Southern League 2018/19

Jemfy

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The Southern League this season is comprised of 4 divisions, 2 at step 3 and 2 at step 4. These are the Southern League Premier and Division 1 Central, Premier and Division 1 South.

Premier Central:
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Alvechurch
Banbury United
Barwell
Bedworth United
Biggleswade Town
Coalville Town
Halesowen Town
Hitchin Town
Kettering Town
King's Lynn Town
Leiston
Lowestoft Town
Needham Market
Redditch United
Royston Town
Rushall Olympic
St Ives Town
St Neots Town
Stourbridge
Stratford Town
Tamworth

Premier South:
Basingstoke Town
Beaconsfield Town
Chesham United
Dorchester Town
Farnborough
Frome Town
Gosport Borough
Harrow Borough
Hartley Wintney
Hendon
Kings Langley
Merthyr Town
Metropolitan Police
Poole Town
Salisbury
Staines Town
Swindon Supermarine
Taunton Town
Tiverton Town
Walton Casuals
Weymouth
Wimborne Town
 

Jemfy

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Relative squad stability from us for most teams at this level - we offered every player terms to stay (non-contract of course), with 16 players currently signed up. Only one of these 16 didn't finish last season with us and that is the returning Jack Bowen who has had 2 brief "loan" spells with us previously.

What we have so far

GK:
Ben Heath

Defenders:
Sam Brown
Callum Westwood
Jack Ashton
Liam Dolman
Cameron Gilchrist
Blaize Punter

Midfielders:
Jack Westbrook
Joe Curtis
Ross Oulton
Ben Farrell
Ben Ford

Forwards:
Ben Diamond
Jack Bowen
Tom Lorraine
John Dean

Currently the massive gap for the team is in the wide positions - arguable as to what role you would have called them last season but having Gyasi and Fairlamb we were really spoiled on the wings. The latter is apparently training with Brackley while the former was meant to be going abroad but has turned up for another club in preseason... Overall apart from that it's a pretty good squad, the defence is pretty set so long as all those players can be kept happy again, central midfield is pretty well set unless someone becomes available to further improve things I think we've got a decent squad there, all players involved deserve at the minimum a chance at the step up. Up front we might lack a little firepower. Bowen and Diamond are both young-ish forwards with potential. Lorraine is a workhorse. Dean I'm unsure about as he's not played that much for us. He's looked useful but never really forced his way in to the side. Especially lacking the wide players I'd worry we could struggle a little at the front half of the pitch, but if everything clicks or a new/returning one or two come in to add more goals we could be well set. Just need to fill those pesky wide positions.

Some interesting trialists on show in our first pre-season friendly on Friday night (a 3-0 win at Newport Pagnell). Next up another away game at Melton from the UCL, who interestingly have our old player Robbie Parsons on contract at UCL level.
 
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#4
At Yaxley, we're starting our first campaign at Step 4 this coming season in Division 1 Central. I'm not entirely sure what we should be expecting (other than increased travel, that is), but so far we've managed to retain the entirety of the squad that won us the UCL title last season, with the return of forward Charley Sanders being the only actual addition so far (thanks to manager Andy Furnell's Peterborough connections, we have a couple of players who almost signed professional terms with them on trial, but neither signed yet or likely to sign, it seems).

While I'm happy to see Furnell place trust in the players who got us promoted, a part of me wonders if this is really the right approach: cohesion will be there from the start, but can all of the players make the step up? Up front and in goal, I'm satisfied that we can, but I'm not as confident with the defence and, to a lesser extent, the midfield.

I'd like to see some additions in these areas, and I'm honestly a little confused that the only one so far is in a position where we already have three or four options. There's also the issue that, while Charley Sanders is undoubtedly a talented player (in his previous spell at the club, he scored around fifteen goals from August to when he departed in February or so), his disciplinary record is utterly appaling (in that same period when he was first at the club, he was sent off four times, including three in the space of one month). As such, it's definitely a gamble to bring him back despite his quality.

