The Season That Never Was – First Division
It was all set to be the best season ever. Promotion guaranteed for four teams! Each side started the campaign thinking that it could be their year! Over 8 months 17 teams gave it their best efforts. One by one they dropped away until with 6 weeks to go we had 7 teams left in the race. 4 of those level on points in that precious 4th place! What a finish we had in store! And then it was over. Just as it was getting juicy. No resolution, no promotion, no answers. That horrible word ‘Expunged’ was to raise it’s head and we had to all forget about what we had seen and stop thinking about what we were hoping to witness.
It never happened they said – well it did, and I made notes on it. From day one right through to that abrupt ending in March. So here I open the up the folder and reflect on the First Division edition of The Season That Never Was.
We started in style. 34 goals in the first weekend at an average of over 4 per game. Sutton Athletic were the top scorers with 7, Forest Hill Park got 6 and Croydon netted 4 – Andy Somo with 3 of them. Kennington lost to Elmstead, Stansfeld and Snodland Town won while Rusthall drew with Holmesdale. This was looking like a fun ride.
The next week brought with it some FA Cup action but only for 3 of the sides. The Trams departed at the first stop but Sutton and Bridon Ropes made it through.
In the league, Kennington bounced back in style. They hit Lewisham Borough for six but FC Elmstead were the early team to catch after claiming another win.
Week 3 saw victories for Holmesdale and Rochester, a hat-trick for Dewain West as MVP won, and more points on the board for Greenways and Croydon. Lewisham stunned Snodland late on but it was Rusthall that stole the headlines, scoring 6 against Lydd. A week later they did the same against SC Thamesmead, giving the Rustics a great start to the campaign.
Lydd then picked up their first win, followed by another while Kent Football United collected 3 points, a feat they never repeated.
The FA Cup came by again with Bridon going out to higher level opposition. Sutton Athletic fared much better however with their 6-0 win over Step 4 Ashford Town being among the best results of the season.
The month drew to a close with good league victories for Lewisham and Holmesdale, a big win for Rochester while an unlucky Lydd Town suffered an FA Vase replay loss to Raynes Park, after the first game finished 5-5.
The big FA Cup win plus 7-0 opening day victory helped Sutton Athletic’s Dan Kelly to the Manager of the Month Award while the top goalscorer honours were shared by the Rusthall boys Luke Adams and Reuel Powell-Downey.
4-1 was the scoreline that kicked-off September. Lewisham Borough beat rivals Forest Hill Park 4-1, FC Elmstead then beat them both 4-1, on different days, while Bridon Ropes also picked up a 4-1 win.
Greenways drew 4-4 with Croydon, Kennington won at Holmesdale and Rochester United beat Rusthall. An Anthony Fenech double helped Snodland win while Stansfeld scored 6 at Lydd with Hassan and Minter netting a couple each.
The first management casualty came at Kent Football United. Kissi out, George Jones in as the Dartford-based club looked to rise from the bottom reaches of the table.
Mid-month Sutton Athletic exited the FA Cup, but no SCEFL side would go further while Kennington, SC Thamesmead, Snodland Town and Rusthall all made it through to the next phase of the Vase.
Back in the league and Croydon were looking good. Charlie Gee and Andy Somo netted doubles in 6-2 win at Bridon Ropes and the Trams were on the right track for a swift return to Step 5.
On the 21st we saw Elmstead win 4-1 again, Forest Hill were victorious, Somo inspired Croydon, again, and SC Thamesmead came out best in a 7-goal thriller with Kennington.
As the month drew to a close Holmesdale picked up 2 key wins, Snodland joined the 4-1 winners club and Arlie Desanges collected the match ball as Sutton Athletic scored 7 against KFU.
The Manager of the Month award went the way of Ennio Gonnella, his side now 5 points clear at the top of the table. Luke Adams led the scoring charts but had a teammate close by and some of our Leagues most popular names queing up behind.
It was all about the draw at the start of October as our teams couldn’t be split in several games in the first week of the month. Forest Hill v Meridian VP, Lydd v Kennington, Stansfeld against Sutton, Holmesdale at Snodland and FC Elmstead v Rochester United all ended level. Rusthall won again though, as did Croydon. Bradley Baker got a couple in a Lydd Town victory but SC Thamesmead got the best result, with Tim Beckford getting 3 of 5 against the visiting Bridon Ropes.
In the following week Kennington beat Snodland and Rochester beat Lydd. Ryan Golding scored in a Holmesdale win while Forest Hill lost to Sutton.
There was a lot of Cup action in the middle of the month with 3 different competitions taking place around the same time. Liam Donaldson and Nathan Simpson both scored 3 as Bridon hit 7 past Kent Football. In the Vase it was just Kennington that made it through. The boys from Ashford got past Crowborough 4-2 with Tom Scorer notching a couple.
The Kent Senior Trophy brought with it some heavy losses. Meridian and Lydd let in 7 against Premier opposition, Kent Football conceded 8 against Elmstead, Rusthall lost 5-2 to Bearsted and Rochester took a beating off Kennington. Elsewhere we saw a Tim Beckford hat-trick against Holmesdale and Greenways claim the scalp of Punjab.
Back in the league and it was all change at Snodland Town. Simon Copley left the club, they failed to win another game all season, and the next game for them could not have gone any worse. Greenways 9-0 Snodland Town. The Greens were rampant against sorry Snodland as Cross and Walton scored 2 and Danny Lear took home the match ball.
