Boxing Day non-league previews... plenty of games to go and enjoy!
© Copyright Stephen Waller
The Boxing Day non-league football programme is always one of the highlights of the season. MIKE BACON takes a look at many of today’s big games.
Non-league football on Boxing Day has long been a grand tradition.
Time to get out into the fresh air after a day of merriment, games, turkey and mince pies, and take in a non-league game of football.
And what cracking games are on offer today – in main local derbies – invariably attracting some of the largest crowds of the season.
So, where to start?
Well, let’s start at the top, the region’s highest-placed non-league sides are BRAINTREE TOWN and CHELMSFORD (Step 2) – and the National League makes sure there is plenty of derby fare over the Christmas break.
At Cressing Road this afternoon the Iron and the Clarets clash (3pm) in what is a real Christmas cracker. Both sides are vying for the automatic promotion spot to the National League, while both will fancy their hopes of a play-off place.
If you take in part one today – don’t forget there is a part two, at Chelmsford on New Year’s Day!
From Step 2 of the non-league pyramid, to Step 3.
LEISTON are currently the top Suffolk side in Bostik Premier.
Glen Driver’s team have recovered from a small blip, to force themselves back into play-off contention. Today (1pm kick-off), the Blues entertain their neighbours from just up the A12, LOWESTOFT TOWN.
These two teams invariably have good contests and with a good travelling support from the Trawlerboys, quite an atmosphere should prevail.
NEEDHAM MARKET travel across the border to BRIGHTLINGSEA REGENT this afternoon (1pm kick-off).
The R’s have done well in their first-ever season at this level despite former boss James Webster leaving for Aveley in October. Mid-table and with a decent home record, the home side will fancy their chances against a Marketmen side who have yet to really get going.
However, Richard Wilkins, the Needham boss, is glad former injured players, John Sands and Sam Nunn are now back. Needham need to start picking up points.
At Step 4, in Bostik North, MALDON & TIPTREE versus HEYBRIDGE (3pm) is the most local of all local derbies.
Only a couple of miles separate the two clubs, with the Swifts enjoying the most incredible of seasons.
League-wise Heybridge are mid-table – but it’s not until you realise how few league games they have played that you can see why.
They have eight or nine games in hand on most clubs above them, mainly because of terrific cup runs, firstly in the FA Cup, where they lost at Exeter – and now an FA Trophy run they are still currently on after putting out National South side, Hampton & Richmond last week.
Maldon & Tiptree are doing well too, a play-off place well within their grasp. For both teams this is a tough game.
BURY TOWN keep threatening to break into the play-offs but a host of draws in recent games have seen them slip down the table.
Today, they entertain SOHAM TOWN RANGERS at Ram Meadow (1pm) – both teams needing a good festive period to reignite their season. WITHAM TOWN travel to BARKING (1pm). This will be a test for the Spa Road side as Barking have a good home record.
In west Suffolk, MILDENHALL TOWN and AFC SUDBURY clash at Recreation Way (1pm).
Mildenhall were promoted to Step 4 last season and enjoyed a good FA Trophy run. But their league form hasn’t been the best, then again neither has Mark Morsley’s AFC Sudbury. Since Morsley came in to replace Jamie Godbold, Sudbury have only won three of 14 league starts upto last Saturday. Both teams will fancy getting the three points from this one.
In the Thurlow Nunn Premier Division (Step 5), there are Boxing Day local derbies galore – all kicking off at 11am.
At Humber Doucy Lane, IPSWICH WANDERERS welcome league leaders FELIXSTOWE & WALTON.
FC CLACTON and WIVENHOE are involved in an Essex derby, while it should be an excellent game at STANWAY, where the visitors are BRANTHAM.
KIRKLEY & PAKEFIELD and WROXHAM meeting in a Suffolk/Norfolk clash, while LONG MELFORD entertain HADLEIGH, NEWMARKET are at home to GODMANCHESTER, STOWMARKET are at home to WALSHAM and THETFORD entertain FAKENHAM.
In Division One (Step 6), DISS TOWN’s home clash with DEBENHAM is the pick of the games.