Either way, here is the outlook on our squad so far (to the best of my knowledge, and under the assumption that, while the entirety of last season's squad has supposedly stayed, one defender probably hasn't due to falling out with the manager in March, unless that has been resolved):

Goalkeepers:
Ollie Sutton
James Blake

Defenders:
Ross Watson
Sam Spencer
John-Paul Duncliffe
Josh Pike
Dalson Bettles

Midfielders:
Liam Hook
Kyle Nolan
Joe Butterworth
Jack Saunders (also able to fill in at full back if required, and has even played up front on occasion)
Matt Sparrow (usually on the wing but sometimes up front)
Bradley Paige (I think, he may be a striker but I'm not 100% certain)

Strikers:
Dan Cotton (often plays in the number 10 role behind the striker rather than up front)
Tom Waumsley
Phil Stebbing
Charley Sanders

We also have the aforementioned trialists who may or may not sign and, other than that, we also have Reserves who can be called upon if necessary, with Bradley Paige being the first to really step up into the first team. Also, though it doesn't happen often, our manager can play up front if necessary.

Overall, we look well-stocked in each area, but whether the players make the step up is another matter. Survival is the bare minimum aim this season, but I'm hoping we consolidate ourselves at Step 4 for now, starting with a mid-table finish.
 

DarkSithLord

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#5
At Yaxley, we're starting our first campaign at Step 4 this coming season in Division 1 Central. I'm not entirely sure what we should be expecting (other than increased travel, that is), but so far we've managed to retain the entirety of the squad that won us the UCL title last season, with the return of forward Charley Sanders being the only actual addition so far (thanks to manager Andy Furnell's Peterborough connections, we have a couple of players who almost signed professional terms with them on trial, but neither signed yet or likely to sign, it seems).

While I'm happy to see Furnell place trust in the players who got us promoted, a part of me wonders if this is really the right approach: cohesion will be there from the start, but can all of the players make the step up? Up front and in goal, I'm satisfied that we can, but I'm not as confident with the defence and, to a lesser extent, the midfield.

I'd like to see some additions in these areas, and I'm honestly a little confused that the only one so far is in a position where we already have three or four options. There's also the issue that, while Charley Sanders is undoubtedly a talented player (in his previous spell at the club, he scored around fifteen goals from August to when he departed in February or so), his disciplinary record is utterly appaling (in that same period when he was first at the club, he was sent off four times, including three in the space of one month). As such, it's definitely a gamble to bring him back despite his quality.

Either way, here is the outlook on our squad so far (to the best of my knowledge, and under the assumption that, while the entirety of last season's squad has supposedly stayed, one defender probably hasn't due to falling out with the manager in March, unless that has been resolved):

Goalkeepers:
Ollie Sutton
James Blake

Defenders:
Ross Watson
Sam Spencer
John-Paul Duncliffe
Josh Pike
Dalson Bettles

Midfielders:
Liam Hook
Kyle Nolan
Joe Butterworth
Jack Saunders (also able to fill in at full back if required, and has even played up front on occasion)
Matt Sparrow (usually on the wing but sometimes up front)
Bradley Paige (I think, he may be a striker but I'm not 100% certain)

Strikers:
Dan Cotton (often plays in the number 10 role behind the striker rather than up front)
Tom Waumsley
Phil Stebbing
Charley Sanders

We also have the aforementioned trialists who may or may not sign and, other than that, we also have Reserves who can be called upon if necessary, with Bradley Paige being the first to really step up into the first team. Also, though it doesn't happen often, our manager can play up front if necessary.

Overall, we look well-stocked in each area, but whether the players make the step up is another matter. Survival is the bare minimum aim this season, but I'm hoping we consolidate ourselves at Step 4 for now, starting with a mid-table finish.
Welcome.
 

Jemfy

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As DSL says, welcome.

Yaxley were a club that were reasonably likeable from the UCL.

Dan Cotton scored a bag full last season didn't he? Worried about someone trying to nab him?

I'm actually surprised Yaxley don't have many former Diamonds players, although most of ours tend to come from Rushden and then further west rather than east.

The step up doesn't seem that big between step 4 and 5 in any given week, but it's borne out over a season, with the average quality being much better. The worst teams you will face will be like facing upper UCL sides. This does mean it's actually somewhat easier to get to the top half than some people may think, but pushing for the playoffs requires some real consistency. You just need to make sure your players are happy to make the step up in effort every week. You don't get the games you used to get at UCL level where when you've scored the opposition are resigned to defeat and don't even play to counterattack or limit the score too much.
 

