TWELVE months ago football was flowing in the Premier Division, Beckenham Town topped the table and there were half-a-dozen other sides all in the exciting promotion race.
Yet we never got to crown a Champion of the 2019/20 Season and now half way through the following campaign it is looking increasingly likely that the 2020/21 season will head in the same direction.
Just incase you can’t remember it here is a little reminder of what happened and what didn’t during 2020….
An early loss for leaders Beckenham saw the contenders all close in especially in the second week of the year when Dan Bradshaw scored a last minute equaliser at Eden Park Avenue. Luke Medley scored the only goal of the game against K Sports beginning a 7-game run that would see him hit the net in every match. The new look Canterbury City found their feet earlier than most thought they would and picked up a victory over high scoring Bearsted. It was New Year, New Punjab United as Chipie Sian and his team kicked off 2020 with 3 consecutive wins.
In the middle of the month the FA Vase returned giving 4 of our teams the chance to continue with their dreams of Wembley. The draw was a nightmare for Glebe though and the tournament favourites knocked them out. Chatham came up against Corinthian, with the Hoops going through, while the other Hoops drew with Binfield before travelling up north for the replay. Then in one of the moments of the season Deal Town took the hosts all the way to penalties and when every player had taken one, and we still had no winner, goalkeeper James Tonkin stepped up to send the SCEFL side through sparking epic scenes.
In the Kent Senior Trophy 8 became 4 with Corinthian, Bearsted, Beckenham and Sheppey making up a strong quartet while Erith Town followed a stunning London Senior Cup win at Welling United with a further victory over Tooting & Mitcham. The Brentford B side would await the Dockers in the last 4.
Back in the league and K Sports were hitting some form. A Matt Gething hat-trick against Welling Town impressed all except the Kent Messenger, while a few days later George Benner hit a 90th minute equaliser at Star Meadow, after the hosts thought they had scored the winner just 60 seconds earlier.
Big news then broke with Greenwich Borough calling it a day. Many unlucky teams immediately dropped places in the table thanks to us hearing the word ‘expunged’ for the first time in a long time, but unfortunately not the last.
In the Challenge Cup we were now down to 8 teams, with 6 of them coming from the Premier Division. Erith Town were one of those after preventing Corinthian the chance of a clean trophy sweep.
The month closed out with 5-0 wins for Tunbridge Wells and Sheppey United, victories for Corinthian and Hollands & Blair while Bearsted picked up 6 quick points thanks to the goalscoring exploits of James Bessey-Saldanha.
Before February arrived we had time for an overhaul at Park View Road. Owen Jones called it a day and many players followed him out of the door. An interim boss quickly assembled a new young side while Paul Springett returned to the Deres to oversee things from above.
Simon Halsey claimed the top boss award thanks to his Hollands & Blair side staying unbeaten throughout the month. Despite losing his Greenwich goals Dan Bradshaw was still giving defences a mean time and led the scoring charts and soon his closest Golden Boot competitor was about to leave the competition.
We were straight into action in February as the 1st of the month brought us a full set of Premier Division fixtures, including some big match-ups. Sheppey United prevented Corinthian from scoring for only the second time this season yet had to share the points as not even Bradshaw could net in that one. Blair went to the Bauvill but came away empty handed as Ryan Palmer showed the Chats fans that he would do anything for his new club. Leaders Beckenham kept their distance at the top thanks to Ryan Hall delivering against the Paperboys as did Josh Frogatt, who hit four at the Mayfield Stadium to keep Tunbridge Wells in sight of the summit.
In Otham, Bessey-Saldanha hit three against Crowborough Athletic, Micky Collins was impressed and the race for the Golden Boot was over. The Crows defence was leaky the following week too as Welling Town hit four, leaving the team from East Sussex bottom of the pile.
Hollands & Blair also hit 4, to beat the Rams, while Punjab United prevented Becks from scoring for the only time this league campaign. K Sports had no trouble scoring when the Deres came to town. They hit 7, Matt Gething scored 3 and even the local paper couldn’t ignore him this time.
