After six long and peculiar months the wait is finally over and football is back! On Thursday 15th of October the first games of the 2020/21 campaign will kick-off and start a new chapter for the ESPFA that will introduce regional divisions and a national cup.
In #MatchweekOne of the 2020/21 season, the key matchup of the week comes from the Midlands Division where Rushall Olympic (Amber) Travel to Stafford Rangers.
Before the season was shut down due to the Covid-19 outbreak, Stafford Rangers were up in second place in the JOMA Division which is a great achievement for a side in just their first year of the programme. When asked about the start of the season, Stafford Rangers academy coach Alex Meechan said: ‘The lads will be excited, the music will be on in the dressing rooms and they’ll want to do well. I think the togetherness of the group [is important], I noticed last year, even though it was our first year together, I thought the camaraderie between the lads, not only in classroom but on the football field was second to none and that is always refreshing to see.’
With a talented team made up of mostly second year students now, Stafford should be confident in making a push for competing for the Midlands Division title and Stafford Rangers student, Harry Goodwin believes his side can do that this season: ‘For the upcoming season I am most excited about playing football with my mates every week but also I believe with the players in our squad we can achieve a lot this season.’
Rushall Olympic enjoyed a strong first season with the ESPFA last year, Finishing third in the league and just one point behind Kidlington in second whilst also having a game in hand on them. They also reached the semi-final of the SLFA Cup and were due to play their Birmingham rivals, Sutton Coldfield Town for a place in the final.
After a brilliant summer of recruitment for their second year on the programme, Rushall Olympic will now be putting forward two teams for this years campaign. Rushall Olympic (Amber) will be competing in the Midlands division and Rushall Olympic (Black) will remain in the southern division.
This matchup will be a strongly contested game between two talented sides, both starting their second year on the programme.
Runcorn Linnets v Witton Albion
The Northern Division opens up with what will be a strongly contested match between Runcorn Linnets and Witton Albion. This will be the first time the sides have met having been in different divisions last year. Witton Albion, who finished 7th in the JOMA Division won three out of their eight games played last season, and managed to take the scalp of Mickleover who led the league all season long. Runcorn on the other hand had a successful season, finishing 4th in the Sports Traider Division and will be looking start their campaign with a win. Both teams are very capable of playing some brilliant football and with an extra year of experience under their belts and some talented new recruits joining the programme, this makes for a brilliant opening fixture.
Brighouse Town v Ossett United
After a respectable first season on the programme where they finished 6th in the Sports Traider Division, Brighouse town host their West Yorkshire rivals Ossett United. Similar to Runcorn Linnets v Witton, this will also be the first time the sides have met due to being in different divisions, with Ossett United competing in the Sports Traider Division last year where they finished 5th.
Radcliffe v Mossley
In the Greater Manchester derby, Mossley travel to Radcliffe who have been ever present on the programme, having joined as a pilot club back in 2015. In last season’s JOMA Divison, 8 points separated the sides with Mossley finishing 8th and Radcliffe up in 5th. In the first meeting between the two sides last year, Radcliffe ran riot, winning 8-2 but Mossley came back stronger in the second meeting, forcing a 1-1 draw.
Mickleover (Black) v Belper Town
Mickleover (Black) kick off the season by welcoming a local Derbyshire rival, Belper Town to the Don Ammet Arena. Mickleover (Black) had a very strong year in the Sports Traider Division, losing just one game all year and ending the season in second place, three points behind Widnes at the top of the league while also having four games in hand on the league leaders. When the teams met last year, Mickleover were the convincing winners with an 8-0 victory so Belper Town will be looking to get revenge in their first fixture of the season.
Frome Town v Swindon Supermarine
The Southern Division begins with Swindon Supermarine heading down to face Frome Town. There wasn’t much to separate the two sides in the 2019/20 season, with Swindon finishing five points ahead of The Robins and the only meeting between them on the opening day oif the season ending in a 1-1 draw. Expect a very competitive game from this opening fixture with both sides looking to start the season with a win.
Yate Town v Kidlington
After an impressive 5-1 win in the FA Youth cup over Bradford Town, Yate travel to Rushall Olympic (Black) for their first fixture of the 2020/21 Southern Division campaign. Despite finishing 5th last season, Yate Town possess some real fire power up front with SLFA Golden boot joint-winner Ali Albouti and Emmanuel Allen-Burnett upfront who combined for 14 goals between them. Rushall Olympic (Black) will look to counter this with their strong defence that features Callum Parker, who was named in the SLFA Team of the Year. When the sides met last year, Rushall Olympic put in a fantastic performance, winning 4-1 back in November.
Chesham United v Kidlington
The Generals host Kidlington in their first fixture of the 2020/21 season. After a busy preseason in which Chesham have played Hamworth United in the FA Youth Cup, they will be looking to improve on their 6th place finish from last year. Kidlington were very impressive in their first season in the SLFA, finishing second in the league and also reaching the semi-final of the SLFA Cup. When the sides met last year, it was Kidlington who were the victors winning 1-3 in the away fixture and 6-1 in the home fixture thanks to a hat trick from Joe Langdon, who was named as the 2019/20 SLFA Player of the Season.