2024/25 edition

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Post by Roy D Hacksaw Thu Feb 22, 2024 5:14 pm

All that chatter about whether Merthyr would be likely to go North or South the other day (they'll go South), reminded me that is was about that time of year when we start having our first speculative look into who we might be playing next season. This year's even more complicated than usual as the way we're going it's looking more likely that we'll be a very real contender in the promotion play-off stakes - especially now that Torquay appear to be in freefall. So there's a solid chance that we might be having some glamour awaydays to exciting places like Rochdale, Oldham Athletic, Southend United, Hartlepool United, and even quite possibly our old pals from up the road in FGR. It's a pretty exciting prospect. But let's just suppose for a moment that we don't quite make the step up (yeah I know, dystopian fantasy and all that) - who might be joining us on our quest to bounce back and win the National South title next term?

Looking upwards, it's a decidedly south-facing affair. Last year's play-off winners Oxford City look dead and buried a good ten points shy of safety. Five points above them sit Kidderminster Harriers, who would go North, obviously, but they are still in a position to drag their way out of danger with a late-season run. A point above them on 34 points are those yo-yo artists Woking, and making up the relegation places as it stands by mere goal difference are Dorking Wanderers, whose fairytale story is seemingly starting to go a little sour. Then it all begins to get a bit clumpy. Also on 38 points are Ebbsfleet United, Wealdstone and Southend United, on 39 points sit Maidenhead United, York City and AFC Fylde - the latter pair of which would go North, of course. Marginally above them sit Boreham Wood (40 points), Rochdale (41), Eastleigh (42) and Dagenham & Redbridge (42). So it's only the top ten of the division who do not sit within at least five points of the drop - which could make for an exciting, if not desperate run in to the end of the season, with the distinct possibility that every team who makes the drop could feasibly come South. And if that's the case, clubs like Chelmsford City, Oxford City, and even very possibly Braintree Town may have some very long away trips to look forward to.

Now, let's look at who's contending to come up from below us. In the Southern League Premier South, as it is now snappily titled, Chesham United are nine points clear with a game in hand on their nearest contenders. Salisbury were early leaders, but have slipped away a little of late, currently sitting in second on 61 points. Their nearest rivals are dirty Gosport Borough, on 58 points, while the rest of the play-off places are currently inhabited by Merthyr Town (who'll come South!) on 51, and AFC Totton on 49, although they have at least two games in hand on everyone else around them. Queueing up behind are Walton & Hersham, also on 49, but with a considerably weaker goal difference, Hungerford Town on 46, and Bracknell Town on 45. Anyone below them currently sits on 40 points or fewer, so would be unlikely at this point to make up the nine or more points required to make the cut - although stranger things quite frequently do happen.

Looking across to the Isthmian League shows a very similar picture. Hornchurch also sit nine points clear of second place Chatham Town - although they have a handy two games in hand on their nearest rivals. Well below them on 54 are a resurgent post-Tamplin Billericay, while the last two places are taken up by sides who always seem there or thereabouts at this stage of the season, Wingate & Finchley (52) and Enfield Town (50). Challenging for a play-off slot below them are Horsham on 49 (although with at least three games in hand on anyone else), Hastings United on 48, Bognor Regis Town (46), Carshalton Athletic (45), Dulwich Hamlet (45) and Lewes (44). Hashtag United are probably just that little too far off the pace on 41 points, but I'm sure we'll be seeing them at our level before too long.

So who amongst those old friends and new faces do you fancy playing next season? Or are you convinced that we'll be having another trip up to the upper echelons after a successful play-off run? Either way, it's all looking pretty exciting!

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Post by Roy D Hacksaw Thu Feb 22, 2024 5:27 pm

Oh yes, and if anyone is still concerned that we could be heading North if things go against us, here's that map again. You really should all have this memorised by now!

