PREVIEW – ILFORD VS CLAPTON

This Wednesday, Clapton travel up the Shenfield line to Seven Kings to take on historic local rivals, Ilford at the Cricklefield Stadium. This fixture, between two of East London’s oldest clubs, has been played on and off since the two sides were founder members of the Southern League back in 1894. The latest, modern-day, reunion has both facing up for mid-table battle in the Essex Senior League.

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Ilford & Clapton at Lynn Road in 1940

The Tons should be confident going into this latest encounter, given their recent record with Ilford. The Foxes have yet to record a win against their Newham counterparts since relegation from the Ryman in 2013. The majority of goals have come in Forest Gate, however, with scores of 4 – 0, 4 – 3 & 3 – 3 recorded at The Spotted Dog, and just 3 goals in total scored in the corresponding games.

Looking much further back in time does, however, leave you in murky Sevco/Rangers territory. Ilford (1881) fell victim to a series of mergers that eventually led the club to becoming the ‘Redbridge’ bit in Dagenham & Redbridge. The current incarnation of Ilford FC was formed in 1987 and competed in the Southern and isthmian leagues before dropping back into the ESL after a ten year absence.

Following a fairly uninspired return to life in the Essex Senior, boss Allan Fenn has taken big steps in restoring Ilford since taking over in his second spell in charge;  placing them  5th last season. A former Tons captain, Fenn also played for Dagenham & Redbridge before starting his managerial career at Ilford in 2000, leading the blue & white hoops to 4th in the ESL by the end of his first campaign.

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Allan Fenn at Clapton in 2015

Easing into just his second month in charge, Jonny Fowell will be looking to emulate Fenn’s achievements, and a win on Wednesday could propel Clapton as high as 5th in the table. Recent form has Ilford stuttering and Clapton perhaps just turning a corner after 4 points from the last 6. However both teams will be keen to put a largely indifferent October behind them.

Players to Watch

Ilford, like Clapton, have goals spread around the team this campaign and have struggled to nail down a particular focal goalscorer. Leon Rolle, aka DJ Locksmith of Rudimental, has been a regular starter in midfield for Allan Fenn’s team, although fullback Paul Clayton seems to have most found his rhythm lately, mixing it up with three goals in the last month.

Clapton’s model left-back, Tayo Awoderu, had possibly the stand-out performance in last Monday’s 1 – 1 draw in Mile End. With a regular striker still proving elusive, Johnny Ashman’s directness from the wing could prove pivotal. Whoever ends up partnering Jaffa in the backline could also end up being a key position, with Dylan Ebengo impressing at Takeley on Saturday.

Prediction

0 – 1 Past form suggests this won’t be high scoring and Clapton aren’t particularly prolific at the moment. Ilford have done well against teams below them in the table, but have often struggled against those higher up. Despite a transitional squad, The Tons have had sporadic moments of playing good football, particularly on better pitches. Should have enough about them to edge it.

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