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  • Writer's pictureRob Stevens

The battle for Premier Division survival set to heat up a cold winter early on in the New Year

PICTURE: The bottom half of the East Berkshire League Premier Division table at the Christmas Break with just eight points separating the bottom six sides, with some crucial matches to come early on in the New Year.

The battle for survival in the East Berkshire League Premier Division is set to intensify in the New Year.

Only eight points separates the bottom team from a mid-table position at the Christmas break, so all the sides in the bottom half of the league will have some degree of uncertainty when the season resumes on Saturday 6 January.

The bottom three teams in the table will be relegated at the end of the season and currently two of those sides were promoted as Champions and Runners-Up in Division One last term; Stoke Poges and Sandhurst Reds - proving there is a marked step up in quality between the two tiers in the E.B.F.L.

A young and talented Sandhurst Reds team continued to improve throughout the duration of the last campaign and the Reds eventually finished second behind winners, Stoke Poges, but, losing players for a variety reasons has made the transition to top-flight football more difficult for them. Sandhurst currently prop up the table with just a single win from seven matches and now six points from safety although they have played the fewest matches.

The start to the New Year will be crucial for The Reds as five or their first six league matches are all against teams also in the bottom half of the table but, having conceded the second-most goals in the Autumn, Sandhurst will have to tighten-up in defence to have a chance of avoiding relegation.

Stoke Poges lost just a single game when running away with the Division One title last season but, find themselves second from bottom and three points below the relegation line. Poges have shown a small and recent upturn however, narrowly beating Sandhurst in late November before holding Virginia Water Reserves to what could be a crucial goalless draw just before the start to the Winter break. And, the team did bag a surprise win against title challenges Singh Sabha back in mid-September.

One disadvantage for Stoke Poges is the fact the team has played more matches than those around them so far but, they have the second best defensive record of all the sides in the bottom half, and will give themselves a huge confidence boost if they can take all three points from a trip to Sandhurst when the campaign recommences on 6 January.

A surprise, perhaps, is that Southcote is the third team heading into the Winter break in the relegation zone having finished runners-up in their first-ever season in the Premier Division last year. Admittedly, Southcote had a tough Autumn having played Singh Sabha twice and suffering defeat to Old Windsor in a Showcase Match event but, heavy loses to both Hype Train and Pundit might be more unexpected given last season’s heroics.

Scoring goals will not be a problem for the Reading-based outfit and a run of matches at home early on in the New Year might be helpful but, they will be keen to take advantage and put some points on the board to push closer to mid-table respectability.

Chalvey Sports Reserves climbed up to places to eighth position and therefore break for Christmas outside of the bottom three thanks to a 4-0 win against Hype Train at George Pitcher Memorial Ground on Saturday. It was only a second win this season for The Stabmonks and ends a run of five successive defeats. Scoring goals was previously an issue for Chalvey having netted just twice in the previous five games.

It will be a difficult start to the New Year for Chalvey with both Singh Sabha and Frontline set to pay a visit to the memorial ground however, games with Pundit, Sandhurst and Stoke Poges, all in the opening five weeks of the restart, might present a better opportunity to secure some valuable points.

A run of five matches without a win in the League has seen Pundit slip to seventh place and just a single point above the drop zone. Scoring goals has been a recent issue, netting just three times in those five games. In fact, only the bottom two have found the back of the net fewer times than Pundit since the start to the season.

Pundit do know how to beat the sides around them however, and can boast the fact the team eliminated opposition from the Hellenic League in Berks & Bucks F.A. cup competition earlier in the campaign so perhaps, we can back this side to pull clear of trouble. Three of the first five league matches in the New Year for Pundit are all at home and against sides currently below them in the table.

Hype Train break for Christmas with mid-table respectively although just three points above the relegation zone and having played more than any other side below them in the table. Their form has been mixed so far this season with impressive wins over Old Windsor, Britwell United, Southcote and Frontline (that is three of the current top four) scattered amongst defeats to Chalvey Sports Reserves twice and Sandhurst Reds, both below The Train in the standings.

Goals from Phil Newport could provide the key to their survival, and indeed their chances of catching the top half, and Hype Train will have a say in what happens at the bottom of the table with both Pundit and Sandhurst set to travel to Calcot Recreation Ground early on in the New Year.

Key dates early on in the New Year

6 January - Sandhurst Reds v Stoke Poges

13 January - Hype Train v Sandhurst Reds and Pundit v Chalvey Sports Reserves

27 January - Sandhurst Reds v Chalvey Sports Reserves

3 February - Chalvey Sports Reserves v Stoke Poges and Hype Train v Pundit

10 February - Pundit v Stoke Poges and Southcote v Sandhurst Reds

24 February - Pundit v Sandhurst Reds and Southcote v Chalvey Sports Reserves

To enter the East Berkshire Football League ahead of the 2024/25 season, or for further information about the league, or an entry form for the upcoming season, please email the team at


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