With the league now all but confirmed for the 2017/18, we don our analytical caps and examine the threats posed by the new teams.
As you will all be well aware, having finished 12th in the 2016/17 season and despite the fantastic achievement of winning the Hampshire Saturday Senior Cup against Premier League Academy talent in the form of AFC Bournemouth, we are looking to improve next season and target a playoff position. Our friends at BetHut.co.uk, who specialise in football predictions, have given us good odds on mounting a serious promotion challenge, and so with that positivity in mind, let’s take a look at the new competition and how they may look to break us down.
Having scored precious few goals last season (their top scorer had 6 to his name in all comps) but conceding a hefty 104, we can be confident of goal scoring opportunities against them. Playing on the counter with wingers getting in behind the defence would be the first strategy to implement.
Of course, having come down one league, they will still possess players of great quality and experience who will be keen to climb back up through the leagues.
However, there is still ongoing discussion as to whether they’ll even compete in our league at all, as the Ledbury Reporter highlights that they are angling for a move to stay in the Isthmian League.
Should they play against us next season, we must not underestimate them.
Another relegated team, Gosport fared similarly to the Bishops in terms of goals scored and goals conceded. They will no doubt be looking to strengthen their squad over the summer to mount a challenge for immediate promotion, but we have enough quality in our squad to cope with the threats posed.
A very strong performance in their league last season has resulted in promotion. With a goal difference of +76 and a very high points tally of 107 – almost 30 above second placed Salisbury, they are a free flowing attacking unit who will need to be played with caution.
Making sure we have a solid backline and preventing ourselves from being caught on the counter through over the top through balls and/or fast played low through balls will be the key to stopping them racking up the goals early.
Strong at set pieces too, we’ll have to keep focus at all times to make sure we don’t concede.
Champions of the Southern Central title, Royston Town are another newly promoted side who look strong on the attack and have a great hunger to climb again next season. Narrowly missing out on winning their Champions of Champions match against the above Hereford FC illustrates that they are not invincible though, and can be beaten, albeit through penalty shoot outs.
With a strong defence that was the second best in the league, and a ridiculous attack that racked up over 120 goals, again we need to watch this team on the break. They could be serious title challengers should they display the form from last season.
Tiverton return to the Southern League Premier for the first time since 2011, following Hereford up from the Division One South & West via the playoffs thanks to victory over Salisbury in the final. The Yellows will be looking to establish themselves at Step 3 once again and we will have to keep an eye on pacey striker Landricombe, if we want to take six points from the Devon based side. Landricombe plundered 44 goals in total last season, including 35 of his team’s 92 league goals, often using his speed to escape opposing defenders while also displaying a knack for scoring from dead ball situations.
Finally, it’s our local rivals Farnborough Town who are the sixth team to join us in the Southern League Premier for the new season. In what will be the shortest away journey of the season for both teams, we will be hoping for a repeat of our last meeting which ended in a 5-1 victory in the Hampshire Senior Cup, on the way to winning the trophy last season.
Farnborough were also promoted through the playoffs, beating Egham Town and Barton Rovers after finishing second in the Division One Central with 90 points. A potent attack scored 96 goals over the 42 league games, while at the other end teams will be looking to breach a defence which conceded 51 times. Fans may get a preview of the league matches as both sides are involved in a preseason tournament in Farnborough at the end of July which could see us pitted against each other.
That about wraps it up for the analysis, for the full list of teams we’ll be playing against next season, please see below:
EVO-STIK League Southern Premier Division
- Banbury United (SL P)
- Basingstoke Town (SL P)
- Biggleswade Town (SL P)
- Bishop’s Stortford (Nat South)
- Chesham United (SL P)
- Dorchester Town (SL P)
- Dunstable Town (SL P)
- Farnborough (SL 1Cen)
- Frome Town (SL P)
- Gosport Borough (Nat South)
- Hereford (SL 1SW)
- Hitchin Town (SL P)
- Kettering Town (SL P)
- King’s Lynn Town (SL P)
- Kings Langley (SL P)
- Merthyr Town (SL P)
- Redditch United (SL P)
- Royston Town (SL 1Cen)
- Slough Town (SL P)
- St Ives Town (SL P)
- St Neots Town (SL P)
- Stratford Town (SL P)
- Tiverton Town (SL 1SW)
- Weymouth (SL P)