Non-league predictions: what will happen when the season restarts
PUBLISHED: 07:00 11 November 2020
Football writer Carl Marston reviews the non-league season so far, and predicts what will happen after the leagues hopefully resume when lockdown ends
The 2020-21 non-league season (below Step Two) was two months old, when it was suspended due to lockdown2 and new Covid-19 restrictions.
Hopefully, the various league will be given the go ahead to resume when the planned lockdown ends on December 2.
But already the leagues have been taking shape, and it looks like being a promising campaign for many of Suffolk’s leadinc clubs.
So far: A fantastic start for Kevin Horlock’s men. They are joint top of the Southern League Premier Central, level on points with leaders Coalville Town after both clubs have won five and drawn two of their first seven fixtures
Carl’s outing: I was impressed with the Marketmen when I travelled to Oxfordshire to report on a 1-1 draw at Banbury United on October 10, super subs Joe Marsen (assist) and Luke Ingram combining to net a late equaliser.
Carl’s prediction: a promotion push looks on the cards. A place in the play-offs (2nd to 5th) would be an outstanding achievement.
So far: A thrilling start with all-ticket capacity crowds (reduced capacity of 400) the norm at Ram Meadow. A fine FA Cup run all the way to the fourth qualifying round, where two late goals at Banbury United scuppered their chanes of making the first round proper, coupled with a strong start to their Isthmian League North campaign.
Ten points from just four games, to sit in fourth, six points adrift of leaders Tilbury but with four games in hand, is a strong position to be in when the football finally resumes
Carl’s outing: I have seen Bury several times already, the most memorable a 5-0 trouncing of Witham when swirling fog caused a controversial abandonment on 83 minutes. The league has since ruled that the result will stand.
Carl’s prediction: This could be Bury’s big season. A strong squad, with dominant centre-halves, Carlos Edwards’ calming influence in midfield, a non-stop running skipper in Ollie Hughes and a goal machine in Cemal Ramadan. Promotion should be the goal, at least a play-off spot.
So far: A mouth-watering home tie against Barnet brought an end to a good FA Cup run, but the Blues have struggled in Southern League Premier Central, right up until the final game before the lockdown kicked in.
A battling 1-0 home win over Kings Langley saw them move off the bottom of the table, a first win in eight seeing them leapfrog Barwell before the suspension.
Carl’s outing: I witnessed Leiston’s 4-1 defeat at Coalville Town in late September, but it was not all doom and gloom that day. The visitors held their own at 0-0 for the first 39 minutes, and Coalville have since proved they are promotion favourites.
Carl’s prediction: Leiston have shown enough to suggest that they will avoid relegation.
FELIXSTOWE & WALTON UNITED
So far: Stuart Boardley’s men struggled towards the foot of the Isthmian League North table last term, but they look a very different outfit this time around. Just one defeat in five league fixtures sees them sitting comfortably in 13th slot.
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Carl’s outing: An opening day 0-0 draw at Great Wakering Rovers suggested good times ahead for the Seasiders. They looked solid defensively and missed several late chances to win that afternoon.
Carl’s prediction: The Seasiders should aim for a top half of the table finish. They are capable of achieving that.
So far: The Isthmian League North table is so tight that AFC Sudbury managed to propel themselves from the bottom three into the top three on the back of an unbeaten four-game surge with back-to-back wins over Soham and Witham. Mark Morsley’s men are currently in second spot, four points behind Tilbury.
Carl’s prediction: It may have been a very stop-start season, to date, with a few blank Saturdays, but AFC Sudbury’s young guns can mix with the best and will be targeting a stay in the top five.
THURLOW NUNN PREMIER
So far: The Norfolk duo of Wroxham (nine wins from nine) and Norwich United are setting the pace, but six Suffolk clubs also occupy top-10 places, including unbeaten Brantham Athletic.
In fact, there have been some terrific starts from Brantham (third in the table after six wins and three draws in nine games) and sixth-placed Walsham Le Willows (five wins from nine) in particular.
Kieran Twinn has been banging in the goals for the Willows, who are managed by Trevor Collins.
There have also been solid starts from Hadleigh United, Stowmarket Town and Mildenhall Town.
Carl’s prediction: Wroxham will prove a tough side to topple. Stowmarket have games in hand but are already off the pace, despite remaining unbeaten in the league and recently setting a new Thurlow Nunn League record for the number of games unbeaten (currently stands at 39).
THURLOW NUNN ONE NORTH
So far: Fakenham lead the way (28 points from 10), but third-placed Ipswich Wanderers (25 from nine) are unbeaten and benefiting from the goals of the prolific Matt Blake.
Carl’s prediction: Wanderers and Lakenheath will be in the promotion shake-up.
Wanderers’ only dropped points came in the draw against leaders Fakenham, although I have proved a bad omen for the Humber Doucy Lane club so far – I have reported on them twice, coinciding with their only two defeats of the season at Whitton United (FA Cup) and Norwich CBS (FA Vase).
SUFFOLK & IPSWICH LEAGUE
The Senior Division of the Suffolk & Ipswich League is wide open this season, and the most competitive for years.
Just seven points separate the top 10 teams, and only three points separate leaders Claydon from sixth-placed Bildeston Rangers.
Despite teams having only played a maximum eight fixtures (some have only played or five, like Henley Athletic and Crane Sports), no one has an unbeaten record still intact.
Carl’s prediction: Too close to call, although Halesworth, in second, have especially caught the eye and are just one point behind pace-setters Claydon with a game in hand.
Henley Athletic beat Thurlow League side Cornard United 3-1 in the Suffolk Senior Cup in their last outing, and so it will be interesting to see how they fare when they catch up with all their league fixtures.
This league could go to the wire, if and when the season finally restarts.