After my review of the National and London Leagues I am having a look at the Eastern Counties leagues as we reach the last few weeks of the competitive season.
In Eastern Counties One, three teams are vying for the automatic promotion slot and the play-off place with Ely two points ahead of Wymondham, both of whom have four games left to play, while Wisbech have five games left to play and are 5 points behind the leaders. If Ely can record bonus points wins in the rest of their fixtures they will be promoted thanks to a vastly superior points difference, and with their remaining games against teams in the bottom half of the league there is every chance they will do so. The play-off place will probably be decided when Wisbech play Wymondham on 16 April.
Promotion from EC2 North, South and West isn’t easy to predict, not least because it is dependant on a number of factors other than just results. First of all, there are currently only 11 teams in London 3SE and EC1 after the withdrawal of Old Brentwoods and Colchester II, so the organising committee needs to decide how to deal with that. Then the result of the play-off between the the runners up in Essex 1 and EC1 will decide if there is space for an extra EC2 side, then there is the number of Eastern Counties sides that will relegated from London 3SE to consider. Only then can there be a decision about how many teams will be promoted into EC1 and whether it will be an automatic process or if there will be play-offs involved.
The probable winners of the EC2 leagues look to be clear cut. In EC2 North, Gt Yarmouth-Broadland are nine points clear of Dereham who have a game in hand, but the two teams play each other on 5 March and a Dereham win will make things very tight. In EC2 South Colchester III’s close win over second place Harwich & Dovercourt last week has given them a six point lead with three games to play, while in the West Bury St Edmunds III are nine points clear of Cantabs II.
In EC3 North Diss III lead the way although the two promotion places are likely to be decided when they play North Walsham II in second place and Norwich Union lying in third. At the bottom, Lakenham-Hewett and Thetford II have struggled at different times of the season and they will find life in a lower league a bit easier.
EC3 South sees Brightlingsea top with two games to go but Thurston have three to play and are just three points behind, but is unlikely that any other teams can catch these two. Meanwhile Mersea Island II prop up the table having called off six games and Stowmarket III are just above them having conceded five games.
Sawston has seen a resurgence of form and top EC3 West 11 points clear of Shelford IV, who in turn are 10 points ahead of third-placed Cambourne Exiles. Sawston is a small club that has struggled in past years but the new league structure is clearly suiting them. If they can continue to recruit more players they could do well in EC2 West.
In EC4 North the leaders are Fakenham II, four points ahead of Great Yamouth-Broadland II with two games left to play, although they meet each other on 19 March in what could be the title decider. What is more of interest in this league is the turnaround in the number of call-offs compared to last season. In 2014/15 there were due to be 108 matches played but 55 were called off, more than half. This season, of the 47 games scheduled to be played so far this season, 16 or about a third have been cancelled. This is still a figure higher than we would want to see but it is a step in the right direction and next season should see fewer one-sided games after promotion and relegation, so theoretically fewer call-offs.
In EC4 South there is a similar story to tell with only 7 games out of 46 called off. Southwold II have a comfortable lead over Bury St Edmunds IV at the top while Brightlingsea II prop up the table.
I should point out that promotion and relegation is not cut and dried as there may be other factors that decide who goes up and down, but I have tried to give an indication of what might happen. At the end of the season I’ll have a look to see who actually went up and down, then make a comparison with last season as to games played, call-offs etc.
Click here for all Eastern Counties League fixtures, results and tables