Romford FC, are currently 15th in the Ryman North Division, with 14 wins, nine draws, 16 defeats and a goal difference of -22. Though Boro are clear of the relegation zone, they are a world away from challenging for the title or even a playoff position.
It has been somewhat of yo-yo campaign for the east London side: some really dire displays but some really positive collective and individual performances too. With 28 goals and 13 assists so far this season, Striker Chinedu McKenzie has been a hugely influential figure for the Boro. Ever-present in Paul Martin’s starting 11, McKenzie has consistently caused havoc no matter which defence he has come up against.
The 2016-17 campaign began with a barrage of fixtures, a huge test of stamina and team cohesion. Romford, however, enjoyed a positive start to their journey, with a nil-nil draw against AFC Hornchurch and an impressive 4–3 victory over Hullbridge Sports in the F.A Cup preliminary round.
Sadly, Boro were knocked out in the next round of the FA Cup at the hands of Harlow Town, whilst not picking up their first league win of the season until September, after beating Tilbury 1-0 at home.
Romford endured a difficult September, scoring only 10 goals whilst conceding an alarming 21 times. However, Romford conveyed their fighting spirit and ambition as they began to climb the Ryman North table with several positive results, featuring an emphatic McKenzie hat-trick against Horsham during October. Paul Martin’s men were demonstrating teamwork and fluidity, but maintaining their form was the overwhelming barrier.
A barrier which in November Romford could not overcome, as Boro form plummeted. They only won one game out of a possible seven, including two cup exits, lost to Billericay Town 3-1 on penalties in the Essex County Cup, and suffered a 4-0 defeat in the FA Trophy to AFC Sudbury.
The Ryman League is notorious for its intense fixture scheduling and it is, therefore, vital that clubs react quickly and positively after each result, and with four crucial victories just before Christmas, Romford were once again starting to show a glimpse of quality, as well as their tenacity. Manager Martin has assembled his squad well; it’s testament to his ability as a manager, especially with the restrictions at Romford.
With six wins, one draw and seven losses since the beginning of the New Year safety is confirmed although there are areas to improve. The Boro can capitalise on the experiences they have endured this season and with a few additions could be the surprise package in the Ryman north division next year. Speaking to the Romford Recorder, Martin hailed the fine Christmas run of fixtures: “December has been a massive month for us and it was easily our best of the season in the league.”
New additions to the side in February offered reinforcements in defence and attack with former Redbridge player Charlie Parish offering cover at centre-back. Experienced attacker Abdul Abdeen can play on the wing or as a striker, at 6ft 3 he presents a real nuisance for opposition defences. Previously at Johnstown and Billericay, Abdeen has the pedigree to be a success at Romford. The players are yet to really hit the ground running, but their involvement will be a great boost for Martin and Romford FC.
With relegation no longer a possibility, what is the next step for the Boro? Perhaps growth. Romford are a well run cub but if they wish to push on up the table, as well as the non-league structure, there are various changes that need to be implemented.
Firstly, maintaining their Ryman north division status is obvious but key, secondly, is expanding the club’s brand, so that an influx of expenditure can be achieved. This would be a real boost for a club that tends to not pay its players. Third and perhaps most importantly the club need to have their own stadium. Romford ground share with Ryman Premier side Thurrock United but in terms of being big club, Boro need their own place where they can call home. Difficult but achievable and if the Romford hierarchy wishes to be a non-league force these are the steps that would put Romford among the non-league elite.
Nonetheless, there have been some fine displays highlighting real determination and with seven games to go it is possible there could be new-found freedom with league status secured, nine points adrift of Aveley in 10th – a late surge might be too tall a task but Romford can be optimistic about the future.
Chinedu McKenzie: 28
Nick Reynolds: 8
Greg Akpele: 5
Chinedu McKenzie: 13
Ryan Mallet: 9
Will Green: 4