As the long, hard quest for a place in the Super League enters its second month, the last of the women’s and girls’ football league programmes gets under way, with the start of the Sussex County Women and Girls Football League’s 2015/16 season.
Premier League Southern
Charlton Athletic v C&K Basildon
The reverse fixture of Basildon’s opening game in the Premier League, and since that superb first-day draw, newly promoted Basildon have continued to impress at the higher level. In fourth place, just three points behind leaders Brighton, they have lost only once in five league and cup games.
Charlton, highly fancied to be among the honours again, began with two draws, and are still only seventh – although last weekend’s thumping 6-1 win over Plymouth Argyle suggests they are on the right track. One of only three unbeaten teams left in the southern division.
Lewes v Portsmouth
Portsmouth manager Perry Northeast calls the Dripping Pan a cauldron, but on current form, his players should have few fears about stepping out at Lewes’s iconic ground.
Champions Pompey have begun the defence of their title in style, winning their first three league fixtures to boast the division’s only 100% record. They may not always have been at their best – as they sometimes weren’t last season – but they’re the only side to beat Cardiff City and Coventry United – whom they hammered 5-1 – so far this season, and another three goals against Queens Park Rangers in midweek suggest all is well at the Hampshire club.
Lewes’s bright start, though, has quickly faded as injuries have mounted for John Donoghue’s much-changed side. But their second-half showing against Brighton on Wednesday gave cause for optimism, and the least Pompey can expect is a wholehearted, committed challenge at the Pan.
Plymouth Argyle v Brighton
Plymouth were Lewes’s victims on that first day of optimism, the Sussex side running out 4-1 winners. But things haven’t improved much since for the Devon club. They did pick up a point, at home to newly promoted Forest Green Rovers, but they have now lost three times in four league games, conceding 13 goals on the way.
They face a Brighton side on top of the league and bang in form. Like Portsmouth, they haven’t always been at their best, but good sides have a habit of picking up wins in all sorts of circumstances, and with three victories and a draw – at Charlton – they have already re-established themselves as one of the teams to beat this season.
Queens Park Rangers v Cardiff City
It has been a miserable start, too, for Maurice Chevannes and his QPR side. They are rock-bottom of the month-old table, having lost all four of their league games – most recently on Wednesday, when – after losing goalkeeper Trippoli Witney to Watford during the summer – their new first-choice, Jo Ayre was forced to pull out through injury, leaving outfield player Jean Sseninde to face Pompey’s lethal attack.
But at least when they face second-placed Cardiff – the fifth top-six side they’ve encountered this season – they will be at home – something they have yet to experience this term.
Tottenham Hotspur v Forest Green Rovers
Their shock home defeat by Basildon apart, it’s been an excellent start by Spurs, who could break into the top three with a victory on Sunday. Their opponents have made a thoroughly respectable start to their first season in the top tier, having won one and drawn one of their four matches so far.
The form guide suggests away wins for three of the top four on Sunday, with Swindon Town (second), Chichester City (third) and Keynsham Town (fourth) all defending 100% records against sides in the bottom five.
But even at this early stage of the season, their opponents are in desperate need of the points themselves.
Swindon, who are second to Larkhall Athletic only on goals scored, visit Southampton Saints, who finally stopped the rot after three successive league defeats with a 3-2 win at St Nicholas last week.
St Nick‘s, who have lost their last three games, host Chichester City, who are looking in ominous form after winning three out of three.
And Swindon Spitfires, who are still seeking their first point since winning promotion, face Keynsham Town, who have also won three out of three following their relegation from the Premier League Southern last season.
In the other fixture in the division, Cheltenham Town take on Maidenhead United.
South East Division 1
Perfect records to preserve in the south-east division, too, with early leaders Crystal Palace looking to extend their winning run to five out of five at Bedford.
Old Actonians, have played only two league matches so far, visit Enfield Town, bidding to make it three wins from three.
In contrast Cambridge United are the only side without a league win so far – something they will be hoping to put right against Denham United.
Other highlights include Gillingham at home to Norwich City and MK Dons‘ visit to Ipswich Town.