Who are we going to play next season? 2024/25 edition 61-f6310

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Post by Steve Whites Missus Thu Feb 22, 2024 5:44 pm

I'd like

Woking, Maidenhead & Dagenham down

As for up... think only interested in Bogner Regis (hmm that cup game)

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Post by comrade powell Thu Feb 22, 2024 8:44 pm

Well we have plenty of scores to settle with Dorking, Wealdstone and Ebbsfleet so they’ll do nicely for the drop. 
Chesham, Merthyr, Hornchurch and Hastings are all good away trips (we definitely owe Hornchurch after our dreadful performance on our only previous visit).
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Post by BenE Thu Feb 22, 2024 8:46 pm

Odds are we will be seeing Woking again and one of the clutch on 39 points. I'd prefer Southend.
Chesham and Hornchurch look nailed on and I'd expect Salisbury and Chatham to join them but possibly Gosport will gatecrash it. I wouldn't mind any of those. Others look too far off the pace but if anyone can it will be a side that suddenly comes good five or six games before the end of season. There is always one side that has been powerful all season and then slip up in the play offs.
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Post by Luton Roman Wed Mar 13, 2024 6:18 pm

Dartford, Eastbourne, Havant and Dover would save a chunk.off the coach bill next season.

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Post by comrade powell Wed Mar 13, 2024 7:35 pm

And I believe with a couple of those we’ve had hotel bills as well. 
Dartford are dropping like a stone - their only win since Boxing Day was courtesy of a penalty at Dover. After finishing second last season their board is under fire for keeping with Dowson for so long and taking too long to appoint his permanent replacement.
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Post by BenE Thu Mar 14, 2024 11:21 am

Both Woking and Southend have pulled away from the bottom. It now looks like Oxford and Dorking are favourites for the drop. Still sides that can be dragged back into it so could all change again.
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Post by Roy D Hacksaw Thu Mar 28, 2024 12:47 pm

Right then, with only a few weeks left of the season I thought it was time for an update. Thankfully we're still well in the play-off chase, so with some luck and a lot of skill we could very easily be playing the likes of Aldershot Town, Halifax Town, Oldham Athletic and Rochdale, among others next season - and what cracking away days they could be!

But let's just say our injury crisis becomes that bit too much difficult to overcome, and we just miss out on promotion in some doubtlessly heartbreaking way. Which new clubs are now looking most likely to join us in the National South next term?

Looking up to the National National, Oxford City, now sixteen points adrift with only five left to play, are the first side confirmed for relegation. It's all a bit bunchy above them for the three remaining drop spots though. Dorking Wanderers sit on 42 points, Kidderminster Harriers (who'd go North, obviously) are on 43, but with a game less to play than their nearest rivals, while Boreham Wood fill the final slot on 44. But there are still plenty of clubs who could still face the plunge should they have a bad run in. With Maidenhead United on 45 points, York City (North) 46, Eastleigh, Ebbsfleet United and Wealdstone all on 47, Woking on 48, Hartlepool United and AFC Fylde (both North) on 49 and even Dagenham & Redbridge on 50, more than half of the division still have a very good chance of going down, and must all be anxiously peering over their shoulders, hoping for a few precious points. And looking at that bunch, there is a very good chance that three or even all four of the descending sides could be from the southern counties, in which case there could either be some reorganisation of our division, or Oxford City could find themselves with some very long bus journeys next season.

Now let's look down to the Southern League. Sitting on 81 points, a result on Good Friday should guarantee Chesham United the title and automatic promotion place. Regarding the play-off spots, Gosport Borough and Salisbury look fairly assure of a place in the knock-outs on 67 and 66 points respectively if they get a couple of results in their last few games. Below them on 62 points, AFC Totton would have to have a terrible run to miss out. But the last remaining place is still up for grabs. Merthyr Town currently sit in the box seat on 57 with five left to play. But sitting eagerly below them are Walton & Hersham on 56 with four to play, Hungerford Town on 55 with four to play, and Bracknell Town on 55 with five to play. But Hendon, next on 50 points, would have to hope for everyone above them to have unprecedented disasters for them to stand any chance of elevation.

