STANSTED (A) PREVIEW


A bus-only awayday. A welcome break in a somber boycott. A Tons team in serious form against our cup-winning ex-manager’s new club. We’re calling it now: this weekend’s visit to Stansted is going to be Too Much.We have to start with the obvious. It’s poignant to be reunited with our old gaffer, Mike Walther, especially with everything that has been going on at the Old Spotted Dog lately.

After all, Mike had a seriously strong squad, an historic Gordon Brasted Cup Final victory (against Stansted, funnily enough), and a crowd of supporters whose respect he had earned the hard way.

Yet he still looked at all of this and opted to take up a less senior position at Stansted. What, asked everyone, could have attracted him to a job twice as far from his Canvey home – or driven him from Clapton?

We can expect to see some old friends in the home XI, too. Cup-winner Euan Taylor Reid recently rejoined Walther in a side now captained by our much-missed fullback, Luke Kanjor. However, the exodus of players following Walther north never materialised. And while Stansted are having a season of fits and farts, though, Clapton go into the game with their tails high.

The Tons’ (probably) historic away league form has already been noted. The 2-1 win FC Romania was the seventh away league win in a row. Arguably it was the most impressive of the lot, with the team bouncing back from a home equaliser to seal the points with real authority.

This away form is a real boost for fans who are opting not to attend home games – and the win at FC Romania was all the sweeter for this, and the opportunity to demonstrate their unity with the players.

But the focus on the away run will have given way to a slightly more disconcerting sense of anticipation after Tuesday’s 4-0 hammering dished out to Basildon.

Any Ultras who stole a glimpse of Tuesday’s game through the fences saw a team playing with genuine threat. Jay Knight, who got both goals at FC Romania, was partnered up front by another returning hero, Ike Nzuruba. Having played 4-2-3-1 almost his entire time in charge, Fowell lined his team up in an assertive 4-4-2 formation. And they ran riot.

With a pair of goalscoring strikers, wingers, and an actual keeper (rather than a selfless club legend) in goal, it was possibly Fowell’s strongest line-up yet.

And then you take a step back, and you look at the rest of the season. At the fixture list. And you start to take some Clapton players’ tweets about having a go for the league a bit more seriously.

Because, it’s not just seven away wins in a row, it’s nine league games unbeaten – and it’s just one league defeat since that horrible little run in October. In this period we haven’t been beating the (with all due respect) makeweights in the ESL, but teams that were expected to challenge this season like Basildon, Waltham Forest, Ilford and Takeley.

With our feet firmly on the ground, the prospects of a Clapton title push remain slim.

There are two big factors (and a third if you include a resurgent Southend Manor, who currently stand 2nd) that stand in the way of us getting carried away just yet.

First, there’s the likelihood of Clapton bringing their away form back to E7. Ten of our remaining fixtures are at home, and while it’s well known that no one likes going to the Dog, with or without hot water, it is a far more imposing place when the Ultras are inside rather than outside. The Basildon win was recorded in silence.

Then there’s the fact that the title, in all honesty, is Barking’s to lose. They have the points in the bag and an experienced squad with quality and strength in depth.

However, they are still in a couple of cups, and share their frost-and-flood-prone pitch with West Essex. They are already starting to stockpile league fixtures, while Clapton will soon be playing Saturdays only.

Any scenario where Clapton emerge somehow victorious would pivot on Barking slipping up hugely. It would also require a drop more dramatic license. But that could also be in store.

In keeping with the ESL fixture computer’s sense of humour, Clapton are without a game on the final day of the league season. Were they to sit top of the league by then, their hopes would rest with Barking’s final-day opponents: Stansted, and Mike Walther.

It is the hope that will kill us.

Prediction: after getting carried away with all these dramatic threads, a dull af 0-0 is nailed on.

CLAPTON TO PLAY FRIENDLY AGAINST A.F.C. HORNCHURCH ON WEDNESDAY

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Clapton Manager Jonny Fowell has announced on Twitter that The Tons will face Ryman North side A.F.C. Hornchurch on Wednesday at The Old Spotted Dog in a friendly fixture.

The Urchins have had a reasonably strong season so far in the league a level above Clapton, sitting 9th in a tight division with 28 points from 18 games, 9 points off the top. However they have failed to score in their last 4 games with three 0-0 draws in the league interrupted by a 3-0 loss to East Thurrock United in the Essex Senior Cup.

After being relegated from the Ryman Premier in 2014/15, they almost bounced straight back last season, eventually losing 3-1 to Harlow Town in the Play-Off Final after finishing 5th in the league.