Jemfy

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Fixtures are out, Diamonds starting at home against Redditch, and finishing away against Tamworth.

Derby games are NYD (away) and the penultimate day of the season (home). Honestly not overly happy with that especially the latter. That lot up the road are going to be very strong again this season and there is the idea that they may be looking to win the league on the penultimate day of the season, at Hayden Road. Which wouldn't be fun.

Our expectation for the season has to be to survive first and look for top half finish second. We'll obviously re-evaluate part way through the season but there is also the very outside shot at the playoffs, but I can't really see that becoming a reality. I guess this is more about positioning ourselves to keep improving over the next few seasons. Should we somehow be in a playoff positions I seriously doubt we'd be able to get the ground up to standard for step 2 any time soon.
 

tommytit

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#8
Fixtures are out, Diamonds starting at home against Redditch, and finishing away against Tamworth.

Derby games are NYD (away) and the penultimate day of the season (home). Honestly not overly happy with that especially the latter. That lot up the road are going to be very strong again this season and there is the idea that they may be looking to win the league on the penultimate day of the season, at Hayden Road. Which wouldn't be fun.

Our expectation for the season has to be to survive first and look for top half finish second. We'll obviously re-evaluate part way through the season but there is also the very outside shot at the playoffs, but I can't really see that becoming a reality. I guess this is more about positioning ourselves to keep improving over the next few seasons. Should we somehow be in a playoff positions I seriously doubt we'd be able to get the ground up to standard for step 2 any time soon.
My missus lives in the Addington's, so I'm up your way quite a bit, so plan on catching a few games this season, Hayden Road road looks interesting after Nene... Goodluck for the season.
 
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#9
We start at home to Barton Rovers and finish at home against Kempston Rovers. We play local rivals Peterborough Sports on Bank Holiday Monday next month (at home) and then away on Boxing Day.

As I've said, the aim has to be to survive at the bare minimum, with mid-table consolidation likely being the actual aim, especially considering Jemfy's insight on what the step up is actually like. Anything more than that would be nice, but I'm not too concerned if we don't compete at the very top end, as we simply aren't ready for that off the pitch yet, not even close at all.
 
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#10
A massively impressive 4-1 win for Yaxley today against Barton Rovers today, we looked very comfortable despite having five first team players missing through injury, suspension or holiday and having to play a striker - whose last spell at the club was three seasons ago when we finished mid-table in the UCL - at right back.

Matt Sparrow in particular caused absolute chaos for Barton at the back and was involved in three of our goals (one assist and two finishes, one of which involved dribbling through their entire defence). He'll be crucial to our prospects this season, if that was anything to go by.

A much harder test on Tuesday night against much-fancied Bedford Town, but based on today we have nothing to fear whatsoever. It's early days, but I'm confident we will be just fine.
 

Jemfy

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No update from me recently because I've been having some weird login issues on this site ever since it changed over recently.

A weird first week for Diamonds with 3 games gone just 3 points on the board, although 2 very tough away games which ended in narrow losses.

First up was the home game against Redditch, which ended up 5-2, all 3 of our starting forwards notching goals, 2 for the aptly named Ben Diamond - repaying the faith to put him on a contract already somewhat. We went 5-0 up before conceding 2 late goals which is a useful lesson about keeping up the intensity.

Last Tuesday we went to Biggleswade, who came in to the game off the back of a 4-2 win at much fancied Kings Lynn. This saw 2 of our 3 starting strikers hobble off injured in the first half, really throwing a spanner in the works. Not to mention giving away a penalty for the only goal of the game.

Saturday was a similar story as we visited Stourbridge. Still missing Diamond and Lorraine we made 3 signings the day before the game and all 3 ended up playing a part. We managed to go 1-0 up however in the end lost 2-1. Despite saving a penalty a last-min winner was adjudged to have crossed the line. This was with 5 players missing - at least 4 of which I would suggest would have started had they been fully fit and available.