Looking East to the Isthmian, Hornchurch are 14 points clear, so only an unfortunate meteor strike is likely to hamper their chance of direct promotion. Below them, Chatham Town are all but guaranteed a play-off slot on 71 points - but then it gets interesting. The last three berths are currently occupied by Enfield Town (61 points with five to play), Horsham (61 with six to play), and Wingate & Finchley (60 with five to play). But still jostling for position just below them are Dulwich Hamlet (58 and four to play), Carshalton Athletic and Billericay Town (both on 55 and four to play), and you still can't rule out Hastings United, who may only have 53 points, but they've still got six to play.

So while some new opponents next season (if we don't go up, of course) are all but confirmed, there's still plenty left to fight over for a handful of clubs, so who know where we'll be going next season. Personally I'd quite like either Salisbury or Merthyr from the Southern, and Enfield (with their beautiful main stand) or a quick return for Dulwich from the Isthmian. But do any of you still have any particular fancies of fears?

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Post by 2weirdtown Thu Mar 28, 2024 12:56 pm

"Only a few weeks left of the season" - unless you are Truro and Taunton.
🤔
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Post by Roy D Hacksaw Thu Mar 28, 2024 1:04 pm

Ha! Then it's a few months!

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Post by SteveBradley Thu Mar 28, 2024 1:04 pm

I'd like to see Maidenhead and Dulwich back at our level. The first is a handy trip to get to, and the second brings probably the largest away crowd we see outside of local/West Country rivals.

Personaly, I'd like to see Merthyr go west rather than north or south. I'm very familiar with the history and fallout around the formation of the League of Wales in the 1990s, bit in my opinion Merthyr should be playing in Wales

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Post by Roy D Hacksaw Thu Mar 28, 2024 2:31 pm

SteveBradley wrote:

Personaly, I'd like to see Merthyr go west rather than north or south.

I know what you mean, but I still think it's nice to have the odd Welsh holdout in our league system, just for plain dumb romantic reasons. It would be interesting to see how they did in the Cymru Prem though.

Also, and this actually surprised me, Merthyr is the furthest North of all the possible teams the National South could get next term, beating Oxford by about a mile-and-a-half! But with O City already having played up North for a bit, would that make them more or less likely to head that way? Although if relegation gets weird from the National they could both go that way! Chesham are the next most North, by the way, so there could potentially be a town on the London Underground map playing in the National North!

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Post by Ashley Thu Mar 28, 2024 2:55 pm

I know I'm in a minority but I'd really rather Dulwich stayed where they are. Their ground is a tip and some of the worst abuse I've ever heard of an opposition player came from a handful of their fans the last time I went there. Can't stand the place.

Maidenhead would be a nice one to have back.

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Post by Paul1978 Thu Mar 28, 2024 3:03 pm

Ashley wrote:I know I'm in a minority but I'd really rather Dulwich stayed where they are. Their ground is a tip and some of the worst abuse I've ever heard of an opposition player came from a handful of their fans the last time I went there. Can't stand the place.

Maidenhead would be a nice one to have back.
agree and any club fans who chant "you are going up" after losing a play off final is frankly bizarre. Maidenhead a decent away day.
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Post by comrade powell Thu Mar 28, 2024 5:46 pm

Quite agree about Dulwich which has become a destination for tourists attracted by a beer garden with an attached football pitch!

My wish list - down Maidenhead and Dagenham, up Salisbury, Chesham, Hornchurch and Chatham.

Great work as always, Hackers!
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Post by Roy D Hacksaw Tue Apr 02, 2024 12:23 pm

As expected, Chesham United confirmed promotion from the Southern League over the Easter period, so the National South (most probably) will be seeing them next term. Hornchurch, though, are still well clear but a couple of points away from confirming the Isthmian title.

The play-offs and National National relegation slots are still all to play for, mind, so I'll update those after a couple more games.

Meanwhile, in our league, after their ten point deduction there's still a remote chance that Torquay could go down to the Southern League. Imagine them playing at Bracknell, Hendon and Supermarine! That could get lively!

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Post by comrade powell Tue Apr 02, 2024 2:58 pm

Roy D Hacksaw wrote:As expected, Chesham United confirmed promotion from the Southern League over the Easter period, so the National South (most probably) will be seeing them next term.

