Sent Her Forward preview of some of the weekend’s crucial games
FAW Premier League Southern
Lewes v Cardiff City
For the second home league game in a row Lewes host one of this season’s front-runners – and this time it’s the team currently on top.
Earlier this month, the Sussex side lost 3-0 at home to Portsmouth – a win that took the Hampshire side back to the Premier League summit.
On Sunday, Lewes face another stiff test – against the only team above Pompey in the current table.
Cardiff have been on an excellent run. They are unbeaten in their last six league games and have scored 20 goals in their last three league and cup outings – including 11 in two big league wins, against struggling Gillingham and Keynsham Town.
They are the league’s second-top scorers, with 32 goals in eight games, and are above Pompey by virtue of a 10-goal better goal difference.
It’s a daunting task for Lewes, who have struggled for consistency in this transitional season, having won only twice in eight league games – and not since September 28.
However, the Dripping Pan – described as a cauldron by Pompey boss Perry Northeast during his side’s visit earlier this month – is the backdrop for a long-term project, and most at the club would have viewed this season – the first without Jacquie Agnew at the helm – as one of consolidation.
Their two development sides – the formal reserves and younger, teenager-laden Sussex County League outfit – have also struggled as they adjust to a higher level of football.
But those involved with the community club know that they are investing for the future, and the sight of the occasional development player in the first team and last year’s under-16s occasionally shining at reserve level should be all the motivation Lewes need to continue their project.
Cardiff, though, have more instant gratification in mind and are once again suggesting they are the team to beat for any club harbouring hopes of playing off for the available spot in the 2016 FAW Super League 2 campaign.
Sent Her Forward prediction: Sorry Lewes – Cardiff to stay on top.
Elsewhere, Brighton play their first league game for three weeks, seeking their first league victory since October 2, when they visit Spurs, who are still well in the promotion hunt.
Portsmouth could return to the top if Cardiff slip up. They visit Plymouth Argyle after a week’s enforced rest when Copsewood Coventry called off their fixture.
Copsewood are due to play their first home game in the Premier League after six successive away fixtures, against West Ham United. The match has not yet been called off, giving the Coventry side the opportunity to record their first league double over the side they surprisingly defeated away in September – their only league success to date.
Charlton Athletic could yet go top if both Cardiff and Portsmouth slip up. The free-scoring Londoners will fancy their chances in the local derby against Gillingham. Charlton are the Premier League’s top scorers, boasting a 34-11 goal difference from their eight games.
Keynsham Town will probably not have a better chance to open their account after eight successive league defeats after last weekend’s county cup boost when they put 10 goals past Frome Town. They are up against a Queens Park Rangers side still finding their feet back in the Premier League, but who know victory could take them to mid-table comfort while defeat would land them well and truly in the relegation battle.
FAW Premier League Division One South West
Forest Green Rovers will be looking to bounce back after Swindon Town inflicted their first defeat of the season to take their place at the top of the ultra-competitive Division One South West.
They are at home to St Nicholas, who are currently second-to-bottom.
If Forest Green win, Gosport Borough will have the chance to draw level with St Nicholas. But the division’s only team without a point, reeling from injuries and absences, face a daunting task at home to Exeter City, who were among the pre-season promotion favourites.
FAW Premier Reserves League Southern
The one place where positions generally mean little is a reserves league. That’s not to denigrate the achievements so far this season of the likes of West Ham, Brighton and Charlton, who have begun to pull away at the top.
But particularly this season, the Reserves League is full of development sides combining players on the fringes of their first teams with the next generation of first-team player, learning their trade in a league where performance and development are, in my opinion, more important than results.
That is why Mark Currier’s Lewes should not be unduly worried by their 9-0 defeat at the hands of a Brighton side containing many players with first-team experience as James Marrs gave many of the understudies a chance to prove their worth against Wivelsfield Green in the Sussex Women’s Challenge Cup last weekend.
But of course it’s only human nature for them to want to clinch their first win of the season after such a heavy defeat – and they get the chance against Crystal Palace Reserves at Bromley.
Brighton, who are likely to have a more familiar look on Sunday, host C& K Basildon.
Charlton host Gillingham in a mirror of the first-team fixture, and Chichester City travel to Tottenham in search of their first win of the campaign.
Sussex Women’s Challenge Cup
Burgess Hill Town and Chichester City play their first-round tie, which was postponed last Sunday, with the home side hoping for a giant-killing against a team two tiers above them. The winners visit Eastbourne Town, who play in the division between them.
