There is just under two weeks to go until the eagerly anticipated kick off to the Ryman League season on Saturday 9th August. Here the cold end looks at how the pre-season campaign and build up has been going for the teams.
AFC HORNCHURCH travelled to Division One (North) side Thurrock on Saturday and came away with a 1-2 win thanks to goals from Martin Tuohy and Junior Luke. Junior Dadson has joined from Harlow Town along with Tom Davis from Chelmsford City and goalkeeper Sam Mott who impressed for Thamesmead Town in the Premier Division last year. The Urchins will miss the goals of Stefan Payne who has joined Conference Premier side Dover Athletic. They have also drawn against a West Ham XI 2-2, Won at Whitstable Town and lost 1-0 at Bishops Stortford.
BILLERICAY TOWN have retained the services of centre-forward Ricky Sappleton who was top scorer last season with manager Craig Edwards making a number of impressive signings. Young right back Greg O'Hanlon has joined and he counts Arsenal, Charlton Athletic and Stevenage among his former clubs. Jack Edwards has also signed and he was was former youth team captain at Southend United from where he was released over the summer. Defender/Midfielder Matt Pooley also looks a good signing for the blues. He has spent time with Braintree Town and league two side's Gillingham and Dagenham & Redbridge. Goalkeeper Marko Cancar and Swiss born midfielder Cyrus Mahler has also joined the blues squad. On Saturday in front of 264 people the blues lost to Millwall u21's 1-2 with Junior Appiah scoring their goal. Other results have seen them draw 0-0 at home to Conference new boy's Eastleigh, a 4-3 win over Hemel Hempsted Town, a 1-3 home defeat versus Southend United and a 1-7 away win over Basildon United. Ex Towner Chris Wild did re-join for the 2014/15 but has since left New Lodge.
BOGNOR REGIS TOWN have lost last season's captain KaneWills who has joined the Margate promotion push which will be a big loss for The Rocks. They have two fixtures this week with a trip to Worthing tonight (Monday) and Conference South Whitehawk visiting Nyewood Lane on Wednesday. So far they have lost at home against a Stoke City XI (1-2), Portsmouth (1-6 in front of over 2,000 people) and Reading 0-2. An experimental side drew 1-1 at AFC Portchester last Friday night. Manager Jamie Howell still has the bulk of last season's squad which made the play-offs so they should be there or thereabouts in the top five at the end of the 2014/15 campaign.
At BURY TOWN it's a new era as Ben Chenery takes over at manager following long serving boss Richard Wilkins leaving the club towards the end of last season. Chenery had been Wilkin's assistant for two years so knows Ram Meadow very well. Can they improve on last season's fifteenth place position? It's been a mixed bag of results so far in pre-season with wins against Gorleston (3-0), Walsham-Le-Willows (4-1) and Mildenhall Town (2-0) and defeats versus AFC Sudbury (2-1) and Colchester United (0-4). Liam Wales (2) and Ross Bailey (2), two products of the club's youth team, have been amongst the goals so far this pre-season.
CANVEY ISLAND played their local rival's Concord Rangers on Saturday with the Conference South side coming out 3-2 winners. This was less than 24 hours after The Gulls had won 1-0 against a Gillingham XI. They have also drawn 2-2 at Heybridge Swifts, lost 2-0 at Chelmsford City, drawn 1-1 at home to Burnham Ramblers and lost 1-4 at home to Conference Premier new boy's Dover Athletic. Centre-Forward John Sands has been scoring frequently in the pre-season games having joined from Bury Town last October ands scoring 13 times in 22 games. He should do well this season having suffered a nasty injury in a broken jaw for part of the last campaign. Anthony Thomas who scored 17 goals for Hendon last season and joined Canvey in June scored twice in the Island derby. Some great news for the club is that young goalkeeper Josh Vickers who spent most of last season on loan from Arsenal has signed a professional contract at The Emirates for the forthcoming season. He played forty times last season for The Gulls in 2013/14. As well as Anthony Thomas joining the club have also recruited left winger/midfielder Victor Osobo from Harrow Borough and Freddie Warren who had been released by Conference side Barnet. Warren, a central midfielder, played on loan at The Prospects Stadium during the 2013/14 campaign. Manager Danny Heale has also made the signing of experienced centre back John Easterford who has moved the short distance from Concord. He is no stranger to the club having played 88 times between 2010 to 2012.