Premier Reserves League
In the second round of matches in the reserves league’s southern division, Southampton Saints play their first game, at home to Crystal Palace, as do West Ham United, at home to Lewes.
Brighton are at home to reigning champions Charlton Athletic, Chichester City host Spurs and Portsmouth are at home to Queens Park Rangers.
London & South East Regional Women’s Football League
A first point of the season is in prospect for either or both Aylesford and Bexhill United, who meet in Kent. The rivals have both lost their opening two games.
Something has to give at Eastbourne, too, where Eastbourne Town, who won their one and only game so far, host AFC Wimbledon, who have two victories from two.
Crawley Wasps, who beat Herne Bay in their only league game, visit Camden Town, who have won one and lost two of their first three matches.
Bay are at home to Leyton Orient, while London Corinthians, who also have two wins from two games, face Fulham Foundation, who have won one and lost two.
Strictly speaking, it’s the second weekend of the regional league, but in reality, it’s the start for all but two of the teams.
While most were in FAW Cup action last week, only Meridian and Crockenhill played in the league. Winners Meridian travel to Long Lane, while the vanquished Crockenhill try again at Burgess Hill Town.
Eastbourne, fresh from cup giant-killing success, host last season’s champions Dartford Royals, while relegated Hassocks meet Parkwood Rangers.
Division 1 East
It’s a first outing for most of this division, too. Only Cray Valley, who beat Castle Colts, have earned points on the pitch yet, although Anchorians also have three points after Charlton Athletic Development failed to fulfil last week’s fixture.
Cray visit Prince of Wales, who went so close to winning the league last season but have since lost key personnel. And Anchorians travel to Castle Colts.
Charlton are due to host Barming, whose morale will not have been helped by losing 15-0 to Carshalton Athletic, who are a couple of leagues above them, in the FAW Cup last week.
And Thanet Colts and Aylesford Reserves get their seasons under way in east Kent.
Division 1 West
Abbey Rangers, who ran Worthing Minors and Seahaven Harriers so close in the title race last season, get their new league campaign under way with a home match against Shoreham & Adur.
Minors themselves, who began the defence of their title with a 6-3 victory over Milford & Witley, host Cowfold, who, as Hurstpierpoint, were one of four sides to be promoted from the Sussex County League last season.
Worthing’s other South East Counties side, Worthing Town, start their league season at home to Crawley Wasps Reserves, who began life in the division with a 5-1 victory against Lancing last week.
Lancing‘s opponents this weekend, Bexhill United Reserves, will be sharing their pain after themselves losing heavily – 6-0 to Fulham Foundation’s second string.
This week Fulham host Rottingdean Village, who are also starting their first game back in the South East Counties League following their promotion in the summer.
And in the other game, Haywards Heath & Wivelsfield will bid for a second successive win following their impressive victory over Shoreham & Adur last weekend.
Sheerness East may well still be in shock after their 11-0 hammering at home to Anchorians’ second string last weekend. But they had better recover pretty sharpish, as they have a tough first away trip of the season – to Anchorians.
Swale and Tunbridge Wells, who also opened their seasons with wins, play Margate and Larkfield respectively.
Sussex County Women and Girls Football League
And so to the first round of fixtures in the Sussex county league. Depleted by the loss of Lancing, Crawley Wasps Reserves, Hurstpierpoint and Rottingdean Village – but enhanced by Burgess Hill Town Reserves and the return to Sussex of Crawley Town and Horsham Sparrows – it is a very different-looking women’s division this season.
But only four of the seven sides are in action: Henfield host Horsham and Worthing Town Reserves – one of only two sides remaining from last season – are at home to Mile Oak Wanderers.
Still no under-18 league, but sufficient interest to warrant two under-16 divisions.
Division A: Six clubs – four of them playing on Sunday. Hangleton Rangers play Crawley Town and Horsham Sparrows play Angmering.
Division B: Again, four of the six clubs are in action. Mile Oak Wanderers host Broad Oak and Horam, while Seahaven Harriers are at home to Hurstpierpoint.
All the girls’ games are scheduled to start at 10.30am.