TWELVE months ago football was flowing in the First Division and an exciting promotion race was hotting up with every game. Yet just 365 days later football has been frozen and the only thing flowing is the Tiers.
However, in between the enforced breaks and the home teaching there was a bit of action on the field – and just incase you can’t remember it here is a little reminder of what happened during 2020….
Rusthall got off to a flyer in 2020 with Reuel Powell-Downey scoring a hat-trick in a 5-0 win over Greenways. Ryan Smith also hit 3, as Lydd Town nicked a narrow win at Kent Football United. Leaders Rochester United won with a double from Callum Peck, while Arlie Desanges scored twice as Sutton Athletic were victorious at Meridian VP. Former Golden Boot winner Richard Atkins also claimed a brace, on debut for FC Elmstead, plus there were wins for Stansfeld, at Croydon, and Kennington, over Bridon Ropes.
Kennington then followed that up with another Premier Division scalp in the Challenge Cup. Lordswood were the victims this time before the ‘Ton’ then returned to league action and gained a single goal victory at Snodland Town.
Also on the 11th Charlie Clover inspired Rusthall to a win over Croydon, Harvey Browne was the star in an SC Thamesmead win and Dale Horton got the winner as Lydd beat Meridian. FC Elmstead picked up 3 points too as did Sutton Athletic, as they became the only side to beat Stansfeld in their final 15 games of the campaign.
Despite playing catch-up Holmesdale were still right in the promotion mix. Recent ground issues may have let them down but their defence certainly didn’t as another clean sheet was the base for a win over Lydd Town. Nathan Palmer scored both goals in that game but went one better the following week with a hat-trick in a victory at Lewisham.
In the middle of the month we also saw Greenways win 5-3 at Sutton Athletic, Rochester thrash Snodland 5-0 and Stansfeld beat Rusthall, with Macey Malyon grabbing the only goal of the game.
In the final weekend of the month we saw narrow wins for a few of the contenders. Kennington beat Sutton by a solitary goal, Elmstead beat Kent Football 2-1 and Rusthall returned from Bridon Ropes as 3-2 winners. Greenways were again involved in a high-scoring game, but this time they lost, as Lydd Town continued their hot-streak with a 4-2 success.
Manager of the Month went to Dan Scorer as Kennington won every game this month while the Golden Boot race got interesting with a couple of the Greenways lads joining the party.
February got off to a flyer with day one victories for all of the promotion contenders. There were 2 goals and 3 points for FC Elmstead and Stansfeld, 3 goals and 3 points for SC Thamesmead and Rochester United, 4 goals and 3 points for Holmesdale and Rusthall but Kennington topped the lot with 7 goals earning them 3 points at Meridian VP. That win for the ‘Ton’ was a 6th in a row in the league and came thanks to a hat-trick from Ryan Philpott and a 4 goal haul from midfield dynamo Gary Clarke.
In the following week Stansfeld won again, Sutton Athletic did too, while an electric start to the game from Rusthall saw them win at Lewisham. After a dry January Croydon returned to form with a 5-0 win, including a Martin Smith hat-trick, while Tim Beckford also netted 3 as SC Thamesmead scored 4 against Snodland Town. The biggest scoreline of the week went to Greenways though, again, as they smashed Meridian VP 8-0 with Danny Lear and Brad Cross both continuing their fine scoring runs by each claiming trebles.
Defensive problems then continued for Meridian VP. 7 and 8 was followed by 5 at Holmesdale and 5 more at Lewisham as top half hopes dwindled to nothing, replaced only by relegation fears.
Kennington’s Challenge Cup run then continued. Deal Town were the next victims as Clarke shined once more and a semi-finals place was booked in.
The focus was still on promotion for Kennington though and Cup success was quickly followed by return to the top thanks to a 6-3 win at Bridon Ropes – 9 goals from 9 different scorers in South London with Gary Clarke one of many to find the net. The next game followed a similar pattern. The midfielder scored again, Kennington won again.
