CLAPTON MAKE HISTORY – AND ARE ON COURSE FOR SILVERWARE TOO

image.jpg

Clapton on their way to the win that sealed a top three finish

Congratulations to Barking, who have wrapped up the Essex Senior League title and will play in the Isthmian League North Division next season.

While the champions were rightly celebrating their promotion, though, Clapton were quietly sealing an historic achievement of their own.

The 6-2 win over Enfield FC guaranteed the Tons would finish in the top 3 at least. That is the first time in 34 years, when Clapton won the 1982/3 Isthmian League Division Two title.

Before then, historians would have to go as far back as 1925/6 for a top 3 finish, meaning this is only the third season in 91 that the Tons have finished so high. Amazing stuff.

And after last year’s Gordon Brasted Memorial Trophy Final success, where the Tons broke their 27-year trophy drought, there could be more silverware this season.

The runners-up in the Essex Senior League are given a shield to mark their achievement and it is understood the Tons will be presented with the award after the game on Saturday April 22 if they seal second spot.

Lee Connor of Basildon United with the Runners-Up Shield last season

The Tons are currently five points clear of FC Romania in the fight for runners-up spot and so a win in the last final game of the season, at home to Burnham Ramblers, will bag the runner-up place.

FC Romania meanwhile have two games remaining, away against Basildon United and away to Burnham Ramblers, and would need to win both and hope the Tons draw or lose to sneak into second place.

Whatever happens, Clapton are guaranteed to be in the top four, it also means they are one of 33 clubs around the country given a bye through to the first round proper of the FA Vase.

This will be the first time ever that the club has started its FA Vase campaign in the first round in the 35 years of entering the competition.

It gives the Tons a great chance of reaching the third round for the very first time, having been knocked out at the second round three times in the past.

Also between 1945 and 2013, the Tons only achieved 2 top half finishes. Now they have achieved 4 in the row, coinciding with the rise in supporters and the Clapton Ultras.

This season’s away form has been even more eye-catching. The 15 away wins is the best ever in Clapton history, beating the 12 notched up in 1982/3.

CLAPTON vs BARKING – TITLE RUN-IN

With the Tons not playing for a second successive weekend and Barking notching up yet another win in the absence of their title rivals, the top of the Essex Senior League is starting to take on a more settled shape as we enter the final stages of the season.

The Blues’ 3 – 5 win at Sporting Bengal on Saturday pulls open an eight point gap between first and second in the table. As the Upney club cashes in three of its four games in hand, with maximum return, Clapton can only rely on sizeable slip ups from the current league leaders.

However, with eleven league games and two cup competitions still to fight for, Barking have got themselves a crowded schedule to work through before the end of April. Recent goal heavy games appear to suggest legs are beginning to be stretched as a long season takes hold.

As not the most athletic team among this year’s title contenders, either, Barking won’t want to labour over thoughts of an eight point slip at this stage. Bottom four, Bengal pushed them hard on Saturday, as Takeley did by the same scoreline two weeks previous.

Respective run-ins should also give Clapton reason to be hopeful. Barking still have to face three of the top five to get over the line and play third placed, Southend Manor twice! The Tons, moreover, have four games with bottom half opposition and none left against the top five.

Any sudden dip in form for Barking, however, will no doubt depend on what James Peagram does between now and the end of the season. The former Harlow man has banged in an extraordinary 41 goals in 32 starts and is effectively dragging his team toward the Isthmian.

image-1

Peagram netting against Clapton earlier this season

Peagram’s teammates, Delgado & Petrit should also get a mentions for impressive returns, though Barking seem to rely heavily on a tactic of overpowering opponents; a game plan that works well in pummeling teams who’re struggling, but is perhaps less effective against stronger counterparts.

Next Tuesday (28th) Glen Golby & Steve Wills’ team face up against the very physical, FC Romania at Mayesbrook Park. The resurgent Romanians are well known for giving as good as they get and have scored an emphatic 25 goals in the seven matches since losing to Barking in mid-Jan.

By that time that game kicks off, Clapton could be back within five points of their East London rivals, playing away at Barkingside the Friday before. A home win in Forest Gate for the visit of Sawbo on the 28th and a result for FCR on the night would see the title race wide open again.

Following a likely bruising encounter with Romania, Barking then play four games in two weeks, culminating in a vital home fixture with Southend Manor. The league leaders won’t have much respite after that either, not getting more than four days between games until the end of March.

By which point Barking could have qualified for semi-finals and finals in two different cup competitions, adding even more pressure to an already overloaded calendar. Clapton, in contrast, have only one more mid-week fixture before the end of the season.

With such an intensive and challenging run-in, the cracks Barking are already showing, particularly in defence, will deepen. Clapton’s diary, on the other hand, is relatively clear, but dropping points at this stage is something Jonny Fowell’s team can no longer budget for.

CLAPTON APPLY FOR PROMOTION TO RYMAN LEAGUE

image

There could be changes ahead at the Old Spotted Dog to get it into shape for Ryman football

Clapton have applied for promotion to the Ryman North, according to local football expert Dan Wilson.

Five Essex Senior League clubs are said to have put themselves forward for the one promotion spot with the Tons vying with Barking, FC Romania, Ilford and Waltham Forest.

Club chief executive Vince McBean had cast doubt on whether he’d apply for promotion, telling the Newham Recorder that fans were alienating other clubs who would veto Clapton’s promotion bid, although they have no power to do so.

For the Tons to be promoted, they would need to:

1) Pass the ground grading
2) Finish in the top 3
3) Finish higher than any of the other promotion-chasing clubs who pass the grading

All of the applicants including the Tons have until the end of March to satisfy the FA’s Grade E ground requirements.

However, this won’t pose a problem for Waltham Forest or Ilford – who have played Ryman football in the last few years – or FC Romania, who share Cheshunt’s ground.

League leaders Barking remain overwhelming favourites to make the leap to the Ryman League, assuming they pass the ground requirements.

It’s unlikely more than one ESL club will be promoted, but it is possible if other Step 5 leagues across the country fail to provide a club worthy of promotion.

The chances of success for Clapton seem very slim given Barking’s runaway success on the pitch and the work needed to be done at the Old Spotted Dog.

That includes infrastructure changes like a bigger main stand and hard standing terrace to replace the areas of grass banking.

Other issues to be addressed include parking for away team coaches, refreshments for fans and a tannoy system.

Previously we have reported on visiting teams ‘ complaints about the facilities, and the general cosmetic appearance of parts of the ground, which would also need to be addressed.

However, these issues don’t seem insurmountable so it will be interesting to see if the OSD passes the inspection or how far away from the standard it is.