Sent Her Forward previews the rest of the weekend’s football
It’s not just the FA Cup filling female footballers with dreams of reaching finals this weekend. No fewer than eight other teams will be fighting for the honour around the South East.
South East Counties League South Park are eyeing an upset at Reigate, where they face high-flying AFC Wimbledon in the Surrey County Cup for the right to meet holders Carshalton Athletic in this year’s final.
South Park, who finished bottom of the Premier Division last season, are struggling again this time round, but they have fared better – albeit against lower-league opposition – in the cup.
They face a Wimbledon side already in the running for the London and South East Counties Regional Women’s League and possible promotion to the Premier League’s satellite divisions.
Wimbledon are currently third but very much in contention for honours, and they will be strong favourites to beat South Park. But the Reigate side, who have not won a league match since October, have the capacity to surprise and have less to lose on Sunday.
Holders Herne Bay aim for final again
At the opposite end of South Park’s division lurk Herne Bay, who have one eye on the Premier Division title but the other firmly on keeping hold of the South East Counties League Cup, which they won as a Division One East side last season.
Bay have lost only once in the league and currently lie third, but with games in hand of the teams around them.
If they are to have the opportunity to defend their trophy in the final – on their home ground on April 19 – they need to avoid becoming a giant-killing victim themselves when they play Wivelsfield Green in Haywards Heath.
It will be Bay’s second successive Sunday in Mid Sussex, having defeated Burgess Hill Town 5-0 in the league last weekend.
This time they play one of the better Division One West sides, and although the Kent club will be firm favourites, they under-estimate Wivy at their peril.
The tight band of enthusiastic and tenacious women and girls have recovered from a desperate start to the season, when they faced two of the top teams three times in their first four fixtures, and currently lie fourth – the best of the rest in a division where three teams have pulled away at the top.
In recent weeks Wivelsfield have put nine goals past Burgess Hill Town 2nds, narrowly failed to end leaders Worthing Minors’ 100% record and beat the team who finally did achieve that feat – Abbey Rangers – away last week.
They expect to have a full squad to pick from on Sunday and will relish the challenge against one of the South East’s success stories of recent seasons.
However, Herne Bay‘s quest for a third successive promotion in their three seasons in existence was dealt a slight blow last night when they were held to their first ever goalless draw in the league, at home to Parkwood Rangers.
It was an impressive result for Parkwood, who have struggled for consistency this season, and a frustrating one for Herne Bay manager Anthony Deer, who acknowledged to his club’s website that the team will need to improve if they are to maintain their league title challenge.
They might not need to be quite at their best to beat Wivelsfield, but if they do not match their hosts’ commitment, they might just be in for a shock.
Top two meet for place in Chairman’s Cup final
In the league’s second competition, the Chairman’s Cup, Abbey Rangers and Bexhill United Reserves do battle to decide who plays the winners of the Ashford v Prince of Wales tie in the final.
Abbey, who are second in Division One West, will be expected to beat Bexhill, who have had a difficult season and are currently second-to-bottom in the same league.
The other semi-final is much harder to call, with the top two in Division One East meeting at Ashford.
Both sides have won seven games and lost just twice in the league and are separated by just one point, and while Ashford have a superior goal difference, Prince of Wales have a crucial game in hand.
That will count for nothing in the cup, though.
Double-header as Eastbourne Town make up for lost time
There is also London & South East Regional League Cup action, with London Corinthians due to play their previously postponed tie against Fulham Foundation.
In the league, leaders Old Actonians are at home to Aylesford, who are two off the bottom.
Carshalton Athletic will be looking to make good use of one of their games in hands of the three teams above them when they visit rock-bottom Hassocks, who have gained only two points all season.
Crawley Wasps meet KIKK United, and there is a double-header at the Gallagher Stadium where Maidstone United and Eastbourne Town play a double-header as the Sussex club continue to play catch-up following their FAW Cup exploits this season.
Seahaven look to keep in touch with leaders
In the South East Counties Women’s Premier Division Meridian are looking to make up some ground on leaders Dartford Royals, who have soared ahead of them in recent months.
But they should not under-estimate opponents Parkwood Rangers after the Bexley side’s commendable draw at Herne Bay last night, when they became the first side to stop Bay scoring in the league.
Long Lane are at home to bottom club Crockenhill, and Burgess Hill Town entertain Eastbourne.
Seahaven Harriers, who had matched Division One West leaders Worthing Minors almost stride for stride in the early weeks of the season before a cup run and bad weather disrupted them, return to league action for only the second time since Christmas, travelling to bottom club Dorking.
And Minors, who have suffered league and cup defeats in the past fortnight after going six months without losing or drawing, take the short trip to Palatine Park to play their local rivals, Worthing Town.
With the top two in Division One East in cup action, attention turns to the other end of the table, where the bottom two face tricky away games.
Aylesford Reserves visit Faversham Elizabethans, while Anchorians 2nds – above them only on goal difference – are at Thanet Colts.
No games, either, for the top sides in the Kent County Division, so the focus is on bottom club University of Kent‘s attempt to win a league point at the 13th time of asking.
They visit Margate, who until a few weeks ago were just above them in the league, but who have collected nine of their 16 points in their last three games.
Copsewood look towards mid-table
Six of the bottom seven are in action in the FAW Premier League, with most of the leading clubs playing in the FA Cup.
Copsewood Coventry could move within sight of mid-table if they are able to clinch their third league win of the season, at home to Lewes, while victory for the visitors could take them to the top of the bottom half of the table.
Gillingham, who are running out of games and in danger of being overtaken by some of the bottom group, host one of those, Queens Park Rangers, while Plymouth Argyle are at home to West Ham United.
The race to join them in the Premier League Southern next season will no doubt take more twists before the end of the season, but few are likely to match last week’s, when none of the title chasers won games they were expected to walk away with.
Two of them – Exeter City and Forest Green Rovers – meet on Sunday, while Swindon Town will look to get back to winning ways at home to Cheltenham Town.
Chichester City, who held Swindon last week on their own patch, would normally be confident of picking up three points at home to bottom club St Nicholas.
But St Nicks did even better last weekend, defeating Exeter 4-2 to claim their first points of the season in their 10th game.
The match is Chichester’s last before next Thursday’s Sussex County Cup final, when they will attempt to overcome Brighton for the second year in a row to retain the trophy.
Top meet bottom in the FAW Premier Reserves League, when Charlton Athletic visit Lewes, who are still looking for their first win at this level.
West Ham United could also overtake Brighton and move into second place if they win at Queens Park Rangers, while if the East Londoners slip up they could be overtaken by Crystal Palace, who have a straightforward-looking home match against Bedford.
C&K Basildon host Gillingham, and Chichester City meet Portsmouth in the first of two consecutive encounters, at Clymping FC.
Rottingdean and Worthing Town on a mission
There are two games in the Sussex County Women’s League. Rottingdean Village have the chance to creep up to third if they beat Hurstpierpoint, while Worthing Town are looking to claw back the three points deducted for allegedly breaching league rules, at home to Jarvis Brook.
Under-16 champions Southdown end their season at Bexhill United, determined to preserve their perfect record. The Burgess Hill team have not dropped a point in their first eight games and will be keen not to sully that achievement in their final game.
Crawley Town‘s under-18s host Knaphill Athletic and Horsham Sparrows are due to play Kempton in the Surrey County League.