With the weather causing problems it was time for February to come to an end. Just before it closed out though Greenways won again, as did SC Thamesmead, ruthless Rusthall scored 5 and Elmstead dished out a rare defeat to Holmesdale.
James Anderson picked up the Manager of the Month Award as Rusthall went through the month with a 100% winning record. The top of the scoring charts was heavily congested. Tim Beckford led but many others were close behind.
The promotion race was hotting up nicely. 7 or 8 teams were still in the running and at this stage we had no idea which ones would make the final 4.
The first weekend of the month gave us a match-up between the top 2 sides in the table. Kennington led at the break but the Rustics came back and their win saw the two sides switch places with Rusthall now out in front. Stansfeld improved their promotion chances further with a late win at Lewisham while Holmesdale saw their hopes dented with a late loss at Greenways. There were also wins for Bridon Ropes, Croydon and Sutton Athletic with the latter achieving theirs thanks to a Connor Linham hat-trick on debut.
Bridon Ropes then picked up a midweek victory at Sutton before gaining yet another 3 points, this time at home to Lydd Town on what eventally became the final day of the season.
Lewisham Borough went from a 4-1 win against FC Elmstead to a 3-0 loss at home to Croydon, SC Thamesmead won again and there were 2-2 draws between Stansfeld and Greenways plus Rusthall and Forest Hill.
Doubles from Lockyer and Clarke saw Kennington win in style while Holmesdale scored 4 as the top 3 pulled away.
And then just as things were getting very exciting it was over.
A deadly virus had swept in from the east and among other more important things, it had caused an early end to the 2019/20 season.
Decision makers were to argue on how the standings would be decided and while this league pushed for success to be rewarded those above went down another route and the season was made Null and Void. A harsh ending for those that deserved more.
Ahead would be a 6-month break, mostly locked away from the world, before we would get to return to action and take to the field once more.
The delayed 2020/21 season finally got under way in September. Same 17 teams, same 4 promotion places on offer as before. Hopefully we would get to see who would take them this time.
To break from tradition it would be FA Cup fixtures that would be first up for the 3 fortunate First Division sides lucky enough to be handed a place.
The trio were handed ties against sides frm our own Premier Division with Sutton Athletic and Kennington narrowly losing but Stansfeld coming out best after an epic game against Punjab United that went to a penalty shoot-out.
League duties began on the 5th with the big day one game at Homelands going the way of Kennington over Holmesdale while Lydd Town hit Stansfeld for 6 and Rusthall scored 5 at home to Kent Football Utd. There were also victories for Sutton Athletic, Rochester United and Greenways.
A week later and there were 7 games and 7 winners in the Division.
Callum Peck scored 3 of Kennington’s 6 at Sutton Athletic while Shameek Farrell claimed the match ball as Holmesdale beat Lydd Town 5-2.
Jack Sims netted a last minute winner as Croydon won at Rusthall while Snodland Town and Greenways also left it late to pick up maximum points against Forest Hill Park and Kent Football United respectively.
Jerome Walker hit his second brace of the young season, in a win for FC Elmstead, and Rochester United picked up win number two from game number two with success at home to SC Thamesmead.
A big crowd was at Foxbury to witness another strong Stansfeld display in the FA Cup. It wasn’t to be this time for them though as Little Common took the tie, the hosts would now turn to the FA Vase for further glory this year, including just a few days later.
Stansfeld were enjoying their moment in the sun and enjoying penalty shoot-outs as their Vase tie with Knaphill went to spot kicks which they won again, making them one of only 10 sides from the SCEFL to win through the first phase of the competition. Lydd Town would join them, after also winning on pens while Kennington and Holmesdale got their games wrapped up within standard time.
Kennington were out in front at the end of the first month in the League Table too after Gary Lockyer helped them to a 4-0 win over Rusthall.
Unbeaten Rochester United sat in second with Croydon in third following a thrilling 5-4 Trams win at Stansfeld.