We need to get a few more points on the board but at least the FA Cup provides us with a bit of a change of pace with a visit to UCL club Deeping Rangers. Hopefully we will have too much for them, but always wary of a banana skin.
 
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#12
Not a very good start for Hitchin so far as they sit bottom of the Southern League without a point. Includes an 8-1 hammering at the hands of Needham Market. Think they lost some of their better defenders over pre season and seem to have signed a whole host of ex Luton youth players fairly late on in the pre season before the first game which may explain it. Couple of seasons ago they had a really good team but most of those lads have moved on now and they also lost there 1 decent striker in Donnelly from the looks of it. Was interested to see Isaac Galliford turn up there, he got a first team deal here and looked promising before fading into obscurity.

Still got Matt Spring going there too, hence my Luton supporting interest them! Hope they can turn it around as a good club with a great little ground at Top Field.
 

Jemfy

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4 games in for Diamonds now, and from our 3rd attempt we've managed to get some away points on the board. 6 points from 4 games is a reasonable return and we've got a couple of the harder trips of the season out of the way. We've also not been out-classed in any of our games which is encouraging. Although it's early it's worth noting that the 2 sides we've beaten are below our current 11th position, and the 2 sides who beat us are above (although somewhat to be expected due to these results of course).

At the top of the league it looks like that lot from up the A6 are going to run away with things. They have a strong squad with Marcus Kelly having joined them again along with Aaron O'Connor, and probably more players more than capable of playing a division above. I don't know what they are getting paid or how big their budget is, but I doubt it's outside of the top 3 in the division, if not the top 1 itself. I guess you have to credit them for getting the results that you might expect on paper with 5 wins from 5 so far. They already have a 5 point lead, and while things can change quickly in football (especially at this level), I don't see anyone catching them. I just hope they have it wrapped up before they visit our place on the penultimate day of the season, having them win it at Hayden Road wouldn't be nice...

Diamonds play next on Friday night, with a tough home game against Tamworth. The lambs have started the season slowly but notched their first win on Monday and are surely keen to add to that and leapfrog Diamonds in the league.
 
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#15
Since the Barton win, we've had two extremely tough games that have brought us firmly back to reality on just how difficult this season is going to be.

We first had a 3-0 loss against Bedford Town, in which we were completely outplayed by a team who have spent big to try and get back to Step 3. We then had our local derby against Peterborough Sports yesterday and, as usual (or certainly as they were doing when we last faced them in the UCL two seasons), they're chucking big money at it and are also gunning for promotion. Again, we lost (3-1 this time), but we played much better than against Bedford as we at least competed and were able to score as well (the first goal Sports have conceded all season). On the bright side, we got a huge crowd (by our standards) of 308 for the game, which will very much come in handy for our ongoing ground improvements.

To sum up how it's generally been, we've looked good going forward and have players that can cause problems, but it's defensively where it falls apart. Only having two fit centre backs and one fit right back is coming back to bite us, and we're giving away some extremely silly goals because of it (and this is without mentioning the 7-5 loss to Daventry in the FA Cup, not least because I didn't actually see that farce unfold). It also doesn't help that our midfield seems quite lightweight and easy to play through: we have players who can hassle and harry, but we need a proper midfield general to toughen us up there.

So, it's not been perfect but I take comfort in that we've played two promotion favourites back-to-back, and in the fact that our manager is good friends with the managers at St. Neots and King's Lynn, both of whom we're already talking to about getting some defensive cover in on loan as a stopgap.

It's going to take a few more games until we can see where we truly are, but I do worry that some of our players aren't quite up to the standard required this season, but we'll see. We're away at Thame United this Saturday, so hopefully we can get some more points on the board down there, although with them currently being 2nd that's going to be easier said than done.
 
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#17
We finally picked up our second win of the season today against Sutton Coldfield Town (their band weren't with them today, though), winning 3-0 after a dominant first half performance and a composed second half. As is continuing to be a common trend at this level, SCT's defence could not handle Matt Sparrow at all and he was able to get two good goals because of it (our other goal came from Tom Waumsley, and all were in the first half).

