Boxing Day non-league clashes offer some exciting action
PUBLISHED: 10:40 24 December 2019 | UPDATED: 11:51 24 December 2019
There are not so many non-league football Boxing Day fixtures this season as in previous years. But the ones that do take place offer some fantastic action. MIKE BACON takes a look
It hasn't been an easy start to the new 2019/20 season for Suffolk clubs in the Southern League Central Premier Division.
Needham Market, Lowestoft Town and Leiston all find themselves in the bottom half of the table - the latter battling hard to get out of the bottom three after a very difficult start to the campaign.
It's proving a tough league for the cream of Suffolk non-league teams, with many of the midland sides they face proving tough opposition - and the play-offs look a distance off for any of them.
But all three are in action on Boxing Day afternoon with the clash at Crown Meadow, between Lowestoft and Leiston of huge significance for both, kick-off 1pm.
Two wins and a draw for Jamie Godbold's side in their last three league games have given the Trawlerboys a pep going into the festive period and has lifted them away from the bottom three.
Leiston are enduring a tough campaign.
Stuart Boardley began the season as coach before leaving and Ian Cornforth taking over.
The exodus of so many players in the summer and into the start of the season has left a huge void, but with Glen Driver back at the helm, new players have been found and two draws and a win in their last four games has seen green shoots of recovery at Victory Road.
Needham Market have endured a less stressful start to the season, albeit a tad frustrating.
Leads lost and points dropped late on in games has stifled Richard Wilkins' side from being further up the table than their current 14th position.
However, their next four games, including Boxing Day's home clash with St Ives (1pm ko), sees the Marketmen take on sides currently all below them in the table - including the big New Year's Day clash at Leiston.
A succession of good results would push Needham into the top ten and a more serious assault on the play-offs going into 2020. They have the squad to do so.
In National League South, it's the big Essex derby at Chelmsford where Braintree Town are the visitors on Boxing Day (3pm.)
In a tight division, both sides rightly harbour play-off ambitions.
In Isthmian North the game of the day on Boxing Day is at Park Drive, where unbeaten league leaders Maldon & Tiptree entertain their neighbours from a mile away, Heybridge Swifts (3pm ko).
Maldon have enjoyed a fantastic season so far, including that wonderful FA Cup run.
But it's back to league business now for Wayne Brown's side up against a Swifts team sitting in the play-offs.
Back in Suffolk and all roads lead to Ram Meadow on Boxing Day, where third-placed Bury Town continue to strive for at least a play-off place as they entertain Soham Town Rangers (1pm ko)
Ben Chenery's side are in a good position with games in hand on many of those below them challenging for a play-off place. Could this be Bury's season to get back to Step 3?
Coggeshall are again enjoying a steady season and are in the play-off picture. They entertain a Witham side on Boxing Day, who have been boosted by two league wins on the bounce - at Soham and at home to Basildon (3pm ko).
Felixstowe & Walton are not in action until Saturday when they entertain Basildon, while AFC Sudbury don't have a game until New Year's Day - when they entertain Histon.
Boxing Day fixtures in the Eastern Counties League have become less prevalent in recent years - it used to be a full fixture list with teams hoping to cash in on big crowds.
However, a couple are still taking place on Boxing Day.
The game at Gorleston, between the home side and Kirkley & Pakefield is likely to get a big crowd, (11am ko). And Gorleston very much need the points as they sit second bottom embarking on the first of three home games on the bounce.
On Friday night, both Ely and Thetford are at home in league clashes
Back to Boxing Day and in Division One North, Ipswich Wanderers entertain AFC Sudbury Reserves (11am) in a clash the home team could do with winning after a disappointing result at Lakenheath on Saturday.
And then on Friday night both Framligham and Haverhill Borough are at home in evening kick-offs against Felixstowe & Walton reserves and Lakenheath respectively.