London rivals vie for capital gains

Sent Her Forward weekend preview – subject, as usual, to the weather

Emma Chrimes scores for Wivelsfield Green against Burgess Hill Town on Jan 25 (Photo: Colin Bowman)

Wivelsfield Green beat Burgess Hill Town to book their League Cup semi-final tie with Herne Bay (Photo: Colin Bowman)

The quest for Premier League football again throws up some of the most promising games of the weekend, with three of the four main contenders for the London & South East league title due to be in action.

Third meet first in south-west London, as AFC Wimbledon take on Fulham Foundation, looking for a double over the league leaders.

Neither the Dons nor Fulham have been in league action for a month, and while the visitors need three points to be confident of remaining top, Wimbledon will be anxious not to lose ground on any of their title rivals after Old Actonians squeezed above them into second place last Sunday and Carshalton Athletic’s games in hand of all the other contenders continue to mount.

Even a win against the league’s top team won’t be enough to take the Dons top – and may not even return them to second place if Old Actonians win at Bexhill United.

But with a game in hand of Sunday’s opponents, it would certainly keep them in serious contention.

Old Actonians – fresh from a 7-2 triumph at Aylesford last Sunday – would normally expect a straightforward victory by the Sussex seaside, but Bexhill shocked Carshalton by taking a point at the division’s dark horses (and hitherto form side) last weekend and will not be short of confidence.

If Fulham do slip up at Wimbledon, Old Actonians could move top, but with so much football still to be played in a division that has been especially hard hit by postponements, none of Sunday’s outcomes will be fatal for the trio’s promotion chances.

London Corinthians, who still have more than half their league programme to play, still have a mathematical chance of overhauling all their rivals. But they will need to maintain promotion form for the remaining 12 games – some of which may well be switched to midweek – to succeed.

They visit Eastbourne Town, whose FAW Cup exploits have helped boost the profile of the division but who now need the points to avoid dropping out of it.

Aylesford are also still in serious danger of going back down following their promotion from the South East Counties League last season, and could fall into the bottom two if Eastbourne win and they lose at KIKK United.

Two teams with few concerns about promotion or relegation meet when Maidstone United take on Crawley Wasps.

Premier League giants in cup test

Postponements have also hit the FAW Premier League, where most of the top six are not in action because of rescheduled cup matches.

Queens Park Rangers and West Ham United are due to meet in a semi-final of the Capital County Cup, while Charlton Athletic are scheduled to take part in the other semi – against Division One South East side Enfield Town.

The Premier League’s own cup competition takes leaders Cardiff City out of action in the Southern division. They take on Coventry City – the current leaders of the Northern division – in a League Cup quarter-final.

The game is keenly awaited, offering a potential insight into the respective strengths of the two geographical divisions, and pitting together the two sides who could contest the end-of-season play-off to decide the overall Premier League champions.

The play-off is also likely to provide the Super League’s promoted club, as the champions will be invited to enter WSL2 for the 2016 season, subject to certain criteria.

However, that won’t be Cardiff, as they have already been disqualified for not being affiliated to an English football association.

In the Premier League itself, only Portsmouth and Tottenham Hotspur of the top six are in action.

Pompey, who are third, travel to Copsewood Coventry, looking to continue their winning run in all competitions, which currently stands at 12 games.

Victory would take them level with second-placed Brighton, and they would still have a game in hand.

Spurs, meanwhile, are fifth, but know their only hope of making the play-off is to string together the sort of consistent run that eluded them in the first half of the season – and rely on those above them slipping up.

They are due to visit Lewes – two places, but 12 points, below them in this division of two leagues, and are mourning the death of their club chairman, Glenn Weaver.

But it’s been dripping at the Pan again, and with more rain forecast, the prospects of play on Sunday look remote.

The only other Premier League fixture is between Plymouth Argyle, in eighth place, and Keynsham Town, who are still looking for their first league win of the season after 13 attempts.

Swindon bid to keep precarious lead

It’s crunch day for Swindon Town, still clinging by their fingertips to first place in the Premier League’s South West Division One.

They visit fellow high-flyers Exeter City in their first fixture since the beginning of January, reeling from the three-point deduction that has wiped out their lead over Forest Green Rovers.

Exeter would move level with the Robins if they beat them on Sunday, while Forest Green could go clear at the top if they overcome Chichester City at Oaklands Park.

Yet a win for Swindon would put them back on track for a tilt at the title – and possible promotion to the Premier League Southern.