After being unlucky to lose in away games against Thame United (2-0 down after 10 minutes and eventually losing 2-1, but the better side for the rest of the match) and Welwyn Garden City (2-1 up going into second half stoppage time, only to concede two in stoppage time to lose 3-2), this was a much-needed and well-deserved boost, showing that we really can compete and survive at this level.

In fact, after today's result, only three teams (Bromsgrove Sporting, who won a game 11-0 a few weeks back; Corby Town, who won 8-1 today and Bedford Town) have scored more in the league than our 11. That being said, only four teams (three of whom are the bottom three) have conceded more than our 12, though in fairness we've played five of the top seven so far (and beaten one of those in Barton Rovers).

This will be the last game I can go to for a while (because of University), but I'll be keeping an eye on things and posting the occasional update regardless. After a County Cup game on Tuesday night, we have a couple of "easier" fixtures (based on the table, at least) against AFC Dunstable and Aylesbury United, so ideally we can get at least four points out of that and continue the recent good progress.
 

DarkSithLord

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#18
We finally picked up our second win of the season today against Sutton Coldfield Town (their band weren't with them today, though), winning 3-0 after a dominant first half performance and a composed second half. As is continuing to be a common trend at this level, SCT's defence could not handle Matt Sparrow at all and he was able to get two good goals because of it (our other goal came from Tom Waumsley, and all were in the first half).

After being unlucky to lose in away games against Thame United (2-0 down after 10 minutes and eventually losing 2-1, but the better side for the rest of the match) and Welwyn Garden City (2-1 up going into second half stoppage time, only to concede two in stoppage time to lose 3-2), this was a much-needed and well-deserved boost, showing that we really can compete and survive at this level.

In fact, after today's result, only three teams (Bromsgrove Sporting, who won a game 11-0 a few weeks back; Corby Town, who won 8-1 today and Bedford Town) have scored more in the league than our 11. That being said, only four teams (three of whom are the bottom three) have conceded more than our 12, though in fairness we've played five of the top seven so far (and beaten one of those in Barton Rovers).

This will be the last game I can go to for a while (because of University), but I'll be keeping an eye on things and posting the occasional update regardless. After a County Cup game on Tuesday night, we have a couple of "easier" fixtures (based on the table, at least) against AFC Dunstable and Aylesbury United, so ideally we can get at least four points out of that and continue the recent good progress.
What where you observations on Sutton Coldfield? We (Alfreton) play them in the FA Cup next week?
 
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#19
What where you observations on Sutton Coldfield? We (Alfreton) play them in the FA Cup next week?
Compared to some of the teams we've played this season, they generally seemed well-organised, decent at keeping the ball and very physical when necessary (overly so at times, as they should have had one sent off for violent conduct after our third goal). But, they were completely toothless up front and never truly looked like scoring.

If you have a pacey or skillful right winger, their left back will not be able to cope with him, and if you get some really tall players in the box you're likely to win most of the aerial duels, as they aren't really a tall side despite their physicality. You won't have any problems if you can get that first goal quickly, otherwise their confidence will steadily grow and they may threaten. I don't see a cupset happening for them against you, though.
 

DarkSithLord

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#20
Compared to some of the teams we've played this season, they generally seemed well-organised, decent at keeping the ball and very physical when necessary (overly so at times, as they should have had one sent off for violent conduct after our third goal). But, they were completely toothless up front and never truly looked like scoring.

If you have a pacey or skillful right winger, their left back will not be able to cope with him, and if you get some really tall players in the box you're likely to win most of the aerial duels, as they aren't really a tall side despite their physicality. You won't have any problems if you can get that first goal quickly, otherwise their confidence will steadily grow and they may threaten. I don't see a cupset happening for them against you, though.
We have several tricky right wingers and a good threat from the air even with the loss of Denton. Dont see too many issues next week then. Many thanks for the reply.
 
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#24
A great result for us today, a solid 2-1 win away at promotion-chasing Berkhamsted. Other than that, it's been a difficult month or so for us, with the distractions of the Trophy proving quite a problem in a lot of ways. The worst was the 6-1 loss away at Kidlington a few weeks ago, which I had the misfortune of watching. Thankfully, we played a lot better today, and I'll be back to regular updates for the next month or so as I'm going to be home from Uni for Christmas and able to get to all our home games.

