Rivals Tower Hamlets and Sporting Bengal ready for new season
- Credit: Archant
Aj Ashanike’s men begin at Clapton while Imrul Gazi’s Sporting Bengal start on Monday at Barkingside
Local rivals Tower Hamlets and Sporting Bengal United get their Essex Senior League campaign underway over the next few days with two derby matches.
AJ Ashanike’s Hamlets start away to London foes Clapton on Saturday at the Old Spotted Dog looking to get off to a flyer.
Bengal have to wait a little bit longer as they visit local rivals Barkingside on Monday (August 6) at Cricklefield.
During the 2017/18 campaign, the two Mile End Stadium clubs managed to comfortably avoid a battle for survival, but Ashanike was a tad disappointed to finish in 11th position.
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He said: “At the start of last season the aim was to stay up and make sure we survived with relegation coming into full force.
“We did that and I am proud of the boys. We did start off really well and finishing 11th was a bit disappointing given the way we started, but at the end of the day I would have taken it given what we set out to achieve at the start.”
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It was a different story for the other side to play at the Mile End Stadium – Imrul Gazi’s Sporting Bengal.
The east Londoners finished one spot above their rivals in 10th and also recorded a record points tally of 50.
Gazi said: “I was buzzing with a top-10 finish – it wasn’t something we targeted. The target was to beat our record points tally and anything else was a bonus.
“Obviously the first priority was to avoid relegation, our second aim was to beat Anwar Uddin’s points tally (46) and then get to 50 points, so to finish in the top-10 is a massive achievement for a club like Sporting Bengal.
“We are a community based side so to secure our highest league finish in senior football is a huge milestone and we will look to build on it this season.”
Bengal will only play once over the next week, at Barkingside, but Hamlets have two league fixtures to prepare for.
After travelling to Clapton this weekend, the Mile End Stadium club will visit Leyton Athletic, formerly called Wadham Lodge, on Wednesday (August 8).
Hamlets will be looking for new forward Eden Nelson to hit the ground running after bidding farewell to two attackers this summer, Ashanike said: “Luke With has left, he is taking a break from football at the moment.
“Wale (Odedoyin) has moved on as well, but apart from them, we will start with basically the same squad and we have added a few.
“Curtis Pond has a broken leg unfortunately, but he will be back around October or November time and was our top goalscorer last season, so hopefully he can get back quickly.”