29 March 2023
West London Vets’ League Review/Preview
Both of the Ascot United Vets’ sides were in action on the weekend of 24/25 March, although they experienced altogether different fortunes.
The first XI travelled to relegation-threatened Nottsborough. The hosts certainly had plenty to play for and even though Ben Standing put Ascot one up, Notts fought back admirably. With an hour gone they were 3-1 up. Goals from Chris Watney, Dave Woozley and Adam Moroney were nonetheless enough to turn things round as the Yellas ultimately came through 4-3. See here for a fuller match report.
The seconds were also on the road. They found themselves in, erm, Kent. Clapham Old Xaverians had had ground problems in the week and so were ultimately forced to host the game in the Garden of England. Xavs won convincingly, 5-0.
Prem title-rise blown wide open
Elsewhere eight other games took place. Two were in the Prem, three in Division 1, a couple in Division 2 and then one more in Division 3.
The big news in the Prem is that the title race is now officially wide open. Why? West London Rams (WLR) beat long-time pacesetters Chelsea Vets in a top-of-the-table clash.
The Rams have certainly been building up a head-of-steam of late and they evidently carried that on into this clash. They won 3-1. That means that both sides are level on 25 points and both have six games left. As things stand, Chelsea have a seven goal advantage and it’s that that might well be pivotal as the games go by.
The final game in the Prem involved Bank of England and Polytechnic. The Bank did plenty to assuage any relegation worries they may have had, coming out convincingly on top. Adam Boothroyd helped himself to a couple of goals, with Farouk Ampou El Ela, Gary Hyett and Danny Lessey-Edwards adding one apiece. Poly replied with a consolation late on.
Claygate almost there
There was also a big clash at the top of Division One as the top two locked horns. Claygate Royals Hares came out on top there, winning 3-1 against cup finalists Whippet Wanderers. Mark Fletcher bagged for the Whippets from the spot, but that wasn’t enough to stop Claygate going ten points clear.
Old Actonians have further consolidated their third-place spot, although they only narrowly got past an ever-competitive Wandsworth Borough. Old As’ 5-4 win now sees them eight points clear of the rest of the pack.
The last game in Division 1 saw the bottom two meet as Jamrock hosted Old Tiffs. And, it was Old Tiffs who came out on top, winning 3-2. That win means that both sides are now on six points. That puts them seven points behind Wandsworth and indeed Civil Service. Too big a gap to breach? You’d think so but where there’s life there’s hope.
The Abbots tough it out
Quite a number of teams are dealing with fixture backlogs, none more so than Hillingdon Abbots in Division 2. They beat Old Lyonians 4-3 on Saturday and despite being way behind with fixtures they are still top of the pile.
Top though Hillingdon are, their game against Lyons was no walk in the park. The Abbots started well and went two up, Dean Carrington-Jones grabbing both. Not everything, however, went to plan for Carrington-Jones; he missed a penalty along the way.
To their credit, Lyonians fought back in the second half and a hat-trick saw them storm into a 3-2 lead. Was the Abbots’ unbeaten record going to go up in smoke? With just five minutes left on the clock it looked like it might be…
As the clock ticked down Scott Calvert nonetheless grabbed an equaliser before Dean Crosdale stepped up to do a ‘Gazza at Wembley against Arsenal’ in 1991 impression (“he’s not going to shoot from there, is he? He is you know …. oh, I say!” see here for Gascoigne and indeed Barry Davies in all their glory). Crosdale boomed a free-kick into the back of the net and Hillingdon were home with just seconds to spare.
Crusaders move into promotion contention
The other game in the division saw Army Crusaders continue to make good progress up the table. They beat Bank of England’s second string 7-3.
The Crusaders came out of the blocks at a rate of knots, going three up inside the first fifteen minutes. Stu Lewis, Romeo Slater and a BoE own goal did the damage. The Bank, however, grew into the match impressively, creating plenty of chances and as half-time loomed they pulled a goal back from the penalty spot via Joe Garner.