Some of the focus for DULWICH HAMLET has been off the pitch as the potential redevelopment of their Champion Hill ground has been announced. The club are now owned by the Hadley Property Group who took over over in early 2014 and wiped out a considerable amount of debt the club had. Manager Gavin Rose has lost a number of players from last season's successful squad including the magic of midfielder Erhun Oztumer who has joined League One side Peterborough United. Hamlet host Crystal Palace on Tuesday evening which should attract a decent crowd to Champion Hill. A young side from Dulwich had a 1-4 victory at the weekend at Division One (South) new boy's Whyteleafe and also another 1-4 victory at Beckenham Town. Xavier Vidal, Ashley Robinson (2) and Ashley Carew scored the goals against The Leafe. Youngster Kareem Boyle has impressed in pre-season and looks like another player who is going to make the step up from the Aspire Academy/Hamlet youth team. Keep a look out for him in 2014/15!
EAST THURROCK UNITED's long serving manager John Coventry has announced the following players have joined for the 2014/15 campaign - David Hughes, Ryan Sammons, Simon Peddie, Steve Sheehan, Tom Stephen, Connor Witherspoon, Nicky Symons, Mitchell Gilbey, Ross Parmenter, Sam Letchmere, Neil Richmonds, David Bryan, Emmanuel Osei and Lewis Smith. The Rocks hosted Luton Town last mid-week in a game which saw goal keeper Elliot Justham return to Rookery Hill. The game ended 1-1. They have also beat Redbridge 3-1 this pre-season. Former Aveley centre-back Jay Leader had been set to join United but as stated in this article he joined local rival's Grays Athletic.
ENFIELD TOWN's scheduled home friendly against Boreham Wood tomorrow has been cancelled as the pitch at Donkey Lane isn't quite ready to be played on. Most of the club's fans enjoyed a wonderful weekend trip to Belgium where they recorded a 0-4 victory over friends and fellow fan's formed club YB SK Beveren. George Borg has moved to replace the currently injured Noel Imber by recruiting Nathan McDonald on loan from Conference Premier Braintree Town. He made his debut for The Towners in Belgium.
GRAYS ATHELTIC are under the new management of Jody Brown who has joined after a decent season with Division One (North) Heybridge Swifts. The club have signed a number of impressive players with Brown who has also spent time at Halstead Town, Redbridge and Maldon and Tiptree building what looks a good squad. Athletic will continue ground sharing at Aveley for the 2014/15 campaign. Jay Leader (see East Thurrock United), former Enfield Town fan's favourite Jey Siva (from Wealdstone), centre forward Chris Bryan (Heybridge Swifts), 6' 7" inch keeper Conor Gough (Bristol Rovers) and young striker Dumebi Dumaka (Heybridge Swifts and also played for Barking) have all joined Brown's new look squad. The most impressive signing has to be Glenn Little who has joined from Ryman Premier champion's Wealdstone. His experience will prove invaluable to the Essex side. It's been a good pre-season so far with five wins and two defeats in the seven games played so far. The wins have been against Waltham Abbey (2-1), Brentwood Town (2-1), Bedfont and Feltham (6-0), Chatham Town (1-0) and Romford (2-0) with the defeats against Chelmsford City (5-1) and Aveley (2-1). Tomorrow night see's Grays make the trip to local rivals Tilbury for The Stan Veness Trophy which should be a entertaining game.
HAMPTON AND RICHMOND'S most important business for the summer was keeping hold of prolific striker Charlie Moone who had been attracting club's from higher up the non-league ladder. Midfielder's Tom Hickey and Joe Turner have both left The Beveree to join Wealdstone's maiden season in the conference south and have been replaced by Michael Bryan (from Hendon) and 20 year old Jesse Kewley-Graham (Wycombe Wanderers) have both joined the club along with left winger Jerome Federico who makes the step up from Calor League Central side Northwood. The 22 year old made some impressive performances for Wood last year and looks a really decent signing for joint manager's Paul Barry and Darren Powell. There is no doubt in The Cold End's mind that with the quality of the squad at H&R they will improve greatly on last season's twelfth place finish. 269 people saw a Crystal Palace XI win 2-3 against Hampton on Saturday.