Holmesdale continued their charge up the table and were in 4th after beating Sutton Athletic 5-1 while Lewisham Borough were yet to see a league defeat and had most recently won at Greenways.
Kennington, Rochester United and Holmesdale all won on the first weekend of the month, as did Greenways at Sutton Athletic and SC Thamesmead over Lewisham Borough with Mayowa Olufeko once again getting his name on the ‘Acre’ scoresheet.
In week two JP Rylah scored a brace at Bridon Ropes for an improving but inconsistent Croydon and Tommy Lawrence netted twice as Rusthall ended a losing run with success at FC Elmstead.
Aaron Kleman was among the goals for high-flying Greenways as they beat Forest Hill Park and Kent Football United rose the ranks with a Callum Flynn inspired win at home to Lewisham Borough.
The FA Vase kept six of our sides busy that weekend though with eye-catching results coming for Kennington, Holmesdale and Stansfeld, who won 4-2 at Alford with Ross Morley scoring a hat-trick.
Arlie Desanges also scored three as Sutton Athletic beat Rochester United 4-0 in the only all-SCEFL tie of the round – after both sides received a bye at the previous stage.
The First Division had an entertaining week three despite handing us it’s first 0-0 of the campaign.
Gary Clarke scored 3 of Kennington’s 7, Mayowa Olufeko got a couple of SC Thamesmead’s 5, Joe Minter netted twice for Stansfeld and Conor Evans got a double in a Sutton Athletic win.
Alvin Turyatemba was on the scoresheet in a Forest Hill Park victory as was Nathan Palmer as Homesdale won again.
Rusthall continued their rise up the charts with narrow success over Lewisham Borough while it was Bridon Ropes and Kent Football that let the side down, giving us that first goalless game!
The final weekend of league action saw wins for Stansfeld, Snodland and Lydd Town. Rusthall, Rochester, Kennington and Holmesdale all won too as the top 5 broke away from the chasing pack.
But the new leaders were now SC Thamesmead as a quickfire 6 points saw them end the month on top.
We had just enough time to sneak some FA Vase games in on Halloween with Fisher being the latest victims of an on-fire Kennington but it was the end of the road for Sutton and Holmesdale who both were knocked out by higher level opponents.
November / December
Wave Two of the Pandemic gave us Lockdown Two and a new Tier system that was to heavily affect the South East for the rest of the year.
November was a blank month as was December for League games but with the virus seemingly avoiding Cup Competitions a few of our teams got to play including Croydon, who got to finally debut at their temporary new home for the very first time. The groundhoppers came flocking and will be glad they did as they witnessed a remarkable fightback from the ‘Trams’ who beat Athletic Newham 4-3 in the London Trophy, despite being 3-0 down at the break!
Kennington once again proved their worthiness of a Premier Division place by beating yet another Step 5 member, this time Glebe, in the Vase. A day later, at the same location Stansfeld produced heroics once more to win their 3rd penalty shoot-out of the season and reach the second round for the first time ever.
Their journey would end at that stage, with defeat to Flackwell Heath, but history was made and memories created that would take a long time to forget.
Kennington also departed at the Round Two stage with Sutton Common Rovers edging a penalty shoot-out in what was to be the last game of the year just before Christmas.
And so it was all over.
A year to forget was over and for many of us it was the most sad and frustrating of our lives.
Who knows when we will get to safely resume the season or if we will ever get to finish it off but for now all we can do is show more patience, follow the guidance and hope that some sort of normality returns soon.
Points Per Game Table for League matches played during 2020
|Forest Hill Park||15||0.93|
|Kent Football Utd||18||0.55|
Leading Goalscorers – All Competitions – 2020
|Arlie Desanges||Sutton Athletic||15|
|Dale Horton||Lydd Town||12|
|Callum Peck||Kenn / Roch Utd||12|
|Mayowa Olufeko||SC Thamesmead||11|