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Stortford and Harlow to renew rivalry in Isthmian League

By Michael Vaughton

The Hawks play at the Harlow Arena, which has a capacity of 3,500 (500 seated)
The Hawks play at the Harlow Arena, which has a capacity of 3,500 (500 seated)

Bishop's Stortford's prayers have been answered by being placed in the Bostik League, Premier Division for the 2018-19 season - and they will be locking horns with neighbours Harlow Town.

Formerly known as the Isthmian League, the London-based league was home to the Blues for 33 years before they became founder members of Conference South.

Reorganisation of step three football sees a fourth feeder to the National League created. It was touch and go whether Stortford would be the most northerly Isthmian club or the most southerly team in the new Southern League Premier Central.

But instead of regular trips to the Midlands as well as Lowestoft and King’s Lynn, they will now face old rivals such as Kingstonian, Leatherhead and Carshalton Athletic, as well as derby rivals Harlow.

The Hawks, managed by Danny Chapman, finished 21st of the 24 clubs in the 2017-18 Isthmian League Premier Division campaign with 47 points, 11 clear of bottom two Tooting and Mitcham United and Burgess Hill Town.

The last time Stortford met Harlow was in a goalless pre-season friendly in 2012, while the last competitive meeting came in the Isthmian League in the 2001-02 campaign.

The teams have met four times in the FA Cup down the years, with the most notable tie – and most recent – coming in the fourth qualifying round in 1982-83, when Stortford enjoyed their best run in the competition and reached the third round, losing 2-1 to top-flight Middlesbrough in a replay at Rhodes Avenue after drawing 2-2 with Malcolm Allison’s side at Ayresome Park.

Having travelled to places such as Merthyr, Frome and Tiverton in the Southern League, cash-strapped Stortford will see a significant reduction in travel costs and will find player recruitment easier.

Meanwhile, the Blues have announced home friendlies against Vanarama National League side Dagenham & Redbridge and Sky Bet League Two outfit Cambridge United on Saturday, July 21 and Saturday, July 28 respectively.

And supporters have voted overwhelmingly for a white kit to be the team’s away strip for the next two seasons.


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