Dave Anderson who guided HARROW BOROUGH to a comfortable eighteenth position last season will be looking to move up the table for the 2014/15 season. It was great to see goalkeeper James Shea who impressed last season join League Two side AFC Wimbledon recently. Borough had a great day on Saturday as a young Arsenal XI visited Earlsmead and attracted a good crowd of 500 people. The Gunners ran out 1-5 winners but the event would of boosted the club accounts for the forthcoming campaign. Anderson has added forward Lewis Driver (from Burnham) to his squad - the majority of which have stayed which will hopefully for the Borough fans will mean stability means success.
HENDON boss Gary McCann has been in charge of the club since February 2005 so 14/15 will be ninth full season with the North London club who continue to ground share at Harrow Borough's Earlsmead. McCann has added Sam Murphy (formerly of Aldershot Town), Portuguese midfielder Andrea Da Costa (formerly of Kingstonian, Bishop's Stortford, Macclesfield Town and AFC Bournemouth), winger Tom O'Regan (Beaconsfield SYCOB) and the very experienced striker Kezie Ibe (who was at Conference South side Basingstoke Town last season) to his squad. Pre season has seen three wins, one draw and one defeat so far.
KINGSTONIAN will miss the services of forward Ryan Moss who has joined Margate. The K's are under new management of former Carshalton Athletic boss Tommy Williams who has moved to replace Moss with Elvis Hammond (ex of Woking, Farnborough, Cheltenham Town and Leicester City) and Nathaniel Pinney who has joined from Tonbridge Angels. He scored many goals for Williams when in charge of Carshalton Atlhetic in 2012/13. They will play alongside Andre McCollin who is rated by many people as one of the best players in the Ryman Premier Division. Can Williams go one better than the runners-up position the K's finished last season? They face Conference Premier side Braintree Town tonight at Kingsmeadow.
LEATHERHEAD, promoted via the Division One (South) play-offs, rejoin the Premier Division after just two seasons. The Tanners have signed centre-back Joe Bruce who was with Calor Division One Central winner's Dunstable Town last season but have lost striker Tom Bradbrook to Conference Premier Dartford, Tom Parkinson to Tonbridge Angels and Jamie Coyle to Maidstone United. Central defender Jerry Nnamani, who was with Crystal Palace as a youth team player, is a player to look out for. The club have signed centre forward Kiernan Hughes-Mason who played a few games for Maidstone United last season and has also played for Kettering Town, Grimbsy Town and Welling United amongst other clubs. The 22 year old, born in Hackney, was with both Arsenal, Millwall and Tottenham Hotspur as a youth team player. Manager Richard Brady and fans at Fetcham Grove will probably be happy with a mid-table position next season.
LEISTON were very impressive when the cold end saw them play Enfield Town in March. They recorded an impressive 1-3 win at Donkey Lane thanks to two goals from Gareth Heath and Connor Hubble (who was on loan from Colchester United). Under manager Steve Ball, who took over the Victory Road hot-seat in November 2013, the teams form improved remarkably and finished impressively in ninth place. Ball had made some good signings to improve his squad - Defender Scott Mitchell has moved from AFC Sudbury and Tom Bullard from Bury Town where he was captain for many seasons along with the experienced Cliff Akurang from Conference South side Bishops Sotrtford. The key piece of recruitment made by the club looks to be the appointment of a Richard Wilkins as Assistant Manger. He left Bury Town towards the end of the last season and brings with him a wealth of knowledge about the game as he was manager for 14 years at Ram Meadow. The Cold End predicts Leiston. currently rated as high at 33/1 for the title by some bookmakers, will be the surprise team of the division and could well finish in the top five.
Boss Gary Wilson and Assistant Danny Bloor will be looking to improve on LEWES last two finishing positions of 16th and 19th following a 6th place finish in 2011/12. They have recruited George Branford who was released by Portsmouth over the summer. He spent some time on loan at The Dripping Pan last season so knows the club well. Centre-Forward Elliott Romain has also joined after scoring regularly for Three Bridges FC for the last four seasons. The Rooks face a Charlton Athletic XI at home tomorrow night.
MAIDSTONE UNITED, who missed out on the play-offs last season finishing seventh after featuring in the top five for most of the campaign, are likely to be right up the top of the division again. They will miss 24 goal Zac Attwood who has joined the revolution at Margate. Boss Jay Saunders has signed Jay May from Bromley to boost his striking options along with Jamie Coyle from Leatherhead (mentioned above).
