As we approach the final third of the league season I thought I would have a look at how Eastern Counties clubs are faring in the National and London Leagues (I’ll review the Eastern Counties Leagues next week).
In National Two South Cambridge have been there or thereabouts all season, vying for the automatic promotion slot with Old Albanians. The turning point of the campaign may have been in late January when the two met at OA’s ground with Cambridge coming from behind to score in the dying minutes and snatch a seemingly improbable 26-24 win with the conversion which proved to be the last kick of the game. Old Albanians went on to lose their next two games so Cambridge sit top of the table with a seven point lead over their rivals and promotion is within their grasp.
At the other end of the table Bury St Edmunds have found their first season in this league a bit of a struggle with a number of narrow losses frustrating their ambitions. Six defeats in seven games has seen them drop to just above the relegation zone, although a win at the weekend has given them a welcome boost. Just two points separate five clubs, including Bury, one of which will fill the third relegation spot so bonus points and points difference will be vital. Bury will be looking to put a few wins together to avoid scrapping for survival in the last couple of weeks of the season.
In National 3 London & South East the two Eastern Counties clubs, Shelford and Colchester lie in seventh and eighth place respectively although they are separated by 16 points with seven games to play. Shelford, relegated last season, never really got their promotion challenge going and they are likely to remain in mid-table. Colchester, promoted last season and still depending on home grown talent, struggled with the pace and intensity of the higher league and a string of losses before Christmas saw them perilously close to relegation. But five wins out of five in the New Year has meant that they have pulled well clear of trouble and should look forward to another season at Level 5.
The only local club in London One North is North Walsham who lie in fifth place and only have a remote chance of making up the 12 point difference between themselves and the team lying in the play-off place. Home advantage continues to be a major factor for the club although two of their six losses this season have been at Scottow.
London Two North East has seen a number of Eastern Counties clubs head the table only to suffer two or three defeats to see them slip down the table again. Three clubs are currently fighting for the two automatic promotion slots, Diss’ win over Sudbury on Saturday putting them into the play-off place, nine points behind Saffron Walden with five games to play. Norwich, Cantabrigian and Holt have all been in the top three at one time or another but will have to settle for a mid table finish. Ipswich, after a disastrous start to the season following relegation, have put together a string of good results in the past couple of months including wins over promotion chasing clubs and they now lie in the comparative safety of eighth place.
In London Three North East West Norfolk’s challenge for promotion has seen a setback since Christmas and they lie seven points off the second promotion place. Meanwhile, Lowestoft & Yarmouth and Southwold, in their first season at this level, will remain mid-table but Stowmarket will be hoping for a couple of wins as they sit just four points above the third relegation place. Beccles, propping up the table with just nine point looked destined for the drop.
Let’s see how it all pans out come the end of April.