Fisher’s win at Lordswood came in the middle of a nice unbeaten run and now the South London boys no longer had to look over their shoulders.
There was no game for Tunbridge Wells as once again their home pitch couldn’t handle the weather. We hadn’t see any league action at the Culverden this calendar year leaving Wells struggling to catch the leaders.
The Kent Senior Trophy had reached it’s final 4. Dan Bradshaw scored 3 and with Corinthian we had 2. That was 1 final exciting final we had ahead of us.
The Challenge Cup was also reaching it’s latter stages. Glebe were still in it but finding a date for their semi with Wells was no easy task. while Chatham Town would face First Division opposition in their double-headed tie.
The FA Vase Fifth Round brought mixed results. It was to be the end of the road for Deal Town but Corinthian ploughed on after beating Sporting Khalsa 3-1.
In a busy week for the green and white hoops Cup success was followed by the same in the league. A 4-1 win against K Sports followed a 5-1 victory over Welling Town meaning that Corinthian had every chance of being the bride this year.
Welling Town quickly came back to dish out a good hiding of their own. Erith & Belvedere were the victims as Welling left Welling as 7-2 victors.
Dan Bradshaw continued his one man vendetta against Premier Division defences. An equaliser against Blair was followed by 3 more against Becks as Sheppey touched the top and things began to get spicy.
Danny Gannon made sure Erith Town’s midweek journey to Deal was worth it before the hosts then bounced back to beat Punjab United.
Louie Clarke claimed the match ball as Fisher marched on and the Crows came off the bottom after a win at AFC Croydon.
The month closed out with some big wins for the Chats. Ryan Palmer hit half of his teams 8 at Erith & Belvedere before netting 1 of 5 against promotion rivals Wells.
Big wins in the League and Cups saw Michael Golding win the top chief honours while Dan Bradshaw still had a double figure lead in his quest for gold.
The job of March was to be our penultimate month of the season. It was to fail on that task.
On the 3rd March we had 4 Premier Division games. All ended in home wins with 22 goals by the hosts and 0 conceded. It was 3 for the Bears, 4 for Becks and 5 for Canterbury but the biggest winners were Corinthian as they hit 10(ten) against Erith & Belvedere. Not the ideal start for the new boss of the Deres.
The following weekend saw Crows end Blairs slim promotion hopes, Glebe thrash the Sports and Lordswood hand the Rams yet another loss. Sheppey, Beckenham and Chatham all picked up wins as did Corinthian but not in the League. Their FA Vase quarter final was an epic. 3-2 down in the final stages the Hoops came back and thanks to a last minute Oloyede strike the Wembley Arch was still in sight.
And then on to the day that was to be the last. Beckenham kept another clean sheet to stay top, the other big boys all picked up points, yet it was all to be in vain.
It was all over. There were bigger things at hand. Football was no more. Football was not important. Bill Shankly was wrong.
The debates soon began though. How do we resolve the season? Who goes up? Who wins the silverware?
That’s easy said the FA. Nobody. The season didn’t happen.
Some agreed, the League didn’t – Success was not going to be rewarded this year.
We would have to wait another 6 months before we could see a ball kicked in anger again.
The delayed season got finally got under way in September and to break from tradition it would be FA Cup fixtures that would be first up for all 21 of our Premier Division teams.
A change of home had seen Balham and Tower Hamlets join over the Summer but they were Cup losers on day one and only 9 of our gang was to make it through.
The league campaign began on the first Saturday of the month and Balham got off to a good start to their SCEFL career with a 2-1 home win over Hollands & Blair.
Punjab United picked up a 4-0 day one victory as did K Sports, who claimed the surprise result of the day when winning comfortably at Glebe.
On the same day, Corinthian finally got to play their FA Vase semi-final against Hebburn. They were given a home draw in the one-off game and pushed the favourites all the way through to a penalty shoot-out. It wasn’t to be for the Hoops though as they were denied their day at Wembley by the narrowest of margins.
In the midweek that followed, and back in the day job, Corinthian picked up a league victory, while Chatham Town, Sheppey United, Tunbridge Wells, Balham and Welling Town all made it a quickfire 2 wins from 2 games played.
