Monday, April 30, 2012
Ryman Premier defences were demob-happy on Saturday, when the eleven matches on the season's final day produced an average of five goals each. It was also much ado about nothing for, apart from two swaps of mid-table places, everyone ended up precisely where they had been at kick off time. That means that Wednesday's play-off semi-finals will be Hornchurch v Bury and Lowestoft v Wealdstone.
Lowestoft needed a victory at champions Billericay to have a chance of the runners-up spot and they achieved it in style, winning 4-1, in front of a New Lodge crowd of 1,145. An early exchange of goals saw Michael Frew put the Trawlerboys ahead, only for Dale Cockrill's headed own goal to level it. Lubo Guentchev's long range shot restored Lowestoft's advantage just before the half hour, Cockrill reset his sights to make it 3-1 in the fifty-eighth minute, and Frew broke clear to add his second.
It was all in vain, as Hornchurch, the only other team to win at New Lodge this season, held on to second place on goal difference, three points behind the champions, with a 2-1 home win over relegated Leatherhead. Carl Rook, making his first start for Urchins, put them ahead after nineteen minutes. Although sure to finish nineteenth, Tanners needed points to give them a better record than the sides finishing in that position in the Southern and Northern Premier Leagues, in case there are reprieves available in the summer. Greg Andrews gave them hope, when he equalised two minutes before half time, but Leon McKenzie restored the Hornchurch lead immediately after the restart, and that was enough, leaving Tanners third in line for any vacancy that may arise at this level.
Wealdstone's fine end of season run continued with a 3-1 victory over Concord, which sealed fourth place and a trip to Lowestoft on Wednesday. It took Alex Dyer less than twenty-five seconds to put them ahead, but Steve King levelled matters with a looping header in the eleventh minute. Cometh the hour (or in this case the fiftith minute), cometh the man. It was, inevitably, Richard Jolly who restored Stones' lead with his forty-eighth goal of the season, and his thirty-second in the league, clinching the Golden Boot, though only just. Scott Fitzgerald made sure with thirteen minutes left.
Bury pair John Sands and Billy Clark both hit hat-tricks in a 7-1 romp at Tooting, which made sure that two Suffolk clubs will be involved in the play-offs. The Terrors terrified few opponents this season, conceding 116 goals on their way back to Ryman South. Sands started the rout with two goals in three minutes, the eighteenth and twentieth, and Clark went one better with two in two minutes, just after Hassan Ibrahim had fired home from long range for the home side on the half hour. It was three for Sands after an hour, and three for Clark twelve minutes later, this one a penalty, before Kieron Leabon nodded in the seventh.
A crowd of 1,038 turned up at the Dripping Pan to see whether Lewes could make the play-offs, and they watched a 4-2 home win over Harrow. But the Rooks needed Bury or Wealdstone to slip, and so they remained in sixth place. Jon-Jo Bates put Harrow ahead in the second minute, but Lewes responded with headed goals from Paul Booth and Chris Breach before half time, and another soon after it from Nathan Crabb. Booth made it 4-1 with a penalty, and Danny Leech notched Harrow's second.
Hendon needed a big win to have any chance of making the play-offs and they certainly got it, matching Bury with a 7-1 victory at another relegated club, Aveley. But it was all in vain, and they stayed in seventh place. The only goal of the first half was a penalty by Greg Ngoyi in the thirty-sixth minute, awarded by referee Nolan Wilde. He was then injured, and assistant Paul Howard took over the whistle, awarding a penalty of his own after fifty minutes, which Scott Shulton converted. The floodgates then opened, as Isaiah Rankin fired a seven minute hat-trick, and Elliott Charles made it 6-0 by the mid-point of the half. Kayan Kalipha missed a penalty for Aveley, but Liam Thomas did pull one back, before Elliott Godfrey notched Hendon's seventh in added time.
They were the only games to affect the significant positions, but East Thurrock's 5-2 win at Kingstonian lifted them above their hosts into tenth place, and also featured a valiant effort by Sam Higgins to land the Golden Boot. Starting the day three goals behind Jolly, Higgins scored twice in the first half, after Bobby Traynor had put K's ahead. Ben Wood and Kye Ruel made it 4-1 after the break. Traynor, the top scorer in his division for the past three seasons, has not contended this time, but he reduced the arrears with his seventeenth league goal. Higgins completed his hat-trick with seven minutes left, his fortieth goal in all competitions, but by then, Jolly had taken his haul to thirty-two, and Higgins could not score a fourth to match him.
Canvey also scored five, in their case with no reply from visiting Margate, a fine send-off for defender Steve Ward, playing the last game of his twelve year stay with the Islanders. Kevin Dobinson put them ahead after three minutes, and it was 3-0 by half time thanks to Rob King and Jason Hallett. Dobinson scored again after seventy-three minutes, and Steve Sheehan completed the rout.
Wingate were the only other side to move up the table, taking over thirteenth place from Concord with a 2-1 home win over Carshalton. Tony Burke gave them a half time lead, Paul Vines equalised from the spot, and Leon Smith settled it with a late solo effort.
It was a satisfactory Premier debut campaign for Wingate, as it was for Met Police, who finished twelfth after their 2-0 win at Hastings. Mu Maan and Staforde Palmer scored midway through the second half.
Cray gave a rare start to Michael Power, and he rewarded them with two goals in the first ten minutes against bottom club Horsham. A massacre threatened, but it was the eighty-fifth minute before Tony Dolby scored the third goal, and Horsham's six year stay in the Premier ended on a cheerful note, as Wayne Clarke fired home from long range in the last minute to make it 3-1.