Walthamstow will return to the Southern League after 16 years, as The FA announced the step four league allocations today.
For Stow, it was always going to be a close call as to whether they’d go into the Southern League Central Division, or the Isthmain League North; the league which the Essex Senior traditionally feeds to, and where Stow played for their last eight seasons at step 4.
Perhaps most interestingly is that New Salamis, playing at Haringey Borough’s ground – five miles west of Walthamstow – will be in the Isthmian Division 1 North. Stow and Salamis will probably be passing each other most weekends on the A406.
Waltham Abbey will be Stow’s closest match-up, while FC Romania (at Cheshunt), Hadley, Harlow Town, Hertford Town and Ware will all provide familiar opposition and a chance to revisit old rivalries.
Aylesbury United, Barton Rovers, Berkhamsted and Thame United were all opponents in Stow’s Isthmian and Southern League days, but it’s going on 16 years that we have played any of them in league matches. Aylesbury (playing at Chesham United) and Berkhamsted were both beaten in recent FA Cup adventures, however.
One other familiar face will be at Welwyn Garden City, where former Stow manager Max Mitchell has just taken the managerial reins.
AFC Dunstable are not to be confused with Dunstable Town, who Stow had played fairly regularly in the early 2000s.
And there’ll be some new opponents to match up against. Stow have never played a team from Biggleswade competitively, so will get two for the price of one this season with trips to FC and Town. It could have been three, but United play in the United Counties League. There will also be first ever encounters with Didcot Town, Highworth Town, Kempston Rovers and Kidlington.
And that just leaves Cirencester Town – the longest trip of the season, no doubt to be scheduled for a Tuesday night in January. The journey there and back will be 200 miles on a good day, but it’s worth noting that Gorlestone, Wroxham, and Lowestoft would have all been further in the Isthmian League.
So would have Dereham too, but for some inexplicable reason, they’ve been placed in the Northern Premier League Midlands Division. The allocations are all provisional, and subject to appeals, one of which will no doubt be Dereham’s.
The Southern League is sponsored by Pitching In, a “Grassroots Sports Investment Programme” backed by GVC, the betting group which owns Ladbrokes and Coral.
Pitching In Southern League Division One Central, 2022-23
Welwyn Garden City