A delightful tube ride from Amersham while the ground compares favourably with Twerton, Dorking and Dover as having very impressive views of the surroundings.

Some of our fans had less pleasant memories of the local pub when their visit was interrupted by a trader carrying a pig's carcass through to the kitchen! While I missed that delight I recall our last visit to the pub coinciding with an England rugby match on the tv and a local insisting on having it at full volume.
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Post by Roy D Hacksaw Tue Apr 02, 2024 4:12 pm

comrade powell wrote:
Roy D Hacksaw wrote:As expected, Chesham United confirmed promotion from the Southern League over the Easter period, so the National South (most probably) will be seeing them next term.

A delightful tube ride from Amersham while the ground compares favourably with Twerton, Dorking and Dover as having very impressive views of the surroundings.


Another thing of curious note about Chesham is that they are sponsored by the TV gameshow Taskmaster, as its creator Alex Horne lives in the town and is a fan of the club.

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Post by Roy D Hacksaw Sun Apr 07, 2024 4:41 pm

Hornchurch were confirmed as Isthmian champions yesterday, so they'll be returning to the National South next term.

And in a very unlikely development, the most likely winners of the Southern Premier Central, Needham Market, are located in the National League border zone, so could be eligible to come South - but considering how all the promotions and relegations of the other leagues are fixing up around us, it would be very unlikely. Although a 700 mile round trip for Truro could be entertaining… if they ever play in their home city again, that is.

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Post by Luton Roman Sun Apr 07, 2024 5:44 pm

Roy D Hacksaw wrote:Hornchurch were confirmed as Isthmian champions yesterday, so they'll be returning to the National South next term.

And in a very unlikely development, the most likely winners of the Southern Premier Central, Needham Market, are located in the National League border zone, so could be eligible to come South - but considering how all the promotions and relegations of the other leagues are fixing up around us, it would be very unlikely. Although a 700 mile round trip for Truro could be entertaining…0f they ever play in their home city again, that is.

A lot of southern teams fussing around bottom end of NL makes it unlikely they wd come our way.

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Post by Roy D Hacksaw Sun Apr 14, 2024 2:36 pm

We had a couple of confirmations of relegations and play-off contenders to the NLS yesterday.

Dorking Wanderers made a quick return to these environs from the National National, while Kidderminster Harriers also joined Oxford City as teams that will most probably head North, barring any late weirdness. So still in the late battle to avoid the last relegation spot are Boreham Wood, on 50 points with two to play, Ebbsfleet United on 52 points and two to play, Woking on 52 with one to play, York City with 53 and one to play, and Wealdstone on 53 and two to play. If York somehow contrive to go down we'll probably get Oxford City back. If any other permutation happens, they'll likely head North. But there's still plenty of possibilities remaining.

In the Southern League, just who'll fight in the play-off battle to join Chesham United is becoming clearer. Gosport Borough, Salisbury and AFC Totton are definitely through to the knockout stage - although their final league positions are still all up for grabs. But there's still a handful of clubs that can bag the last play-off berth. Merthyr Town are currently in the box seat on 64 points with three to play. But eagerly jostling behind them are Bracknell Town, also on 64 points, but with a far inferior goal different and with only two to play, FA Cup favourites from the past Walton & Hersham on 61 points and with two to play, and Hungerford Town on 61 points and two to play. Dorchester Town on 57 points with three to play can still mathematically make it, but need results above them to go in their favour.

Looking East to the Isthmian, Chatham Town confirmed their play-off place in the hope of making the step up with Hornchurch. Below them all it's still all up for grabs. Enfield Town sit on 73 points with three to play, Wingate & Finchley are also on 73 points with two to play, while Horsham currently fill the final slot on 70 points, but with four games left to play. The only contenders below them are Billericay on 67 with two to play, and rank outsiders Hastings United, on 63 with three to play would need a mathematical miracle to go up.

But of course, none of this really matters, 'cos we're clearly going to storm the play-offs and get up there with the big boys, innit!

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Post by tovid Mon Apr 15, 2024 6:03 pm

Note that Boreham Wood play Ebbsfleet on the last game of the season
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