Founded in 2005 after Hornchurch F.C. folded, the new team were placed in the Essex Senior League where they won the League, League Cup and Gordon Brasted Memorial Trophy treble in their first season. They didn’t cross Clapton’s path however, as the two teams swapped places at the end of the season, The Tons finishing bottom of the soon-to-be-restructured Ryman Division 2, ending a record 101 year stay in the Isthmian League.

The game will kick off at 7:45pm.

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.

PREVIEW – MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL AT MILE END STADIUM

This Monday Night Football will not be televised. Tower Hamlets will be hoping Clapton bring some of the crowds that they have seen in recent seasons. The Ultras appear to enjoy a visit to the ground with a running track that is 10 minutes walk from Mile End tube station. The view from the stand is impressive, if a little far, and the echo created by the singing makes it a special place.

Tower Hamlets changed their name from Bethnal Green United, presumably in a cynical attempt to gain more support by having a greater catchment area. In the process doing the opposite by becoming so anonymous that no one cares (who says they are from Tower Hamlets?). Newham FC learnt this lesson when they changed from London APSA, losing their identity and history. Only to return to their original name this season. They are not alone, The Motormen were Ford United from the old factory works, changing to Redbridge and in the process losing their solid working class roots to cover an area that already has Dagenham & Redbridge, Barkingside, and Ilford.

Form guide:
Tower Hamlets got spanked 8-1 at Wingate & Finchley on Tuesday in the London Senior Cup. But to be fair to the boys in black and white (should be green!), they were playing opposition two tiers above them. In the league they are unbeaten in the last three games. Drawing 0-0 in the Mile End derby with Sporting Bengal, thrashing London Bari away 5-0 (attendance: 16), and beating Enfield 1893 aka The Zombies 3-1. Currently they are 17th collecting 14 points from 13 games.

Clapton FC News put together a piece on Johnny Fowell’s first month in charge last week, which gave him an average points total of 1.5 a game, losing 5 in 9 games. The Tons are currently 8th in the league, with 25 points having played 15 games.

Head to head:
Although Clapton finished 9 places above Tower Hamlets in the 2014/15 season and 10 places above them in the 2015/16 season, both teams appear to be evenly matched when it comes to playing each other.

In the 2014/15 season, both teams recorded wins away from home. Clapton winning 1-0 at Mile End with Tower Hamlets beating the Tons by the same score but may stick in people’s head as there was an International Woman’s Day tifo on show at half time.

For the 2015/16 season, Clapton lost 1-0 again on the famous Friday night (Against Modern Football – except when it’s on Friday nights). But the Tons managed to get their revenge by winning 2-0 at home with Briggsy and Cookey providing the goals.

Players to watch:
O’Neil Rowe – has scored 4 in the last five for Tower Hamlets.

For Clapton fans it will be interesting to see whether Johnny Ashman can produce the goods that we know he is capable of.

Prediction:
Scrappy game, but expect goals – 2-2.

TRIALISTS GAME TONIGHT AND LONDON SENIOR CUP FIXTURE NEWS


Clapton will play a trialists game tonight at 7:45pm at The Dog. The opponents are Non League Chance, a team set up by Lee Flavin (ex Dagenham & Redbridge amongst others) to showcase the talents of non-league players looking for clubs. Entry is £3.

In other fixture news, Greenwich Borough have told Clapton FC News that they are ‘awaiting confirmation’ from the London FA that our London Senior Cup 1st round tie at The Dog will be played on Tuesday 1st November. All ties were supposed to have been played by Saturday 29th October so we assume this is why it needs approval. If it does go ahead, this will presumably mean that our game away at Ilford, currently scheduled for Wednesday 2nd November, will be postponed. 

JONNY FOWELL’S FIRST MONTH – IN NUMBERS

Getting the job part-way into a campaign and right at the start of Clapton’s window for an annual autumn wobble was always going to be difficult for a newly appointed manager. Jonny Fowell ‘s team has so far at times looked dazzling and woeful, determined and lacklustre, but without anything consistent to form an early impression, we’re left looking to the stats and tea leaves to judge what the coming weeks and months hold  for the Tons.

At their starkest, the stats read as: Played 8, Won 4, Lost 4 for the new boss, including a defeat away to Hertford Town in the FA Vase. With four wins in seven and none drawn in the league, this gives Fowell a points average of 1.7 per match. Mike Walther managed to accumulate a mean of 2.3 at the same stage last season, in the middle of an unbeaten run that lasted from the second game of the season to mid-November.

JF’s chances of finding his feet have not been helped by the fact that during his first eight games in charge Clapton have played at home just twice. He also recently stated on twitter that he has only taken two training sessions with his players since arriving at The Old Spotted Dog. Fowell has given debuts to six new players since taking charge including two different goalkeepers, although Richie Robins seems to have now claimed that position since his first start.

