The summer just gone may well have been wetter than many would have liked, but the weather gods tried to make up for that by hurling the hottest day of 2023 at West London Vets’ League players as they made their seasonal bows on 9 September. Fair play to the 28 sides who battled the blistering sun (and no doubt blistering feet) to get their games on; respect due to the lot of them.
Ascot United hit the ground running
As has become the norm, the first game of the season nonetheless took place at Ascot United’s Racecourse Ground on the Friday evening. The Yellas played host to Nottsborough and a fair sized crowd – kitted out very much in flipflops and summer holiday gear – watched Dave Good’s men go through the gears impressively (for a full report on that game see here).
Sam McIntrye was in belligerent mood going forward, whilst Mikey Lewis, Nick Beard, Adam Logie and Anthony Everest all made impressive debuts. Left back Neil Corbett even managed to get on the scoresheet, too, whilst old stager Tim Standing arguably scored the goal of the night. Impressive stuff.
Ding, Dong, Doo at Chelsea
Four other games took place in the Prem over the weekend. The standout one was between arguably the two favourites for the title, FC Chelsea Vets and West London Rams.
To say that the game was action-packed would be the mother of all understatements. Lots of goals, multiple referees, re-taken penalties …. and at the end of 90 minutes of bedlam it was 5-5. Let’s just say that this game would definitely have been first up on Match of the Day.
Bank of England had a rather more straightforward day at the office. An early goal set them on their way and they ultimately won at a canter (5-1) against Poly. James O’Brien got a couple of those, the ever-reliable Farouk Ampou El Ela notched a hat-trick. Poly narrowly escaped relegation in 2022-23; one senses they could have a long season ahead in 2023-24.
Two premier league debutants were involved in the division’s other two games. Claygate travelled to Croxley and Whippet Wanderers hosted Kew Park Rangers (KPR). Claygate ran Croxley close, ultimately coming out second best in a close game. Croxley won 2-1.
The Whippets did, however, manage to get some points on the board. Victor Badu gave them an early lead with a decent strike from the edge of the box. KPR nonetheless came back well, firing in a screamer of a free-kick to level things.
The pace of the Whippets’ strikers nonetheless caused KPR problems all day, and it was that pace that led to two Whippets’ penalties. Shaun Lydon converted both as the Wanderers won 3-1.
Good days for Wandsworth and Hersham
Wandsworth Borough sit top of Division One after the first round of matches. That clearly means little at the moment but you might as well start as you mean to go on. And, indeed, Wandsworth may be the type of side that can get on a roll and mount a serious promotion challenge.
Robbie Burns (with a name like that it’s him who should be writing these reviews, you’d have thought) made his debut and he bagged a brace. Ivan Ershov – another debutant – repeated the trick as the Borough won 5-0 at Double ‘H’.
Hersham Southside also looked good. Their enigmatic player manager, Gene Shafique, injured himself in the warm up, but even with him restricted to the sidelines they won 4-0 (against West Kensington Kings). The remorseless Steve Reddings got his season up and running with one of them, Steph Smith bagged another. Jules Renner-Thomas then rounded things off by adding a couple more. Hersham could be worth keeping an eye on.
Elsewhere Civil Service will have been pleased with their 1-0 triumph against Old Actonians. With a few of Civils’ regular folks still on their respective sun loungers, they took the strain, snatching the points with full back Gavin Jardine bagging the winner with just two minutes left. The fact Civils had a bigger bench than 11-man Actonians may well also have played a role there.
Laleham & Kempton were the final side in Div 1 to register three points; they beat Army Crusaders. The Army suffered a bit of an availability meltdown, meaning 62 year old Andy Campbell – replete with artificial hip – had to step in to bring them up to 11 men.
Laleham leapt into an early lead and it looked at one point like they were going to run away with things. Jimmy Blair then scored a penalty to bring it back to 3-2 before then blasting another over the bar. Laleham re-grouped and ultimately took their chances to move further ahead; 5-2 it ended.
Five goal thrillers all round in DIv 2
With Old Lyonians v Bank of England II falling foul of the weather, three games took place in Division Two. All three ended 3-2.
Old Tiffs have re-grouped in the summer and they’ll be pleased to have got a win on the board. They came through 3-2 against the ever-dangerous Jamrock. Latimer Road, newly promoted from Div 3, will also have been pleased with their efforts; they beat league debutants Putney Vale Rangers by the same scoreline.
Ascot United’s 2s came out on top in their five goal contest, as the Yellas and Old Meadonians fried in the sun at Dukes Meadow (a full report on this one is available here). Stuart Birkett was at the centre of most things Ascot did well, rounding the keeper nicely to give the visitors the lead before running the length of the pitch to score the winner with ten minutes left. Jez Myhan added the second inbetween.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Ascot; keeper Rob Stockford suffered a fracture of his left leg and is going to be out for quite some time. He’d been magnificent in his first half hour of league football for Ascot United, too.
Meadonians were decent value though, and they’ll feel aggrieved that they ultimately came away from the game with nothing. Profligate finishing was the issue. Then again, as the pundits on the gogglebox would say, they were at least getting in good positions.
Xavs and Claygate at a canter in Div 3
The two games that took place in Division Three weren’t nearly as close as those in Division Two.
Clapham Old Xaverians showed last season that on their day they can be a really decent side. It looks like Saturday was indeed one of those days; they beat MMB 6-0. MMB have just come down from Division Two and they’ll be hoping that not every week is like this. To be fair, the smart money will be on Xavs being much nearer the top of the table come April than the bottom.
Claygate Royals Hounds will also be very pleased with their first outing of the campaign. They overcame league newcomers Ruislip Rangers 5-1. Details on who scored when are sketchy, but it’s nonetheless safe to assume that the Hounds will have been pleased to kick their season off with such an emphatic win.
Saturday 16 September is a Supervets week and three games are planned there. Claygate, Croxley Green and Chelsea are hosting.
There is, however, one league game (in Division Three) scheduled, too. AFC Hampton will be kicking off their season at their Sunbury home when they welcome Lighthouse Molesey.
The next full round of league fixture then follow the week after (22/23 September). West London Rams v Whippet Wanderers looks to be the standout fixture there. Could be a very interesting one.
Dan Hough - email@example.com