We're still very much in that relegation race, but we're five points clear of the bottom two after today, so we just need to keep that gap, whhich we should be able to manage to do I hope.
 
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#25
Well, we're somehow on a four-game winning streak now and have jumped all the way up to 9th in the table.

First was that 2-1 win against Berkhamsted, then a 4-3 win at home against Welwyn Garden City on the following Tuesday, then a 6-2 home win against bottom side North Leigh last Saturday and a 2-0 win at home today against Dunstable Town.

It's a good thing too as we have some tough fixtures in the New Year, with Corby Town, Bedford Town, Cambridge City and Bromsgrove Sporting all visiting us in the space of a month from New Year's Day (as well as the Boxing Day derby against Peterborough Sports next). Confidence is a very real thing so we should pick up some points during that run (especially as we've proven we can beat Corby already in the Trophy and should have got a point out of Bromsgrove at their place), but it's still going to be very tough.

We're also now without key man Matt Sparrow for the next three games as he was sent off today, although I'm not sure what for. Today's game was all kinds of chaos on and off the pitch though, so honestly it's surprising only one of the 22 players were sent off. I'll just say that Dunstable Town are an absolutely vile team and leave it at that (would much rather revel in another victory instead).
 
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#26
With the town playing at Scunthorpe took myself off to Hitchin this afternoon for their derby game against Biggleswade. Hitchin not having a great season in the league although have picked up of late with a string of wins only halted by Kettering last weekend, and Biggleswade just outside the playoff places and also having quite a few ex Hitchin players in their line up and bench.

The game went by the league table, Biggleswade won it 2-0 with both goals in the second half. Was a pretty even game for the most part I felt with both teams struggling with a very very bobbly pitch but Biggleswade capitalised on a couple of Hitchin mistakes to get the win, the first a slip letting in the winger and former hitchin player to cross for a simple goal and the second a definite penalty with the otherwise quite good Hitchin keeper bringing down the Biggleswade forward.

As with all the times I’ve seen Hitchin this season they massively struggle up front, have some decent players in the back and midfield but there number 9 is a simply dreadful player, who can’t hold the ball up, doesn’t make any decent runs and is easily bullied. He even had a chance at 1-0 where the ball was literally on the line after a scramble and couldn’t turn it home. Appalling and I assume they have literally no one else as he seems to keep getting games. With pretty much any prescence up there they may have got something.

Have to say the standout player today especially first half was the Hitchin winger Alfie Cue. On loan from Dartford seemed very skillful indeed and created some decent opportunities for himself with some great runs. Seemed to be able to get a cross in most of the time and with a decent forward his work and crosses may have yiededsome end product, looked very promising although got a little bullied in the second half a little.

One funny moment where the ball clearly went out of play for a throw in by a good yard or so yet the ref played an advantage!!!! Never seen that before!

Just under 700 there so a fairly decent crowd, Hitchin may struggle if some of their fa cup funds aren’t used to get a striker in!
 
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#28
I wasn't there, but our winning streak came to an end with an inevitable 3-0 defeat away at rivals and league leaders Peterborough Sports on Boxing Day. Matt Sparrow's suspension didn't kick in until the following game.

Without him, I saw us draw 0-0 away at Barton Rovers, then get tonked 4-0 at home to promotion-chasing Corby Town on New Year's Day (slightly disappointing given that we beat them at their place in the Trophy a couple of months ago, but not disastrous either) and then draw 2-2 today away at Kempston Rovers (who had former MK Dons striker Izale McLeod playing for them).

Two points from three games doesn't sound fantastic, but it still keeps us in 11th (with 27 points from 22 games) and is good without by far and away our best player available (and with key striker Tom Waumsley also not playing for most of those games other than a five-minute cameo today). I'm also pleased with the point today because we went down to ten men for the last 15 minutes and probably should have lost in the end (and would have done if McLeod didn't miss a last minute sitter).

Next league game isn't until the 19th now, thanks to Bedford's continued involvement in the FA Trophy. On that day, we host Cambridge City, who are completely out-of-form as of late but who I'm still wary of regardless.
 

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