Another fantastic season in NEMLA has come to an end. To track the trials, tribulations and veracity of our preseason predictions, Pioneer Sports look back on the year that was.
To begin with, we will look at a team hundreds of miles away, the University of Alabama Football Team. The men from Tuscoloosa are known as the Crimson Tide as they overwhelm all before them, and they certainly did in the 2016/7 season, posting an undefeated regular season, and a winning record of 23 straight games since their previous loss in 2015. Unfortunately though, they could not win the defining game of their season, falling to the Clemson Tigers in the National Championship final. For a team much closer to home, Cheadle, this season may be remembered in a similar way. The men in the green and gold were masterful in the league; undefeated and winning the average game by 15 goals to 6. Two of those games were against Flags Final opposition Poynton and although they won by 10 goals on each occasion the Blackbirds were able to conjure up the magic come finals day. Things still look bright for Cheadle, with the additions of Matt Collier and Paul Ryan complementing a team already saturated with talent and international experience. Odds of a Leicester City turn around would be very long at this stage….
Close on the Cheadle heels are, as ever, Stockport. Although the team from Cale Green lost in the early stages of the season to both Heaton Mersey and Poynton they were able to regroup and claim revenge on each team as the season went on. They were also the team (in the league) to push Cheadle the closest, losing by the narrowest of margins on the final days to the Champions elect.
One step further down the ladder is the Poynton Blackbirds. Wherever Poynton were to finish in the league, a repeat victory in the Flags would always eclipse any placing, and the men in orange defied the odds and produced an exceptional performance in order to retain their title. It appears Flags Finals are like busses, you wait over a hundred years for one and two come along at once, odds on the three peat….?
Next we find Heaton Mersey, a transitional year in the end for them, but with a game still outstanding (highly unlikely that it will be played) they could finish third which would be an improvement on last season. A promising start to the season results wise, having had the tragedy of losing their goalkeeper and captain was just what the club needed. But injuries and unavailability hampered them throughout the season and they will have been disappointed to finish the season having not challenged for any silver wear. Lack of numbers did however mean chances for some younger and inexperienced players to make the step up to the first team which can only stand them in good stead for future years.
At the midpoint of the league we find Brooklands. Although the chatter in the clubhouses on Saturday afternoons often talk of how good Brooklands could be if they managed to retain many of their players who have moved on, Brooklands have once again shown they have a solid group of players who can challenge any team above them. Unfortunately for Poynton, they are the case and point here. On the first Saturday of the New Year Brooklands defeated their cross county rivals by a single goal. Although controversy shrouded the game, the young Brooklands team took the win and celebrated one of the biggest victories in the club’s history. With a core of u19 internationals complimented by a few wily old heads, if the Sale based team can keep their team together and build over the next few years it is not inconceivable that they could climb the league positions and claim more honours.
Timperley find themselves in 6th and will be disappointed with their returns from this year (in the same position as Heaton Mersey with a game outstanding but highly unlikely to be played that would take them above Brooklands into 5th place). Although on some weeks they were competitive and fierce challengers to the teams above them, a disastrous start of the year saw them take a hammering at Cheadle, a draw with relegation threatened Mellor and a loss to up and coming Brooklands. Although the men in Carolina blue would claim revenge over Brooklands, Timperley will not see a 6th place finish as a good return for the levels of talent in the team.
Just below Timperley was the relegation triple threat match of Mellor, Sheffield and Rochdale. As predicted at the start of the season this would be a close battle to survive and stay in the Premiership (subject to league restructures etc.). But Mellor proved that a mantra of ‘we will score one more than you’ can work and shot themselves to safety, 157 goals for them in the season put them 2 goals behind Brooklands in the goals for field. However it was at the other end of the field that they struggled, without a consistent goalkeeper all season the more than capable Matt Marsh stepped in between the pipes for a number of games. And whilst he had some great performances, his attacking guile was missed and Mellor managed to ship a total of 254 goals, second only to basement club WACs for goals against.
Home form was the key factor in the battle between Rochdale and Steelers, while both away trips seem daunting to even the top teams, it was the men from Yorkshire who made the most of this advantage. Recording 4 wins at home across the season compared to just 2 and a draw for Rochdale was enough to keep the Sheffield team safe in the Premiership. Rochdale will await their fate over the summer whilst the continual rumblings of league restructuring go on once more as a balance for competitive games is strived for across all of the divisions.
Propping up the table this year were WACs, destined from the start of the season for a tough year thanks to the loss of Zac Guy and Paul Ryan, they scrapped and fought throughout but were unable to chalk up a single win or draw. If they can keep hold of their core of players and give their talented younger players more experience and game time it can only be a matter of time before they are challenging again to re-join the top flight.
Congratulations from Pioneer Sports to Cheadle and Poynton for their successes this year. We hope that you have enjoyed our articles on the Premiership and Flags competitions this season and don’t forget to keep coming back for more articles and content!