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Holyport FC will push for a top four finish in 'league of unknowns'

Dan Rapley

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Holyport FC start the season facing a set of unknowns but boss Derek Sweetman reckons they can push for a top four finish in the Hellenic League Division One East.

Teams like Long Crendon, winners of the Division Two East, Marlow United, and Langley are among the new sides they’ll take on in the league this year.

And the division is one of the steps in the football pyramid that will feature sin bins this year. A booking for dissent against the referee will now result in a player leaving the pitch for 10 minutes, leaving his team with a one-man disadvantage.

“I’ve invested in gaffer tape that goes around the mouth,” Derek joked.

“That way the players can’t swear at the referee.

“I am like everybody else, I don’t know how it is going to work. (Dissent) has got out of hand.”

The sin bin system, first trialled in 2017/18, has been introduced up to step five in the National League System this year, with Windsor FC, Burnham FC and Flackwell Heath FC also having to abide by the new rules. 

Holyport have also kept wide midfielder Daniel Rapley on for the new season, and Sweetman is pleased they have retained the squad that did so well last year.

“We had a good preseason. We worked extremely hard,” he said. “I believe the top four will be recommended for promotion to the new league that season and I think the bottom two could go down. It will be very interesting. Top four would be our aim.”

But he believes there will be about eight teams competing and has singled out sides like Marlow United, Risborough Rangers, Long Crendon and Aldermaston as sides that will make the league tough.

Holyport kick off at Long Crendon from Oxford in the Bluefin Sports Challenge Cup on Tuesday at 7.45pm.

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Marlow United FC stepped up preparations for their Hellenic League Division 1 East bow with an impressive 3-0 friendly win over Step 4 side Uxbridge on Tuesday night.

United are looking to make the step up from the Thames Valley Premier Division and their performances in pre-season certainly bode well.

Uxbridge shaded possession in the early stages, pinging the ball around nicely on an immaculate surface, but United soon settled to their task and took the lead when Paul Rake picked out Chris Hurst who burst through the Uxbridge backline and slotted past the keeper on 35 minutes. Uxbridge were reduced to 10 men following a nasty looking challenge on Mitchell Woodward, before United triallist Charlie Bull finished things off, scoring from a Conner Shingleston through ball in the 60th minute before robbing a defender to net his second in the final minutes.

United kick off their campaign at Kidlington on Tuesday, August 6.

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