Canvey Island players in a huddle – Credit: @AmyEvePhotos
The title race in the Premier League between Arsenal and Manchester City may be dominating the headlines at the moment, but less is being said about the title race in the Isthmian Premier Division.
In the seventh tier of English football, it has been a compelling watch, with a number of teams all desperate to be occupants of the Vanarama National League South.
But what is so unique about the title race in the Isthmian Premier Division and who has the upper hand as we approach the run-in?
Two Essex-based sides, Aveley and Canvey Island, are in the title race and have a chance of being promoted this season. The latter was promoted after a dramatic penalty shootout victory over Brentwood Town in the Isthmian North Division play-off final last season.
Aveley meanwhile finished top of the table with 80 points to claim the title. They were both deservedly promoted but not many expected them to have the season that they have had so far.
The Millers, managed by ex-Concord Rangers manager Danny Scopes, currently sit in fourth place. The Gulls meanwhile are on the same number of points but a place above them in third on goal difference.
Let’s start by looking at third-placed Canvey and Brad Wellman’s side have won their last five and they are unbeaten in ten. In this run, they have secured some impressive wins – most notably a 2-0 away win over fellow promotion hopefuls Lewes. The Rooks were unbeaten at home until Canvey came to town, emphasising how good of a side they are.
The Gulls have also been helped by having an in-form striker at their disposal. Bradley Sach has 22 league goals to his name so far this season and he has been key in them having a successful season. The former Bowers & Pitsea man has notched five in his last seven and he will be looking to carry that on in the remaining games of the season.
Scopes’ side, similarly to Canvey, are on an excellent run of form. They haven’t lost since 21st January in a 1-0 home defeat to Cray Wanderers and following that loss, the Millers have won ten and drawn two in the league.
Aveley and Canvey have two main competitors who are also looking to earn promotion – Bishop’s Stortford and Hornchurch. Stortford are currently top while Hornchurch are two points behind them in second place. Both have the expectation of being promoted while the two Essex sides have a lot less pressure on them.
Aveley have gone 12 without defeat so they will have momentum on their side as we approach the business end of the campaign. In that run, they have shown that they can compete with the best teams in the division – as shown with a 2-1 away with over Hornchurch.
Also, they have been helped by having young Southend United loanee Oli Coker. The 20-year-old has shone since his arrival at Parkside in January and he has scored six goals in all competitions. Also, striker George Sykes has had an impressive season, notching 15 league goals.
Aveley have four tough games coming up which will test whether they will be in the sixth tier next season. They take on Bishop’s Stortford on Saturday, before matches against Canvey, Horsham and Enfield Town – all who sit in the top eight. It has to be said that Aveley have the harder run-in compared to the other teams fighting for the title – this can bring its up and downsides.
Canvey are on the road to relegation-threatened Kingstonian on Saturday and then face Aveley, Folkestone Invicta and Lewes. The game between Canvey and Aveley could be a pivotal one not only because it is an Essex Derby, but it could also have huge effects on the race for the title.
Only two points separate first and fourth and with only a handful of games remaining, this title race will go right down to the wire.