Preview of the key matches in the South East this weekend in league and cup
Not out of August yet and the grassroots fixture list begins to gather momentum this weekend, with the top teams in the South East Counties Women’s League playing their first competitive games of the new season.
The London & South East Regional League kicked off last weekend with a feast of goals – which looks set to continue this Sunday.
Meanwhile, just a week after the start of the FAW Premier League season, attention switches to cup football, as the first preliminary round of the new-look Premier League Cup is staged.
South East Counties Women’s League
Three newly promoted sides are in action – two of them in direct opposition – in the expanded Premier Division.
Long Lane, who won Division One East last season, host Eastbourne, who face probably the biggest step up after being promoted from fourth place in Division One West.
Another promoted club, Herne Bay, who went up with Long Lane, also start the new season at home, hosting fellow Kent club Meridian at Winch’s Field.
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Burgess Hill v Parkwood Rangers
It’s a new-look Burgess Hill this season, after the former Haywards Heath completed their move to the neighbouring town with a change of name.
Some of the older players from last season’s senior side, who finished seventh, have moved on to form a new club, freeing up promotion for many of the club’s reserves side to the new first team.
The side that faced Parkwood in a pre-season friendly just a few weeks ago was a young one that gave manager Mark Bishop plenty of cause for optimism for the challenging season ahead.
But whether he or his opposite number, Harvey Goodhew, will yet have the luxury of a full squad to choose from remains to be seen as the competitive season kicks off with some players still on their holidays.
Parkwood themselves have a young squad – and deprived of several regulars at the recent friendly, fielded three 16-year-olds.
They would hope to be a little stronger on Sunday, but it may take them a while to reach the standards of last season, when they narrowly missed out on promotion to Kent rivals Aylesford.
SE Counties Women’s League fixtures
|Anchorians v Dartford Royals|
|Burgess Hill v Parkwood Rangers|
|Crockenhill v South Park|
|Herne Bay v Meridian|
|Long Lane v Eastbourne|
London & South East Regional Women’s League
There were 38 goals in the six opening-day fixtures in the L&SERW League last Sunday, and there could be more of the same on the cards this weekend.
Carshalton Athletic began their first season at the higher level in sensational style, thrashing fellow newcomers Bexhill United 6-0.
The Surrey side are at home again this week, hosting Eastbourne Town, who conceded four in their opening-day defeat to London Corinthians.
Bexhill are on the road again this Sunday, visiting Fulham Foundation, who were the league’s highest scorers last week, winning 7-4 in an amazing match against Aylesford.
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Crawley Wasps v Aylesford
Neither manager will have been happy with their team’s results last week, although, deprived of key players, their expectations will not have been too high.
They are unlikely to be up to full strength this week, either, and with both trying to replace the loss of key players to the Premier League, Sunday’s fixture is likely to form part of their learning curve for the season.
Wasps are now well-established in the division and finished third last season, thanks in no small measure to the goals of Faye Rabson, who has now joined Lewes. But manager Paul Harding has not yet had the luxury of identifying his first-choice XI during a pre-season marred by postponements and player unavailability.
It’s a problem his opposite number, Steve Golding, is also familiar with, and he expects to be without a number of regulars for the visit to Three Bridges.
He, too, is adapting to life without a player who might have been expected to be helping them adjust to the SECWL Premier Division after starring for their reserves last season. Bex Stroud, the reserves’ player of the season, has moved to Gillingham.
After under-strength Aylesford’s baptisim of fire last week, when they crashed 7-4 at Fulham Foundation, Golding will be keen to instil confidence in his inexperienced team as soon as possible.
And given Crawley’s own tough start – losing narrowly to Maidstone United last week – it could be a good time to play them.
London & South East Regional Women’s League fixtures
|Carshalton Athletic v Eastbourne Town|
|Crawley Wasps v Aylesford|
|Fulham Foundation v Bexhill United|
|Hassocks v AFC Wimbledon|
|London Corinthians v KIKK United|
FAW Premier League Cup Preliminary Round
The new-look Premier League, incorporating what used to be the Combination divisions, stages a new-look cup competition, with group stages replaced by knockout preliminary rounds.
In the southern end of the draw, there are two all Premier League South ties – Keynsham Town hosting West Ham United and newcomers Copsewood Coventry playing their first home game, against Portsmouth.
Keynsham got off to a dreadful start last week, crashing 12-1 at home to Charlton Athletic, and they face a rejuvenated West Ham who won their opening fixture under Julian Dicks 2-1 at Queens Park Rangers.
Copsewood gave a good account of themselves in their maiden Premier League match, losing 3-1 to a fine Brighton side. They host a Portsmouth team still reeling from their 7-3 home defeat by Cardiff City.
Gillingham will be looking for their first competitive win under new manager Simon Ratcliffe when they entertain FAWPL Division One East side Ebbsfleet United, while Brighton are through without even having to kick a ball – much as they would have wanted to.
They have been granted a walkover against Norwich City, who have been unable to raise a side for the game.
Lewes visit Southampton Saints, from FAWPL Division One West, and Gosport Borough, newly promoted to Division One West, visit Denham United, from the South East division.
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Chichester City v Queens Park Rangers
This is a perfect opportunity for Chichester to test their promotion credentials as they set their sights on the Premier League élite this season.
The Division One West side had a fine campaign last term before falling away in the final weeks, and they made a good start this time round, winning 4-1 at Cheltenham Town.
They host Queens Park Rangers, who won promotion from Chichester’s parallel division last season after a one-year absence from the top league.
Rangers, who gave Gillingham a shock in the FAW Cup last season before a late comeback by the Gills, lost narrowly to West Ham last week and will present a tough test for the ambitious Sussex side.
FAWPL Cup 1st Preliminary Round fixtures
|Charlton Athletic v Swindon Town|
|Chichester city v Queens Park Rangers|
|Copsewood Coventry v Portsmouth|
|Denham United v Gosport Borough|
|Gillingham v Ebbsfleet United|
|Keynsham Town v West Ham United|
|Plymouth Argyle v Bedford|
|Southampton Saints v Lewes|
|St Nicholas v Cardiff City|
|Tottenham Hotspur v Enfield|
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All fixtures courtesy of TheFA.com Full-Time and may be subject to alteration