London & South East Women’s Regional League
Crawley Wasps v Old Actonians
Given their London location, Old Actonians don’t get a great deal of publicity on Sent Her Forward. But they deserve high praise after sneaking up on the rails into second place in a league containing several top-drawer teams.
They are currently three points behind leaders AFC Wimbledon with three games in hand. And with the Dons facing a tricky match at home to promotion challengers Carshalton Athletic, there could be a new leader of the Premier Division come Sunday evening.
Old Actonians are the league’s only remaining unbeaten side and climbed above Fulham Foundation, Carshalton and London Corinthians following their 3-0 success at Eastbourne Town last weekend.
They head back to Sussex on Sunday, confident of picking up all three points against a Wasps side still looking to rediscover their mojo after an outstanding campaign last season.
Crawley are currently eighth, having played only one league game in their last four fixtures, and have not won in the league since September 21.
Two weeks ago, they bowed out of the FAW Cup to lower-league opposition, but last Sunday they comfortably saw off the County Cup challenge of Milford & Witley, defeating the side two divisions below them 6-1.
Sent Her Forward prediction: Old Actonians are riding the crest of a wave at the moment, and Crawley will have done extremely well if they become the first team to beat them in the league this season.
In other games in the division, Hassocks, fresh from a 10-1 success over Worthing Town in the Sussex Challenge Cup, have a fine chance of picking up their first league win of the season when they host fellow Sussex side Eastbourne Town, who are just two places above them at the foot of the table.
Also in a bottom four as congested as the top are Bexhill United, who seek only their second league victory of the season when they host Maidstone United, and Aylesford, who have a tough task at former leaders Fulham Foundation.
South East Counties Women’s League
Unbeaten Dartford Royals host Crockenhill determined to keep the pressure on league leaders Herne Bay, who have yet to drop a point, and who visit third-placed Meridian.
Parkwood Rangers host Anchorians, who are one point, one place and one game ahead of them, boosted by their dramatic extra-time win over Long Lane last week in the Kent County Cup.
South Park, who have had a torrid year and a bit, could conceivably jump three places if they beat promoted Eastbourne and other results go their way.
Division One West
Abbey Rangers v Worthing Minors
Something has to give at Addlestone Moor when the two teams still to drop a point do battle. Abbey have enjoyed a magnificent start to life at a higher level following their promotion from the Surrey County Women’s League last season.
They have won all five league games, boosted by the goals of Rachel Johnson, Amber Walker and Steph Sale, and the goalkeeping of Holly Nunn, who has conceded only six league goals.
But they face their toughest test against Worthing Minors, whose own 100% record stretches over six matches – in which they have scored a stunning 36 goals and conceded just three.
Minors have their own goal machine – Dani Lane, who has scored a sensational 14 in just five starts. But of course, their defence has been equally impressive.
Sent Her Forward prediction: I have a sneaking suspicion that both teams could end the day still unbeaten – but no longer with 100% records.
Among the division’s other highlights are Seahaven Harriers‘ visit to Worthing Town, where a win could help the East Sussex side close the gap on Minors if they slip up.
Wivelsfield Green, who head the group of mid-table sides being cast adrift by the top three, host Adur Athletic – one of their rivals for fourth place – fresh from an unlikely confidence booster last weekend.
The Haywards Heath-based side were thrashed 9-2 in the County Cup by Brighton, yet emerged from the game with great credit and dignity – and an immense confidence booster after scoring twice against the FAW Premier League side and actually taking the lead early on.
They were missing several key players last weekend, and if any of them are back Adur will face a tough test at Hanbury Stadium.
Anchorians 3rds become the latest team to try to halt the runaway juggernaut that is Long Lane Reserves, who boast a 42-2 goal difference after winning all six of their opening league games.
Sussex County Women and Girls Football League
Crawley Wasps will relish the opportunity to play only their second league game of a stop-start opening following their elevation from under-18 football last season.
They are at home to leaders Lewes, who were playing in the under-16 division last season. Lewes have won four of their five games, Crawley one out of one.
Breathing down their necks are Lancing and Hurstpierpoint, who have lost only one game between them so far this season and who meet at Culver Road in arguably the match of the day.
Leaders Southdown, who have won both their matches, visit Hawks Youth Withdean, who drew their only match to date.
Surrey County Women and Girls League
Former Sussex under-16 rivals Horsham Sparrows and Crawley Town meet in the Surrey Under-18 league, which they joined after the Sussex one folded before the season began. Crawley are top, with four wins in six games; Sparrows are bottom wth four defeats out of four.
Sixth-placed Portsmouth host Abbey Rangers, who are ninth.
Hampshire County Women’s Football League
Portsmouth visit Winchester City Flyers.