For Dulwich Hamlet fans there was just the one surprise with the news that Harrow Borough had been reprieved from the drop after Worcester City chose to take voluntary relegation to give the cash-strapped club a viable chance of survival in their current parlous situation.
With Bishop’s Stortford now shunted across to the Southern League a return to Woodside Park for the first time in a number of years is now off the agenda. However, returning to the Isthmian League Premier Division will be Margate, who were relegated from National League South in 22nd spot after two turbulent seasons at that level following their promotion via a Ryman League playoff series marred by controversy and delay at the end of the 2014-2015 campaign. Among those taking their places at the top table for the first time are two clubs who Dulwich Hamlet have yet to face in competitive football, Brightlingsea Regent and Dorking Wanderers. Brightlingsea Regent, based on the Essex coast between Colchester and Clacton-on-Sea, have enjoyed a meteoric rise since their formation in 2005 as a merger of two local clubs and were worthy champions of the North Division last season finishing 12 clear of runners-up Maldon & Tiptree. Dorking Wanderers, had to do things the hard way to earn their promotion, pipped at the post for the title by Tooting and Mitcham United before squeezing through the playoffs courtesy of two penalty shootouts wins over first Hastings United and then Corinthian-Casuals after turgid 120 minutes of goalless football in the final. Familiar faces fill the other two promotion spots with Thurrock FC returning to the Premier Division four years after their controversial relegation in 2013 that drew sympathy from the football family. Last but by no means least Dulwich will once more cross swords with our old f(r)iends from Imperial Fields after Frank Wilson led his Terrors side to the title, heading off Dorking Wanderers on goal difference alone as a final day 1-0 defeat to their rivals proved too little to close the gap.
Elsewhere the League welcomes Ashford Town in the South Division as Champions of the Southern Counties East League whilst Haywards Heath Town are also named amongst the clubs allocated to the Isthmian League after claiming the Southern Combination League. However, their participation in next season’s competition remains subject to an FA investigation after the club was charged with fielding a player while under a “sine die” suspension last term. Shoreham wait in the wings.
The full composition of the Isthmian, to be finalised at the Isthmian League AGM in June, is as follows:
Billericay Town, Brightlingsea Regent, Burgess Hill Town, Dorking Wanderers, Dulwich Hamlet, Enfield Town, Folkestone Invicta, Harlow Town, Harrow Borough, Hendon, Kingstonian, Leatherhead, Leiston, Lowestoft Town, Margate, Merstham, Metropolitan Police, Needham Market, Staines Town, Thurrock, Tonbridge Angels, Tooting & Mitcham United, Wingate & Finchley, Worthing.
The new season is scheduled to start on Saturday 12th August.
The full lists for Steps 1 to 4 can be found by clicking here
Updated 12:58 - 18 May 2017 by Paul Griffin