Away Trips & Derby Days – Here Come The Fixtures!
Alan Jessup-Peacock takes a look at Concord Rangers’ fixtures for the upcoming season.
Friday the 13th, a day of perceived bad luck, maybe that’s why the people behind the Ryman Isthmian League chose this date to unleash the upcoming season’s fixtures onto the teams and fans? Anyway, the day of fixtures being released is an exciting one for teams and fans alike, both looking to see who they open the season against, who they will take on to end the season, and of course when the local derbies will be fought! I say fought, I mean played, but some derbies can see emotions run high both on and off the pitch, as I am sure you all know!
So, as a Concord Rangers fan, my attention was on the release of the Ryman Isthmian Premier fixtures released at midday. This year we’ve got 6 new teams to face, 2 promoted from the Ryman South (Bognor Regis and Whitehawk), 2 from the Ryman North (Leiston and Enfield Town), and 2 relegated from the Conference South (Hampton & Richmond Borough and Thurrock). We meet a newly promoted team on the first day of the season as Bognor Regis come to the Aspect Arena, what a welcome to the Ryman Premier eh? That was my first priority, to see who our first opponents would be when the season begins on August 18th. Next was the final game of the season, as you want to be able to go out on a high, especially if you’re at home. Well after ending last season with a loss away to Wealdstone, this year we’ll be looking to end with a win at home to newly promoted Leiston.
For the Concord fans, and those of our neighbouring side down the road at Park Lane, the local derby fixtures would be high on the list of games to look out for. In both previous seasons where Concord and Canvey have met, the games have been scheduled to take place on Boxing Day and Easter Monday (however the first seasons Boxing Day game was moved due to the weather). To be honest I don’t think either club would have been too surprised when they saw the fixture list earlier, as once again the two Canvey Island clubs will go head to head right after Christmas and on Easter.
There are two long old road trips to be had during the season, with over 100 miles to get to both Lowestoft and Bognor Regis. The visit to Lowestoft will be the second game of the season on Tuesday 21st August, never a pleasant journey to make on a Tuesday evening after work! Bognor however will be on Saturday 2nd March, which for the fans (and more than likely the team too) will mean a bit of a weekend away, with a chance to unwind after the game in the “resort” that is Bognor Regis (can anyone say Butlins?). The away trip to Lewes last year reportedly produced a lot of unwinding, especially as it was a couple of weeks before Christmas and spirits were high! February 9th will see the lads make that trip again, maybe a calmer atmosphere this time around?
Anyway, now to round up the new guys in the league: Whitehawk (who won the Ryman South) will visit Thames Road on the 24th November; Enfield Town come to the Aspect on March 23rd; Thurrock do the same on February 23rd and Hampton & Richmond Borough make the trip to the island on October 6th. Now all the fixtures I’ve mentioned are of course subject to change for one reason or another, the weather can play a part as we’ve seen in previous years, and there is also the small matter of the cup competitions. Last year saw Concord reach the semi-finals of the Essex Senior Cup, and who knows, another cup run may lay ahead. With fixtures already announced for the 1st Qualifying rounds of the FA Cup & FA Trophy, victories could switch things around very quickly.
To confirm those cup fixtures, in the FA Trophy 1st Qualifying round Concord Rangers will make the trip to Kettering Town FC on Saturday 29th September. Now Kettering Town have had plenty of off-field issues over the past couple of seasons, but they are still a solid side and will provide a worthy challenge to the Beachboys. The 1st Qualifying Round of the FA Cup is slightly more vague, as there are 3 different teams that Concord could face at home on September 8th.
The full fixture list for the season can be found on the Concord Rangers website, but I wanted to highlight some that stood out for me and that I’ll be looking forward to over the coming months. After the past 2 seasons following Concord Rangers quite closely, I am looking forward to another successful season in the Ryman Premier, it will be a tough year without a shadow of a doubt, however there are achievable goals for the club out there. Finish above the noisy neighbours, finish higher than last year, make the playoffs, even make promotion, all are possible with the squad & football family that we have down at Thames Road. Whether we actually manage any of them, well only time will tell, but one thing is for sure; non-league football is one hell of an experience and I cannot wait for the season to get underway.