Isthmian Football League North Division Season Preview 2021/2022
By Andrew Dunn
Providing we get an uninterrupted football season; Maldon & Tiptree will be looking to finally secure promotion from the Isthmian League North.
The Jammers were on course for the championship when the 2019/20 season got curtailed. They were 14 points clear at the top of the table at the time, but were cruelly denied the title due to the onset of the pandemic. That would have rounded off a truly remarkable campaign for the Essex outfit who famously knocked out Leyton Orient in the FA Cup before being narrowly beaten by Newport County in a televised second round tie.
In the handful of matches played last season, they were in third spot, and had already got 3 games in hand on the leaders at the time of when the season was abandoned. So, the expectation would be to see them challenge again, but they will be without the services of prolific striker Jerome Slew who last October signed for Wealdstone.
Leading the table at the time of the curtailment last season was Tilbury. The Essex club have excitement off the field with a new stadium development and followers of The Dockers would dearly love their team to play at a higher level. It would be wrong to rule them out from challenging again, especially if they get off to a decent start.
Bury Town could be in for a strong campaign. They have kept the remainder of the team from last season, and manager Ben Chenery has a squad full of experience with some players having performed at a higher level. You could also say the same for Heybridge Swifts who are always there or thereabouts and with former Southend Manager Steve Tillson and ex-West Ham player Julian Dicks on the coaching staff, they could see themselves among the challengers for automatic promotion come the end of the season.
Grays Athletic are another who could be seen as possible contenders. They have been boosted by the signing of prolific striker David Knight who was the top scorer in non-league football during the 2018/19 season when he bagged 43 goals whilst at Bowers & Pitsea. Grays have also signed striker Danny Gould from Histon, who this season along with Soham and Cambridge City move from the Isthmian North to the Northern Premier League Midland Division.
As for outsiders, here are two teams who might surprise a few. First Dereham Town. They play some decent football under the guidance of Manager, Adam Gusterson. He has boosted the squad by two significant signings in the shape of strikers Shaun Bammant and Sam Mulready. Bammant signs from Lowestoft and this will be his second spell at Dereham. Whilst Mulready joins from Soham Town Rangers. If both of these start scoring goals, they could form a formidable strike partnership.
The other team who could be a surprise package is Stowmarket Town who are newcomers to the division after gaining promotion from the Thurlow Nunn League. Prolific striker Josh Mayhew has committed for the new season, and if he starts scoring then they could be a team to watch. Winning has become a habit for them in recent years and it would be wrong to think they would struggle in their debut season at a higher level.
Other newcomers are Hashtag United and Barking who will be looking to get off to a good start in their new surrounds. Whilst teams such as Hullbridge Sports and Witham Town have struggled in recent seasons and will be looking to steer clear of the relegation spots throughout the season.
So, expect a competitive division, and my top 3 prediction would be:
Maldon & Tiptree.
1: AFC Sudbury, 2: Aveley & Grays Athletic (Groundshare), 3: Barking & Romford (Groundshare), 4: Basildon United, 5: Brentwood United, 6: Bury Town, 7: Canvey Island, 8: Coggeshall Town, 9: Dereham Town, 10: Felixstowe & Walton United, 11: Great Wakering Rovers, 12: Hashtag United, 13: Heybridge Swifts, 14: Hullbridge Sports, 15: Maldon & Tiptree, 16: Stowmarket Town, 17: Tilbury, 18: Witham Town
Opening day fixtures: Saturday 14th August 2021
AFC Sudbury v Aveley Dereham Town v Heybridge Swifts Felixstowe & Walton United v Basildon United Grays Athletic v Bury Town Great Wakering Rovers v Witham Town Hullbridge Sports v Barking Romford v Maldon & Tiptree Stowmarket Town v Canvey Island Tilbury v Brentwood United