Finally, we continue with the look at Blues’ opponents as we return to the Isthmian League after a 14 year break.
2017/18 -5th Bostik South 87 pts/46 games – won play-offs.
It may have been 14 years since we last played in the Isthmian League, but it’s been over three times as long since we played arguably the most famous amateur club in the world. The last meeting saw Blues romp to a 6-0 win at Rhodes Avenue in December 1973, a result that completed a double for the Blues as we’d beaten them 2-0 at Tooting & Mitcham’s Sandy Lane ground. That was their last season in the top flight of the Isthmian as, after four straight bottom placed finishes, they were relegated to the newly formed second division. Since then they’ve spent over a decade outside the Isthmian League, but securing their own ground in Tolworth saw them rejuvenated and after sneaking into the play-offs, wins at Greenwich Borough and at home against Walton Casuals in the play-offs saw them win promotion. Crowds were also up, to 195.
2017/18 – 14h, 58pts/46 games
This isn’t the club who piped us to promotion from Isthmian Division One in 1993 by watering their pitch and making it a quagmire when we visited (yep, a quarter of a century later, I’m still bitter), but one formed in 1999. They “absorbed” their neighbours (whatever that means) at the end of last season and have made rapid progress since their formation. They shared at Dorking’s Meadowbank ground before the ground was upgraded in £5million redevelopment which included an artificial pitch, and renamed Meadowbank Park. After back-to-back runners-up spots in Division One South, they found life a lot tougher in the Premier Division but did reach the third qualifying round of the both the FA Cup and Trophy before bowing out against Concord Rangers and Havant & Waterlooville respectively.
2017/18 – 17h, 56pts/46 games
Another name that will be familiar to Blues fans, but not the club we regularly played in our Isthmian days. Town were formed in 2001 as a fan-led breakaway from the now defunct Enfield FC after it became clear that their owner was never taking the club back to north London following the sale of Southbury Road and a “temporary” ground share at Boreham Wood. After two titles and two top four finished in four Essex Senior League seasons, they spent a year in the Southern League and have spent the last 12 seasons in the Isthmian – the first six in Division One North followed by as many in the Premier Division. A six game FA Cup run saw them bow out in a home fourth qualifying round replay against Maidstone United last season but the FA Trophy saw them go out at the first hurdle against Royston Town. They play at the Queen Elizabeth II Stadium which is opposite the old home of Enfield FC and is about as good as an athletics stadium can be for staging football. And despite a poor season, crowds in 2017/18 were still 405. While it will be our first league meeting, we did take time off from traipsing around the north in 2012/13 to win 4-1 in north London in the FA Cup thanks partly to a sparkling Ricky Sappleton display.
2017/18 – 4th, 85pts/46 games
A century of goals wasn’t enough for Invicta to get promoted last season as they missed out in the play-offs. They also reached the final qualifying round of the FA Cup before losing at Slough Town but lost on penalties against Leiston in the first stage of the Trophy. They were fifth best supported team in the division, with an average of 450 attending games at the 4,000 capacity Cheriton Road. When Folkestone folded in 1990, Invicta were playing local league football in nearby Hythe. However, they returned to the town in 1991, taking over Folkestone’s old Cheriton Road in 1991 and rapidly moved up the pyramid. They were one of the clubs transferred from the Southern League to the Isthmian in the 2004 reorganisation which saw Conference North & South formed and have split their 14 years in the competition between the Southern and Premier divisions. Next season will see the first meetings between the clubs.