MARGATE are the hot favourites for the title after signing a number of big name players. Attwood (mentioned above), Jason Prior (who scored bundles of goals for Bognor Regis Town a few seasons ago to secure a move to League Two side AFC Wimbledon), Ryan Moss from Kingstonian are a few of the signings made. Manager Terry Brown and Assistant Stuart Cash are highly experienced and there is no doubting why they are rated so highly by everyone. The Gate recorded a 5-1 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers XI on Saturday thanks to goals from Prior, Attwood, Moss, Lewis Taylor and goal scoring midfielder Charlie Allen. Barnet visit Hartsdown Park tomorrow night.
METROPOLITAN POLICE manager Jim Cooper has retained most of last season's squad but has recruited Mitchell Gutteridge, Ryan Watts, Billy Crook (a headline writer's dream - "CROOK NICKS IT FOR THE POLICE") and Michael Charles. It's been three wins and from three games so far this pre-season including a 5-2 victory over Merstham on Saturday.
Division One (South) PEACEHAVEN AND TELSCOMBE are fancied by many to do quite well in the Premier Division this season. They will miss the goals of 24 year old Charlie Walker who has this week joined League Two side Luton Town. Walker netted 43 goals for The Magpies last season Walker has started his football career in the Sussex County League for Shoreham and Lancing before joining Whitehawk and then Peacehaven. He is another example that if clubs are willing to take a small gamble they could unearth a real gem - Look at Charlie Austin who just five seasons ago was with Poole Town and will be playing the Premier League with Queens Park Rangers next season. The signing of ex Whitehawk player Sami El Abd will provide much needed experience for the team.
TONBRIDGE ANGELS, relegated from the Conference South, are under new management of Steve McKimm who has promoted a few young players from the reserve side and made a few new signings. The Cold End thinks the Angels will be happy with a mid-table position next season and will look to build a new team over a few season capable of promotion back to Step two of the non-league ladder. It looks like the club will not break the bank to achieve this though so it will be a transitional/consolidation type of season for the Angels in the cold end's opinion.
Division One (North) surprise champions VCD ATHLETIC will be playing at Step three of the non-league ladder for the first time in their history. Tony Russell's side has won three and drawn one of their pre-season games so far and entertain Dartford in a local derby tomorrow evening at Oakwood which should draw a decent crowd.
WINGATE AND FINCHLEY reprieved from relegation to Division One (North) following Worksop Town's resignation from the Northern Premier League will start their fourth season at this level of football. They certainly won't finish in the top five (even the most ardent of supporters will tell you this) but I predict the club with 'more flags than fans' will surprise a few teams this season.
WITHAM TOWN, promoted via the Division One (North) play-offs are managed by Garry Kimble who has recruited a number of players ready for the Premier Division campaign. Striker Josh Mayhew who scored over 20+ goals for Hadleigh United in the Thurlow Nunn League last season has joined along with Leon Antoine (from Harlow Town), midfielder Ryan Blackman (from Tilbury) and James Robinson (with Billericay Town last season). Young striker Shamido Pedulu who started in the reserve side last season is a player to watch for at Spa Road. My thoughts are with everyone at the Essex club after their chairman Tony Last sadly died recently. He was well respected in local football and had done so much for the club. No one would of been prouder to see Town playing in the Ryman Premier Division than him.
It's shaping up to be a really exciting season and with more supporters watching games at this level creating great atmospheres there has never been a better time in my opinion to watch your local side.
Saturday 9th August 2014 - Opening day fixtures
BILLERICAY TOWN v GRAYS ATHLETIC
CANVEY ISLAND v BOGNOR REGIS TOWN
DULWICH HAMLET v HARROW BOROUGH
EAST THURROCK UNITED v AFC HORNCHURCH
ENFIELD TOWN v KINGSTONIAN
HENDON v BURY TOWN
LEATHERHEAD v PEACEHAVEN AND TELSCOMBE
MAIDSTONE UNITED v METROPOLITAN POLICE
MARGATE v HAMPTON AND RICHMOND BOROUGH
TONBRIDGE ANGELS v VCD ATHLETIC
WINGATE AND FINCHLEY v LEISTON
WITHAM TOWN V LEWES
There is no doubting the game of the day on the opening Saturday of the season as Hampton and Richmond Borough make the trip to Margate. Can the big spending title favourites stop goal machine Charlie Moone?