The new Ryman League season is but five days old and already players, fans and coaching staff up and down the Home Counties are already experiencing the full range of emotions. From disbelief to dismay, from euphoria to you have got to be kidding! This time last year I was in heaven at Hendon’s start. Two tough matches had yielded two Jamie Busby strikes, two clean sheets and six shiny points on the board. Things were to get even better as we went on to beat Pyongyang’s finest at Colston Avenue 3-0 to lead the table after three games and we looked impregnable.
Fast forward 12 months and the opposite is true. I try very hard to keep my knee from jerking too much but there is a definite sense of disappointment about the way things have begun at Vale Farm this term. Both matches have been goalless entering the final half hour before sucker punches have ended up knocking us sideways. I think it’s fair to say that so far we have lacked quality at either end of the pitch but things are still very early in proceedings.
Hampton, for their part on Tuesday night looked a good outfit and one which based on last season will be in the play-off shake up come April’s end. Defensively strong and with a bit of pace further forward they’ll be a test for most sides in the division. Although individual errors were partly to blame for the first two goals, there was no doubt that the visitors were very worthy winners.
The Beavers are one of four clubs to boast a full compliment of six points from six after the opening week of the new term. Top of the pops at this early stage are Lowestoft Town by virtue of their two comfortable opening wins. Weekend goalscorers Dale Cockrill and Chris Henderson were joined by Michael Frew and Scott Mitchell on Tuesday evening as they beat Concord Rangers 4-1. The Beachboys’ consolation was scored by Jason Hallett, his first goal since his summer move across the Isle of Canvey.
Enfield Town followed up their impressive opening day with a 2-1 win in the North London / Middlesex derby against Wingate & Finchley, Mark Kirby scored both Town goals to add to his effortl at The Dripping Pan to become joint league leading scorer with Henderson and Kingstonian’s Dean Lodge on 3. I’m going to stick my neck on the line here and suggest that Kirbs will probably not end up wearing the golden boot at the end of season dinner. (Kirbs, if you’re reading this, we still miss you at Vale Farm!) Wingate equalised through a Jon Docker penalty, but ended the game with 10 men following Paul Wright’s dismissal for two yellow cards.
The fourth side with a perfect record so far is Canvey Island who, under the tutelage of Steve Tilson, have begun the season ominously. Goals from the prolific midfielder Rob King and Danny Heale gave the Gulls victory over new boys Leiston, and Tilson has moved this week to further boost his forward options with the impressive capture of former Brentford and Aldershot Town forward Kirk Hudson. Their weekend clash at the Prospect Stadium with Hampton is one that if it was a steak, would be described as ‘mouthwatering’.
Five sides sit on four points, Hendon’s Saturday opponents Bury Town came away from Thurrock with a comfortable 3-0 win thanks to goals from Tom Bullard, Billy Clark and the splendidly named Alicion Blake leaving Mark Stimson’s charges propping up the table early on. Kingstonian beat Thurrock’s weekend vanquishers Harrow Borough 4-2 in a bit of a thriller on Monday evening. Dean Lodge netted a couple of penalties and goals from Andre McCollin and Aaron Goode were too much for Dave Anderson’s side, for whom Simeon Akinola and Gary Jones netted.
Wealdstone were indebted to another Richard Jolly goal for a point against East Thurrock United at Grovesnor Vale in a game that by all accounts could have gone either way. Kris Newby netted for the Rocks whilst on the south coast Margate took the number of goals from their subs bench this season to 3 as Carl Rook and Dan Stubbs netted to salvage a point from their visit to Hastings after being 2-0 down. Bradley Goldberg and Zac Attwood had earlier opened their accounts for the Sussex side to give them the advantage.
The last side on four points are Bognor Regis Town who played out a goalless draw against the Met Police who join Hendon as the only side in the division yet to register a goal.
Match of the midweek was at the Colloseum in 1930s Rome where the People’s Autocratic Republic of Carshalton and Lewes shared six goals equally between them. Steve Brinkhurst and Anthony Thomas twice gave the Rooks a first half lead only to be pegged back by goals from Justyn Roberts and Ola Sogbanmu. Lewis Taylor scored on his Robins debut 12 minutes into the second half to give Carshalton the lead for the first time, but ex Hendon loanee Thomas popped up midway through the period with his second, to ensure a share of the points.
Experience proved vital for Whitehawk as Matt Lawrence and Scott McGleish, with a shade under 14,000 league appearances between them, both scored in the last couple of minutes to give them a 2-1 win at 10 man Cray. Leigh Bremner had given the home side the lead with his 100th goal for the club with 10 minutes remaining after skipper Mark Willy had seen red.
Saturday marks the 1/14th mark of the season for the whole majority of clubs. Those who have started well will be desperate to maintain their momentum whilst those who have started less well will be anxious to kick start their seasons. A win for Hendon and suddenly the world will seem a lot more fluffy and nice. Another defeat and minds will begin to turn to working out just how Kingstonian managed to lose their first four matches of the 2008/9 season comprehensively and end up 90 minutes away from being promoted.