Saturday the 12th of September saw the FA Cup make a return for our 10 competing teams, with 7 of them making it through to the First Qualifying Round.
Deal Town and Sheppey United picked up impressive wins against higher level opposition, Tunbridge Wells, Erith & Belvedere and Fisher were succesful from the spot but Hollands & Blair would take no further part after harshly being penalised when putting safety first and not taking to the field against a Club confirmed to have Covid within their camp.
On the same day and in the Premier Division Punjab United handed Balham their first SCEFL loss, Lordswood and Erith Town picked up win number one and Crowborough collected their first 3 points with a convincing win at SCEFL new boys Tower Hamlets.
A few days later and in a busy midweek of fixtures Corinthian came from behind to win at Glebe, Fisher beat Tower Hamlets, Jack Midson was among the goals in a Sheppey United victory at Deal Town and Chatham Town continued to impress, scoring 5 at Bearsted.
Ryan Golding was the early leading scorer as his 4th and 5th strikes of the season earned Welling Town a third win on the spin, this time at Balham.
On the 19th, Golding would score again, in a win at Lordswood, but this weekend was mainly about the FA Vase, with 28 of our teams across the two Divisions taking part.
To be fair it wasn’t the most successful few days for us with just 10 SCEFL sides winning through, and 6 of those were playing teams from within our own league.
Further Cup action was not too far away with the FA Cup returning for it’s third round of matches in the opening three weeks of the campaign.
Competition was far tougher now but Chatham Town and Sheppey United still won, as did Corinthian – at home to former SCEFL Champions Sevenoaks Town.
A busy opening month closed out with a flurry of games.
AFC Croydon picked up their first win of the season, at home to Canterbury City while Glebe did the same against Lordswood at Foxbury.
Chatham Town reached the top after hitting both Tower Hamlets and Crowborough Athletic for six but Corinthian were on their shoulder after quickfire wins over Fisher and Bearsted.
After an impressive and unbeaten league start through September Welling Town began this new month badly, with defeat at Crowborough Athletic.
Beckenham Town began to creep up the table, thanks to a win over Fisher as did Hollands & Blair who continued their rise with a victory over a Tower Hamlets side yet to earn a SCEFL point.
Elsewhere in the Premier Division Steadman Callender scored twice as Erith Town drew with Bearsted and Lordswood picked up a vital win in a 7-goal thriller with Erith & Belvedere.
The FA Cup games stole the headlines in this opening weekend of October though and rightly so as Chatham Town won 3-0 at Folkestone Invicta and Sheppey United got the result of a lifetime when knocking out Welling United.
Corinthian narrowly lost at home to Hampton & Richmond to depart the competition.
Tuesday 6th October then threw up some big results in the Premier Division.
Sheppey United won 5-2 at Bearsted and Glebe beat Welling Town 3-2 at Foxbury. Corinthian poured on the pain for Tower Hamlets and Deal Town were victors over Lordswood 2-0.
However it was the game at the Bauvill Stadium that grabbed the attention though with Chatham Town falling to defeat for the first time this season with Tunbridge Wells capitalising on defensive errors to leave as 3-2 winners.
The next round of league matches saw Adam Woollcott help Canterbury City to a much needed win and Steadman Callender and Josh Jackson score doubles for the ‘Dockers’ in a 5-0 win over Tower Hamlets.
Frankie Morgan got 3 in a 4-0 win for Corinthian and Chatham Town bounced back from surprise defeat to dish out a 5-1 beating of Beckenham Town.
The FA Vase kept many of our sides busy this weekend with Erith & Belvedere, Sheppey United and Fisher among the winners before the FA Cup returned in midweek with huge games for our two surviving teams.
It wasn’t to be for either though as Chatham Town lost at Havant & Waterlooville and Sheppey United went out to Eastbourne Borough.
Back in League action Tunde Aderomu scored again in a Beckenham Town win and Elyon Marshall-Katung netted twice as Bearsted beat Lordswood. Fisher, Tunbridge Wells and Balham all picked up 3 points while Tower Hamlets claimed their first in a 1-1 draw with Punjab United.
