West Kent Sunday League News Report Ė midseason 2021 - 2022

Happy New Year and let's hope that we can resume something like normal life was until two years ago.

The disruption to last season which resulted in Divisions Two and Three being declared null and void presented the Management Committee with a challenge. Division One fixtures had been completed, there being only seven teams at this point. How to organise the new season on merit without too much disadvantage to those who had been performing well in the lower divisions?  Also, there was the question of a couple of teams being reluctant to be promoted.

A club secretary says "...many local leagues are having this problem, ie the difference between the teams at the top and the teams nearer the bottom seems to be getting bigger. I don't think that the teams at the top are better than they used to be, in fact they are probably not as good, just that with fewer teams the ability seems to have gone down."

After much discussion, the clubs accepted a plan to merge Divisions One and Two for an initial round of matches in which they would play each other once. After that round, the top half of the table would form Division One, the bottom half Division Two. There would then be another round of matches, each again playing the others in their section once.  Thus the top two Divisions for 2022 - 2023 will be decided. There will be no relegation or promotion between the top two tiers at the end of the curent season.

Division Three would be in the standard format, thirteen teams playing each other twice. At the end of the season, there will be promotion and relegation between Divisions Two and Three and the numbers will be evened out.

It was also agreed that all three WKSFL Cup Competitions would be put on hold until the second half of the season.

At the half way point of the season, things are on track. The weather has been kind, with only one Sunday badly affected. Public health issues have caused a few postponements, but in general clubs are well up with their fixtures.

Fingers are now crossed for a few good weeks on both counts.

Divisions One / Two

With most teams having two or three games remaining, the issues should be decided by the end of the month.

Pembury Sunday lead the way, but have two games left while those chasing have played fewer.  Simla and Artois United can both overtake them to claim top spot if they win all their games. A key fixture in that regard is Green Lane v Simla this weekend. Should they beat Simla, Green Lane will not be out of it with four more games to play. Pembury face AFC Valour on Sunday, who will be striving hard to maintain their position in the top half and the following Sunday Pembury play Paddock Wood. Both could be awkward games.

Pembury have proved a surprise package this season. Their record thus far includes five clean sheets and six consecutive wins since the end of October. Their only defeat has been a narrow 2-1 loss to Simla way back in September.

Artois United have four games to go, but are also still in the Kent Sunday Premier Cup, which may be a distraction. However, those four games are all against teams in the lower reaches. Form suggests they should win them all, thus finishing with 36 points which is the most Simla can get and two more than the most for Pembury or Green Lane. There won't be a trophy for finishing 'winter leaders' but no doubt whoever gains that place will be pleased.

The middle of the table, either side of an imaginary dotted line, is very close. Only three points separate sixth from tenth, so five clubs are closely matched and jostling for position.   A couple of important games soon to come are AFC Borough v Odukwe this Sunday and Charcott v Dormansland on 30th January.  Odukwe and Charcott currently sit just either side of that line and play one another on 23rd January.  Dormansland still have five League games to go in this first session and can finish in the top half if results go their way.

Down at the bottom, Insulators have struggled with injuries and availability and will do well to finish out of the bottom three together with TW Ridgewaye, who even so can mathematically still finish in the top half and AFC Tonbridge, who cannot.  Ridgewaye have four fairly tough games in January, all against teams pushing to be in that top half. They have been conceding a lot of goals recently and their goals for column hides the fact that they have twice scored seven, but across another four games only once.

The split in the division should provide more evenly matched games in the second half of the season.

Division Three

Brenchley top the table and are excelling, with six consecutive wins during November and December.  They have four away games in January and will need to be on top form when they meet Sedlescombe Rangers this Sunday and again when they face Royal Oak at the end of the month.

Insulators Reserves have made late progress and could get involved if retaining consistency. Their last eight games have seen seven victories, plus three points awarded. A key match for them will be on the 16th, when Sedlescombe Rangers come visiting.

Royal Oak have a couple of games in hand on the top two, while Sedlescombe have three. Royal Oak are still involved in the Kent Sunday Junior Trophy and will fall further behind in their League fixtures if they win their two games scheduled for early January.

It does look like a four horse race in Division Three, with a big gap between Sedlescombe in fourth and Artois United Reserves in fifth. But, Artois Reserves have recovered after a lean spell of seven games without a win. They face both Insulators Reserves and Sedlescombe in January. Wins for them will make things interesting.

The predictions program says that Brenchley will finish top with 61 points,  seven ahead of Royal Oak and Insulators Reserves who will be split by goal difference, with Sedlescombe fourth on 50 points. We shall see, come mid May!

Here is the view from Ticehurst, which I am sure many will agree with!

Ticehurst Village FC started the 2021/2022 season optimistically even with the change of management and having to use a temporary home pitch for a few months. Squad numbers were high, with new players being signed on and a core of senior players remaining with the club for a another year. Results have certainly been mixed though and itís taken a while to establish some consistency, but due deteriorating player reliability and more recently a number of Covid cases within the squad the club have struggled with both player numbers and picking up points.

Thereís continued hope that the new year will bring a fresh start and a chance for the club to gain momentum whilst climbing back up the table. However it remains that the wider pandemic, that just wonít go away, and the fact that there seem to be less and less young players coming through the ranks into men's grassroots football, will continue to hinder progress in what is certainly a transformative period for the club.

This is echoed to some extent by another club with what they say having been the case for many years now.  He said "...due to pubs/clubs being open later and longer opening times, also the same with shops, people working on Sundays etc, have all contributed to making it harder to get a team out each week. Hence, ours and others inconsistent results. For example, the week before last we had ten players available yet the week after had a full complement of sixteen with more not even selected. As a consequence, one has to be loyal and look after the more regulars even if as a result it means selecting a weaker team, as it is the regulars who keep any club going."

County Cups

Most have fallen by the wayside, but there are games to look forward to.

In the Kent Sunday Premier Cup, Artois United have made it through to the fifth round, the last 16, which is played on a county-wide basis. In that fifth round match they will host the strong Market Hotel side based in Ashford. Market Hotel accounted for Green Lane in the third round and former WKSFL side Armada in the fourth. Their league form is misleading to say the least. They have not played a league match since the end of October and currently sit fifth of eight teams in the Ashford Sunday League Premier Division.  But, history says they will always be tough opponents.

Goudhurst United received a bye in the fourth round of the Kent Sunday Junior Cup and have to travel to Sittingbourne in the fifth round, also a county-wide last sixteen tie. Their opponents are Park Regis NEO FC, currently fourth of nine in the Sheppey Sunday League First Division. Goudhurst's recent league form has been inconsistent, although they have had some tough games against the top teams.  Best of luck to them!

Royal Oak's delayed fourth round Kent Sunday Junior Trophy match against Vinters of the Maidstone League is scheduled for this Sunday. Should they win, they will be at home the following week to Sandwich Town of the Thanet Sunday League in the last sixteen.

In the Surrey Sunday Cups, Dormansland Rockets went out in the third round of the Sunday Lower Junior Cup. Charcott also entered Surrey's Cup and had a bye in the first round of the Premier Cup. Their 'reward' is a trip around the M25 on Sunday morning to play Banstead Rovers, currently second of seven teams in the Premier Division of the Leatherhead and District Sunday League. We wish them well.

And finally, the question of referees. I can do no better than point you to a recent article in the monthly football magazine When Saturday Comes. It's a fairly long read but covers all the salient points that ultimately may mean that there is no qualified referee available to cover your game.

https://www.wsc.co.uk/stories/14405-whistle-unhappy-referee-shortage-as-endless-abuse-causes-recruitment-crisis


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