Just one point behind the top pair are Southampton Saints, who have enjoyed a brilliant season. But they are due to play their final league game of the campaign on Sunday at lowly Cheltenham Town.

Saints are heading for an almost certain top-four finish after ending last season in mid-table.

But even if their match at Cheltenham goes ahead, it does not signal the end of their season – there’s the little matter of a Hampshire County Cup final against Portsmouth to come in April.

Bottom of the table St Nicholas bid for their first Premier League point at the 10th time of asking when they entertain Larkhall Athletic.

Shanklin visit MK Dons in the second semi-final of the FAWPL Plate for the right to meet West Ham in the final.

Charlton look to the top

Charlton Athletic are enjoying another consistent season at all senior levels and with leaders Brighton’s second string not in action on Sunday, their reserves could go top of the FAW Premier Reserves League with a draw at home to C&K Basildon.

Crystal Palace visit Bedford, Gillingham host Portsmouth and Queens Park Rangers are at home to Lewes, who are still looking for their first win at this level.

Cup holders head west to defend trophy

It’s Sussex v Kent part one as Wivelsfield Green host holders Herne Bay in the first semi-final of the South East Counties League Cup.

Wivi, who have recovered from a disastrous start to their Division One West season, reached the semi-final by beating Bay’s Premier Division rivals Burgess Hill Town last month, having been given a bye and walkover in the previous rounds.

The Kent side’s journey has been tougher – hammering Wivelsfield’s league rivals Abbey Rangers in round one before dispatching fellow Premier Division sides Parkwood Rangers and Long Lane without conceding a goal.

Now Bay, who won the cup last season while still in Division One East, bid to keep open the prospect of another league and cup double in a match they will be firm favourites to win – although with the kind of team spirit the West Sussex side possess, they will under-estimate Wivelsfield at their peril.

The winners will meet Wivi’s Division One West rivals Worthing Minors or Premier Division leaders Dartford Royals in the final.

In the league, Dartford can extend their four-point lead over Meridian when they play host to Parkwood Rangers, who have endured a tough second season in the Premier Division.

If South Park‘s game goes ahead, they will host third-placed Long Lane.

Abbey look to continue that winning habit

Buoyant Abbey Rangers, fresh from becoming the first team to take points off Worthing Minors this season, can keep the pressure on the Division One West leaders and pull away from third-placed Seahaven Harriers if they overcome Minors’ neighbours, Worthing Town.

Dorking‘s efforts to secure their first point of a miserable season enter fixture number 12 – a visit to Adur Athletic.

Division One East leaders Ashford have an instant opportunity for revenge for their shock defeat at Faversham Elizabethans last week when they play them in the return fixture.

Three points are vital if they are to keep ahead of Prince of Wales, who have a game in hand but are in Chairman’s Cup action against Crockenhill on Sunday.

Castle Colts, in sixth place, are due to host Charlton Athletic Development, who are fourth.

Title not long now for Long Lane

In the Kent Division the top two do battle, with Long Lane Reserves needing only one point against Barming for the title.

The leaders have won all 12 league matches, and will be bidding to last the entire season without dropping a point.

But they face the second-placed team – although Barming are some 11 points behind from a game more following their shock defeat to Margate last weekend.

The only team who can still mathematically catch Long Lane are London Corinthians Reserves, who would need to win each of their remaining six games and hope the leaders suddenly implode.

They will be confident of picking up the first of those victories on Sunday, at home to the University of Kent, who have lost all 12 of their matches in the Kent Division.

And resurgent Margate, unbeaten in three, look to maintain their revival at home to Anchorians 3rds.

Lancing poised to take advantage of Wasps’ demise

Lancing could soon be celebrating their debut season with the Sussex County Women’s League title following Crawley Wasps’ three-point deduction.

They can overtake the current leaders if they win at Rottingdean Village, which would leave them needing a maximum of six points from their final three matches to win the league.

The fixture is also a rehearsal for their League Cup showdown next month following last Sunday’s draw.

Ironically, Worthing Town and Hurstpierpoint, who are also due to meet on Sunday, were also drawn together.

The last of the weekend’s three league fixtures pits Jarvis Brook against Lewes. They are not due to meet in the League Cup.

Horsham Sparrows‘ decision not to step up to the Sussex Women’s Division after the county’s under-18 division folded has looked a sound one as they struggle in the Surrey Under-18s league.

They are rooted to the bottom, without a point this season, and try at the 12th attempt to get off the mark at home to Kempton on Sunday.

At under-16 level, Royal Tunbridge Wells host Bexhill United, also looking to get off the mark following five defeats out of five in the Sussex league.

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