While Clapton seem to have reached a more settled back line, key to any upturn in points must be finding a regular striker – since Jonny’s arrival, just one goal has been scored from a forward position, netted by the suddenly absent Roddy Lemba. Each of the other 9 goals scored by Clapton in the last month have come from midfield or defence. Centre back, Jamie Lyndon is currently top scorer during Fowell’s time in charge with 2 finishes.

Looking forward to the next eight matches, Clapton are at home just once, and only three times before Christmas. Currently sitting at a very familiar 7th in the table, The Tons are now 9 points off first place Barking, having played one game more. A continued run of a 50% return on points could see Jonny Fowell’s team marooned in mid table, with eight teams below Clapton in the league having games in hand.  The result at second placed Hullbridge this afternoon could prove pivotal.

***EDIT – Following defeat to Hullbridge, Jonny Fowell marked his one month anniversary with Clapton with a 5th defeat in 9 leaving him with a points-to-game average of 1.5. The Tons slipping down to the lower reaches of the form table, the team have a five point cushion before losing their place in the top half of the league table.

PREVIEW – SOUTHEND MANOR VS CLAPTON: NEW MANAGER MAKES DEBUT AS TONS MEET OLD PALS

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Ex-Clapton player Aundre Spencer, now at Southend Manor, with former Ton, Leon Lewis, and MK Dons’ Kieran Agard

This Saturday we travel up the A13 to the delightful park that Southend Manor, among the duck ponds and flower beds, happen to have a football pitch in. It’s a bizarre open-plan ground, vulnerable to the winds off the English Channel. How it met the requirements for the league is beyond me, but you can have a go on the swings behind the goal and watch the game from there.

All the talk this week has been of the FA investigation into the alleged late registration of goalkeeper, Yakup Seyer for last Saturday’s FA Vase clash with Hertford Town. Although our Vase opponents claim that ESL and FA initiated the proceedings, the resulting decision is that the replay has been switched back to Hertingfordbury Park, with the home side keeping all gate money and travel expenses. Clapton will just be relieved to have the opportunity to settle matters on the field.

Saturday will be new manager, John Fowell’s first game in charge. He must be under no illusion of how a big of a task his job at Clapton is. His hands will be tied in more ways than one, with huge financial constraints and the short amount of time he will have to spend with his players (compared to where he’s worked previously). He will no doubt be relying on the input of player favourite, Andre Thomas to help push the team forward in the early stages. It’s not clear whether Andre applied for the manager’s post, but there’s little question that this short period of upheaval will have any effect his commitment to the Clapton side.

Southend Manor, in years gone past, were once a force in the ESL, finishing second in 2011/12 and a respectable 7th in 2012/13 season. However, in recent years Manor have struggled to maintain that standard, finishing 16th last season and 18th and 19th the two prior. This season has been very much a mixed bag for the seasiders as they look to find some consistency; recording a remarkable 7-0 in the FA Vase against ESL new comers West Essex, while losing 8-0 at home to Stanway in the Essex Senior Cup. League games have seen more sensible scorelines, in the last 3 league games they have lost at home to FC Romania 0-1, while beating them away 1-2 and losing at home to big spending Takeley.

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John Terry delighted to meet fellow defender Eamon Payne

Fans of great hair will be pleased to see former Clapton favourite Eamon Payne out in yellow and black. The graceful, hard working and classy defender (and sometimes midfielder) will likely be a handful wherever he plays. We’ll also be reunited with ex-Ton, Aundre Spencer, whose brief but eventful spell at the club ended after the former Luton and Hornchurch winger fell out with then manager Mike Walther. The other familiar (fresh) face is the young Ryan Creed, the former Barking trainee was only at The Dog for short period before quietly moving on with hardly an notch on the teamsheet.

Head to head:

Clapton have enjoyed a very impressive recent run against Southend – the last two visits to Southchurch Park have seen respective 5-1 wins on each occasion. Check out last seasons great write up from Red Menace on the glorious trip. Almost as impressive at home, Clapton won comfortably 3-1 in 2014/15 season and a more modest 1-0 win last term, with Nathan Cook tucking away a spectacular winner. Both sides have struggled with consistency so far this time out, but Clapton players should be confident going in to this one.

Player to watch:

Tony Stokes – On loan from Canvey Island while he regains fitness. He was reportedly wanted by Ryman League, Great Wakering Rovers before opting to join Scott Marshall’s side, where he will undoubtedly add goals and experience. The name will also be familiar to West Ham fans as a one time product of the youth system, as well as Championship/Football Manager veterans as go to bargain (although he was no Cherno Samba). Stokes hasn’t played for Manor in the last couple of games, but we’ll hopefully get to see the real thing come 3pm on Saturday.

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Tony Stokes needs no introduction to Championship Manager fans