With time in the month running out Kennington won again, this time at Sutton and Croydon kept up the pace with a win against Forest Hill. At Foxbury, Stansfeld collected a good win over Rochester while Holmesdale turned heads with a 4-1 win at Lydd. FC Elmstead returned from a busy Cup session to collect their first 3 points of the month and Bridon Ropes stunned Rusthall by edging a 7-goal classic.
Dan Scorer picked up the Manager of the Month Award as Kennington performed League and Cup heroics while Beckford, Golding and Lear closed in on the Rusthall pair out front in the scorers leaderboard.
November began with home wins for Greenways, Bridon and Forest Hill Park. Rusthall piled on the misery for Snodland and Kennington departed the FA Vase.
In the following week Kennington lost again, this time to Stansfeld while Rochester edged closer to the top thanks to a 5-0 victory over Kent Football United. Greenways then dented FC Elmstead’s progress while Holmesdale and Rusthall won again to keep in early contention. Meridian VP and Forest Hill Park were both victorious and some surprising news came out of Lewisham Borough. Despite a decent start to the season the South East London club parted ways with Justin Fevrier. He would go on to higher climbs while Lewisham would go on to visit Lydd.
Despite the disruption that first game went very well for Borough. They returned from the coast with all 3 points thanks to Ijah Currie-Wilson scoring 5 and the defence only conceding 2. No player was to equal or beat that scoring feat across the SCEFL this term.
That weekend in the middle of the month also saw success for Greenways, with Brad Cross scoring 3, and SC Thamesmead, with Hubbard netting 2. Holmesdale, Rochester and Rusthall nicked narrow wins and Kennington bounced back to beat Elmstead.
The Challenge Cup hadn’t gone particularly well for most First Division clubs but Sutton and Kennington were still going strong at the third round stage, as were Rusthall, who had just beaten the Premier Division leaders Beckenham Town 2-0.
In the league and things were still going badly for Snodland. Reece Gillies hit half of Rochester United’s 6 before a couple from Martin Smith saw them lose at Croydon soon after. Rochester followed that big win with a more important victory at Jockey Farm while a goal from Nathan Palmer saw Holmesdale overcome SC Thamesmead. Kennington finished the month with 4-1 home win bettered only by Elmstead who netted 5 against Meridian. Jefferson Aibangbee scored both as Forest Hill beat Greenways and Conor Evans was on target as Sutton won at Bridon.
Lee Garlinge took the Manager of the Month Award as Rochester led the lot while Ryan Golding moved to within 1 goal of Rusthall’s Luke Adams and Reuel Powell-Downey in the League scoring charts.
Stansfeld were the first winners in December with Billy Shinners and Joe Minter scoring at home to Lewisham. They followed that up with a point at Meridian and 3 more at FC Elmstead and would only lose one more time between now and the finishing line.
SC Thamesmead were now also on a roll. They picked up a 5-1 win at home to Lydd, with Tim Beckford scoring 3, shared the spoils with Sutton, then returned from Meridian as 4-0 winners.
We saw a few 3-2 scorelines at the end of the first week of the month. Rochester collected one, Kennington another while Lewisham Borough beat Bridon by that score thanks to a last minute Shonowo winner.
Rusthall followed a 4-1 victory at Kent Football with an even more impressive 1-0 win against Kennington as Luke Adams kept up his deadly form in front of goal. The biggest scoring game of the week came at Cobdown though, and not for the first time. Josh White got 2 and Brad Cross another 3 as Greenways beat Lewisham Borough 7-3. Elsewhere Croydon won at Lydd and Ollie Milton was on target as Forest Hill beat Rochester United.
The bad weather then reduced the fixture list as we approached Christmas. It was game on at Croydon though, and they beat Forest Hill while the all weather surface in Ashford saw Kennington beat Lydd.
The final weekend of the year saw plenty of games between local rivals. Sutton Athletic drew with FC Elmstead, Forest Hill edged Lewisham and Meridian VP beat Bridon Ropes, with former pro Paul Hayes finding the net. Ryan Philpott got a couple as Kennington won at Greenways 5-3, Stansfeld finished 2019 on a high and Tim Beckford claimed another matchball as the Acre stunned the Rustics.
Jason Long was the top boss as his SC Thamesmead side moved into promotion contention thanks to an excellent month. A couple of hat-tricks from Beckford helped that happen and moved the striker into the top 3 of the scorers leaderboard.
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 nicked a narrow win at Kent Football United. Rochester won with a double from Callum Peck, while Arlie Desanges scored 2 as Sutton 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.
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. 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 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 scored 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 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 February it was time for February to end. Just before it closed out 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 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 their 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.
Then it was over. We had sneaked an extra week in but now we had to stop.
There were bigger things at hand.
The debates soon began though. Well, we had little else to do.
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, many didn’t, but no decision was going to please everyone.
The discussions will go on, and why not. People poured blood sweat and tears into those 8 months. They deserve to be heard.
It would have been great to reward those that performed best but it wasn’t to be.
Football will return, although we don’t know when.
For now it’s time to stay in, be safe, listen to the advice and hope and pray that when it all begins again, whenever that may be, that we can look around us and see all of the same faces that we had always seen before.
– Games – 214
– Goals – 830
– Average – 3.87
– Season completed – 83%
– Top scorers – Kennington / Greenways – 73
– Best defence – Holmesdale – 17
– Golden Boot – Tim Beckford
– Player of the Season – Gary Clarke
First Division Table
Written by Dean with the aim of summarising the Season That Never Was.
Keep Safe Everyone.
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