The game remained pretty open as both sides excelled in creating chances. Shane Edwards was next to strike with a back-post header and that saw Army restore their three goallead. A game of goal-scoring ping pong then ensured with Paul Stirling, Jamie Lynch and Anthony Davies bagging more goals for the Crusaders whilst Garner grabbed his second of the day for BoE and a(nother) own goal found its way on to the books. The final result? 7-3 to an ever-improving Crusaders.
Battle to avoid the wooden spoon hotting up in Div 3
With Ascot United’s second string coming a cropper at Clapham, Latimer Road had the chance to make up ground in the Division 3 promotion chase. They failed to take it.
Their opponents, AFC Hampton, had a pretty wretched first half of the season but things have definitely picked up in 2023. That uptick in form has been very much one built on home performances, so to hold Latimer Road to a draw (in what sounds like it was a goal-scoring frenzy) away from home is really impressive.
The 5-5 sees Hampton move ahead of Claygate Royals Hounds on goal difference. Both sides have two games left to play so the battle is on to avoid the wooden spoon. Hampton are going to cross swords with two of the division’s better sides, Ascot United 2s and Croxley. Both games are at least at home and that’s very much Hampton’s stronger suit.
Claygate, meanwhile, also have two home fixtures left. They play the unpredictable Clapham Old Xaverians and HershamSouthside. Given that Hampton have a far superior goal difference over Claygate the smart money is probably on them coming through.
At the top, well, Hersham Southside are already promoted and Ascot are still well placed to claim second place. But, both Latimer Road and Croxley are still in with a chance of catching the Yellas up. There’s a bit of mileage in this promotion journey yet.
Neither of the Ascot sides are playing on 1 April – many players are likely to be heading over to Wiltshire to cheer on the Ascot United 1st XI in their FA Vase semi-final.
Elsewhere 11 games are set to be played; three in the Prem and indeed three in Div 1. There’s a full house of four games in DIv 2 and just the one in Div 3.
The game of the day in the top flight looks like it’ll be between Kew Park Rangers (KPR) and Polytechnic. If Poly lose then they won’t be mathematically down but it’ll be hard to see a way back for them; they’d be 7 points behind KPR,and Poly will have played a game more.
The Bank of England travel to Croxley in a mid-table encounter, whilst Nottsborough will know that Chelsea aren’tgoing to be in the mood to show them any mercy. Chelsea need the goals to keep ahead of WLR.
Now or never for Tiffs and Jamrock Steppa
Claygate may well be miles ahead at the top, but even if third placed Actonians win at Laleham & Kempton on Saturday they’ll still have to wait another week before promotion can formally be confirmed.
At the bottom, Old Tiffs meet Jamrock Steppa for the second time in eight days. Being realistic, both sides are probably planning for life next season in Division Two but, well, a win here and survival will still – just – be possible.
The final game in the division is a repeat of the League Cup semi-final. Whippet Wanderers host Wandsworth Borough.
Full house of fixtures in Div 2
Hillingdon will be hoping to consolidate their lead at the top of Division Two when they welcome bottom of the table MMB. The Milkmen have a challenge there, but they really do need to try and get something out of the game. If results elsewhere go against them they could be six points adrift at the bottom by 17h00 on Saturday.
Lighthouse Molesey and Old Tenisonians both have serious relegation concerns, and both look to have tricky games on Saturday. Tenisonians welcome the quietly improving Army Crusaders whilst Lighthouse Molesey are off to third placed Old Lyonians.
Last but not least Bank of England 2s are back on home territory this week. They welcome second placed Double H to Roehampton.
The final game of the weekend is in Division Three and it sees Croxley make the awkward trip to Hampton. If Hampton winthey’ll not only be moving away from Claygate at the bottom, they’ll be up to heady heights of 6th.
Go well everyone!