*BS*As we near the halfway stage of the Ryman League Division One South season, here we round-up some of the statistics that give us an indication of how the teams are shaping up for 2008.*BF*

This round-up includes:
– Crazy Chatham form;
– Ashford’s narrow margin of dropped points;
– How attendances are reflected in table;
– Who will go to the wire in the title race.

But first…

*BS*Cray yet to be ‘locked out’, as the Americans would say…*BF*

The Wanderers of Ryman South have scored in every league game they have played so far this season, which is a total of 21 – half the fixture list. Michael Power’s first half penalty against Dover on Saturday kept up their impressive record, which amounts to an average of 2.1 goals per game.

Surprisingly, the team placed 2nd in the list of ‘most consecutive games scored in’ is Ashford, with 13 games on the trot. The Nuts and Bolts have failed to score in only three league matches. Unforunately for them, they have lost 2-1 five times and drawn 1-1 five times also. Had these losses and draws been improved into draws and wins, Ashford would be lying 8th in Ryman South instead of 16th. Their lack of fire power has cost them so far; Dover have scored 21 more goals than Steve Lovell’s side in the same number of games. Their defensive record is comparable to Tooting, Cray and Met Police.

Dover’s ‘goals in consecutive games’ record is nine matches. It would be all 18 had Whites managed to score against Chatham.

*BS*Speaking of Chatham…*BF*

*Lpic1*Arguably the most inconsistent team in Ryman South this season is the Chats. Some of their sequences of results this season are extraordinary…

Lost at Croydon Athletic 6-2, then beat Met Police 2-0 at home, Dover 1-0 away and Kingtonian 1-0 away. These three wins against promotion-chasing opponents were followed up by two home losses against Sittingbourne and Burgess Hill. Having conceded no goals against the Police, Dover or K’s, Chats conceded SIX goals in those two matches at Maidstone Road.

After conceding six in two, Chatham then both scored and conceded no goals in the next two games. However, that was followed by a 4-3 defeat at Walton Casuals and a 3-0 drubbing at Whitstable (which I witnessed due to Whites’ postponed match at Walton Casuals and the game could barely have been more one-sided).

Having scored just three goals in four games, Chats have scored six in their last two league matches, drawing 3-3 at Horsham YMCA and winning 3-2 at home to basement club Molesey. Perhaps Chatham’s directors should publicise their team’s high-scoring matches in a bid to improve attendances.

*BS*Talking of bigger sides…*BF*

It is easy to see why the league table stands as it is, with the top eight pulling away from the rest. With the exception of Met Police and Walton & Hersham (who have surprisingly low attendances), the top sides vying for promotion are the better supported teams.

That may seem like an obvious thing to say but it’s not always the case that having a big support guarantees a high position in the table. Look at Lewes as an example of a team who started out with a very small fanbase and have gained numerous promotions in the past 10 years, gradually increasing their support. It still remains quite small today, in Conference South, with gates below 600. However, Conference South on the whole is littered with teams whose support base is lower than seven or eight Ryman League clubs.

*BS*Ryman South league table…*BF*

Rounding up, we can see at almost the halfway stage of the season how the promotion chase is shaping up. It is looking increasingly unlikely that last seasons incredible turnarounds will be repeated. Champions Maidstone, play-off victors Hastings and runners-up Tooting all lost at least five league games prior to December in 2006-07. Tooting and Hastings started particularly poorly and went on long unbeaten runs. In fact, Tooting’s stretched from January to the end of April.
Whites then must be wary of the rise of teams around mid-table. However, as I said, I don’t think the same kind of rise up the table is likely. The top and bottom halves are much more separated this season. Barring a miracle, every team from Burgess Hill downwards can be ruled out of the title race (not the play-offs, admittedly). A higher points total than last season is almost certainly going to be needed to win the title, so any side on less than 30 points currently is going to have to win more than 90% of their remaining matches to challenge for top spot.

If I was to pick one side that could put a bad start behind them and go on to gain more than 80 points, it would be Dulwich Hamlet. Despite losing six matches prior to December, they have gradually become more and more solid defensively and are able to unsettle the title favourites too, as seen in their 2-2 draw at Dover and 1-0 victory at Tooting. The sticking point is their goalscoring record. 30 goals in 20 games will probably need to be doubled in the next 20 if they are to be contenders.

It is hard to see beyond Whites at the moment, with the quality in midfield and attack so much better than the previous two years. Some people are still expecting Andy Hessenthaler’s team to trip up as Clive Walker’s did. We shall find out in the next two or three months if that belief has anything to support it.