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The first part of 2022 has served up some excellent drama across both the North Division and the South Division. Runcorn Linnets were crowned as North Division champions with three games still to play but in the South Division, a two-horse race between Rushall Olympic (Amber) and Kidlington is still wide open.

Having won the North Division in the 2020/21 season, Runcorn Linnets sealed back-to-back titles in #MatchweekSixteen after Skelmersdale drew to Mickleover which meant the Linnets could not be caught. #ESPFACheshire student and Runcorn Linnets academy player, Lucas Wilson is a second-year student who enjoyed a title winning season with Runcorn last year as well and is delighted to be retaining the title. He said: “Of course its brilliant for us players to retain the North division title Again, we set out our goals at the beginning of the season and this was a clear target for the boys.” Runcorn are a team blessed with a lot of very talented footballers but Lucas believes that it is the teams work rate and hungriness that has lead them to be so successful in the past two years: “I feel like our ruthlessness as a collective is really what made us stand out from the rest of the pack, keeping our standards so high even when we could of taken our foot off the accelerator at times this season. Also, by Keeping everyone motivated in training and matches by not only having our overall targets, but individual targets we wished to achieve.”

Despite having already wrapped up the division title with three games still left to play, there is a feeling in the Runcorn camp that they are not finished just yet. There’s is still the North Cup competition to play and they will face the winners of the South Division in a National final, not to mention that they can finish the season unbeaten. Kai Phillpott, another #ESPFACheshire student and Runcorn Linnets academy player says his side are aiming to win it all this season: “The cup is a very important thing for us, as this is a true showing of character in one-off fixtures, we believe and so far, have shown our quality and strength when playing against every side in the northern division. However, the cup brings different tests, as for both sides every game is a 'cup final' which we must respect and put 110% into for every minute of every game. The only thing I would add, is that for us the league isn't over yet, we have 3 games left, and we will put as much into them as we did the previous 9, our team doesn't want to settle.”

In the South Division, the title race is going down to the wire and Kidlington and Rushall Olympic (Amber) are still in pursuit. Rushall Olympic (Amber) are currently in pole position, having played 11 games, won eight, drawn two and lost one. Kidlington have played a game less and have won seven, drawn two and lost one. What does set the pics apart is their mightily impressive goal difference, scoring a whopping 47 goals and conceding just 11. This is 25 goals better than Kidlington’s who have conceded the same amount as The Pics but scored 22. Cobie Hodgkiss, an #ESPFAWestMidlands student and Rushall Olympic (Amber) academy player believes his team set high standards and are confident that they will be the ones to lift the trophy at the end of the season. He said: We have done brilliant to gain such an advantage with the goal difference, our mentality hasn’t changed since the first game of the season against Carlton. We have to win the game by being disciplined and keep a high pace intensity. As long as we do this, I’m very confident in the lads to get that win and win the South Division title.”

Kidlington are a very ambitious, close-knit side and despite needing to win both of their remaining fixtures and need Rushall Olympic (Amber) to drop points, they are still hopeful that they can get their hands on the trophy. Chandra Limbu, Kidlington’s academy captain and #ESPFAOxfordshire student says: “We still feel good, and we still believe we can get something out of these two games. We know it's not over till the final matchday and we will push for every result till the season ends. We know it’s out of our control however this still doesn't stop us winning games and scoring more goals if we need to so we will still be hungry to get the 6 points to finish of the season strong.”

The 2021/22 season has continued to provide high-quality football with close competitive games, and we eagerly await to see how both competitions play out. To all the staff and students who have played a part in making this year’s games programme a resounding success, we thank you and look forward to seeing you back out on the pitch again this week.

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