The 17th of the month provided us with a real goalfest of a day with 79 goals coming in the 18 games across the two Divisons.
Beckenham Town scored 7 of them at Punjab United while Glebe hit 5 at Bearsted with Jamie Philpot netting 3 of them.
Chatham Town scored 8 of the 11 in their game with AFC Croydon while the 3 for Erith & Belvedere against Canterbury City gave the ‘Deres’ their first League win of the year.
The big match of the day went the way of Sheppey United, but only just, as they scored late twice on to beat Corinthian 4-3, a first league defeat in 51 weeks for the Hoops.
The goals kept on coming in the midweek that followed…
Jack Evans scored 3 of Chatham Town’s 7, as they won at Canterbury and Luke Adams found the net twice as Punjab United beat K Sports 5-0.
Rob Brown scored late from the spot as Fisher edged a 5-goal thriller at the Mayfield Stadium as a few miles away Tunde Aderonmu was on form and on target again for Beckenham as they beat Tunbridge Wells.
Emmanuel Oloyede provided the early punch as Corinthian beat Erith & Belvedere 5-1 while Glebe were the latest to dish out defeat to basement boys Tower Hamlets.
In the penultimate weekend of the month the goals kept on coming.
New boy Dale Horton got the last of 5 as Canterbury City beat Punjab United while Oscar Housego was on target again in a 4-2 win for Corinthian at AFC Croydon.
Jamie Humphris scored a first half hat-trick as Erith & Belvedere beat Crowborough Athletic 3-1.
There were 9 goals from 9 scorers as Chatham Town won 6-3 at Erith Town while Sheppey United came from behind to win 3-2 at home to Beckenham.
Euan Sahadow was once again on target as Tunbridge Wells picked up a win while Matt Gething was the match winner for Hollands & Blair over K Sports.
Chatham Town closed out October in familiar style, scoring six to end the month in first place.
Corinthian stayed second after narrow success over an unlucky Deal Town.
The most impressive halloween result went to Erith Town as they beat Tunbridge Wells 4-0 while there were defensive horrors at the Mayplace Ground as Tower Hamlets and Canterbury City drew 5-5.
Balham, Beckenham and Crowborough all won and with that the league season had entered an early winter break.
Before non elite football was brought to a halt there was FA Vase success at Halloween for Sheppey United as they joined 6 other SCEFL sides in the hat for the Second Round Draw.
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 for League games as was December but with the virus seemingly avoiding Cup Competitions a few of our teams got to take to the field.
Crowborough Athletic saw Sussex Senior Cup success on penalties at Midhurst but the FA Vase was the competition that saw the majority of the games take place.
Chatham Town were to beat Horley in an entertaining game before departing the Cup despite dominating a very good Flackwell Heath side.
Corinthian and Sheppey United went out too as did Glebe who were the latest Premier Division victims of First Division Kennington.
That left Deal Town as the only SCEFL side left in the FA Vase.
They know their next 2 opponents but don’t know when they will get the chance to play them.
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.
We have lost our football for a while but many have lost loved ones for ever. For the League we had lost one of our own, a real good one and a man who will be missed by so many from this corner of the Country. RIP Plum, your legacy will long live on.
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
|Hollands & Blair||23||1.61|
|Erith & Belvedere||20||0.55|
*Numbers for Balham and Tower Hamlets only include the 2020/21 SCEFL season.
Leading Goalscorers Table for 2020 – League and Cup
|Dan Bradshaw||Chatham / Sheppey||35|
|Jack Evans||Chatham Town||26|
|Euan Sahadow||Tunbridge Wells||13|
|Danny Leonard||Sheppey United||12|
|Tunde Aderonmu||Beckenham Town||11|
|Ryan Hayes||Chatham Town||11|
|Billy Bennett||Sheppey United||11|
|Ryan Golding||Welling Town||10|
|Jack Midson||Sheppey United||10|
|Jon Pilbeam||Chatham Town||10|
|Matt Gething||K Sports / Blair||10|