2024 THE YEAR AHEAD IN LEAGUE & CUPS
Kentisbeare head into 2024 as Premier division leaders but a look at their nearest rivals suggests there could be a real charge to collect the League’s major trophy. Reigning champions Alphington who have put in a request to move up to the Devon League next season are probably favourites, but a look at their challengers means they cannot afford much leeway. Winkleigh, Colyton, Lapford and Upottery are not too far adrift and all quite capable, but also Exeter University Res and Clyst Valley who although in the bottom half of the table could still feature as neither has dropped many points. Their problem lies with a catch-up and both still face a 20 match schedule to the end of the season.
In the basement Okehampton Argyle Res with just four points and Elmore Res still on a blank, know the task they face.
Division One leaders St Martins have reached the halfway mark with a five points cushion, but they have a real rivalry with Exeter University 3rds who recently won at Minster Park to stake their claim. The college have matches in hand but they also have a big interest in retaining the Devon County Senior cup (see below), so a lot to contemplate. Teignmouth Res still might feel they are in the hunt and also Hatherleigh Town, East Budleigh and Newton St Cyres currently in midtable, and in reality not that far adrift if they get a good run going.
The top half of Division Two all retain an interest in the title although leaders Westexe Park Rangers with matches in hand are the team to catch. Central and the University 4ths might be their main rivals, but some big games to look forward to especially when you note that second place Beer Albion Res have dropped more points than 7th place Exmouth Spartans, and as many as Feniton Res down in 10th place.
Another momentous scrap is on for the Division Three title as well although leaders Budleigh Salterton Res sit four points clear. Second place Witheridge remain unbeaten, while Alphington Res, Broadclyst and Heavitree United are far from out of the equation.
Any of the top six in Division Four led by Bickleigh will be hoping that a good new year will get them in the running. Watch out for some cracking games to come and even AFC Morchard Bishop in seventh spot are looking to get in the mix.
Division Five suffered a depletion in numbers with just nine clubs remaining, and as things stand leaders Starcross Dons have double the points of their nearest challengers Exeter University 7ths. Yet it might still get interesting if the likes of St Martins Res, Whipton & Pinhoe and Upottery Res can get a good run under their belts.
Division Six looks to be a duel between the Railway FC and Otterton, but a long way to go yet, compared to the situation in Division Seven where any of the top current five led by Uplowman Athletic are in the mix.
None of the top three in Division Eight Alphington 3rds, Heavitree United Res and Lympstone Res have yet to taste defeat, and at this stage even I would bet money one of this trio becoming champions.
As for the League’s interest in County cup glory the recent loss of Alphington means our Devon Premier cup interest is over, but with four of our teams involved in the quarter finals of the Devon Senior cup we have every hope the trophy will again be coming to East Devon, The cup holders Exeter University 3rds defend their crown at Central FC in February, and both Halwill and Hatherleigh Town have home advantage for their ties the same day.
The League also has three contenders for the Devon Intermediate cup with the tie between City Raiders and Starcross Dons ensuring one semi final place, and the Railway FC with home advantage against Newton Abbot 66 Res.
Outside of the County cups there will be a new name on the East Devon Senior cup currently held by Alphington as they have been knocked out by Lyme Regis. Only four ties have been resolved to date, so a long way to go. A reminder that his competition is proudly one of Devons oldest and in 1904 the first ever beaten finalists Sidwells United immediately changed their name to become Exeter City.
The Bill Slee cup holders Hemyock have a big second round tie at AFC Morchard Bishop the 2009 winners. So again many ties yet to be resolved.
The Heart of Oak are the Football Express cup holders but as they have moved into senior football cannot take part. Five ties still to be sorted to get to the quarter final stage.
City Raiders Res are the Geary cup holders and they face a first round tie at Farway Res to defend their trophy. However no date for this clash yet announced.
Whatever lies ahead a Happy new year to all our clubs in League and cup.
Friday 29th December 2023