The problems for UEL this season have started right at the top of the club as the first team have struggled to adapt to life in the BUCS Premier League South, registering just two wins all season.
The East Londoners now face a relegation play off to avoid an immediate return to Division One – a relegation that will see UEL drop out of the list of Elite University sides in England.
UEL struggles haven’t been helped by the loss of several key players from last season. UEL lost one of their most prolific strikers the club has ever had in Johan Caney-Bryan and also the reliable Richie Robins between the sticks, and the side have leaked goals this year.
There have been some positive aspects for UEL. Many of the current crop of young players still have another year of University ahead of them, so avoiding the drop could see UEL kick on next year and challenge at the top end of the league.
Admittedly UEL have been seen as underdogs this season as other BUCs premier league sides are more established and have greater resources to use. The facilities of some of the top teams such as Bath and South Wales are at the highest quality whilst UEL has had to make do with Hackney Marshes.
This is down to UEL’s status as an upcoming university in England which has seen a rise not just in the sporting world but in general University rankings.
UEL head into the game as slight favourites and a win would be as big as their promotion play-off win from last season and will ease the pressure of Yassin Abidou and his players.
Ellis Brittan has been part of both sides this campaign and admits that it’s been a struggle for UEL. Speaking to Rising East he said:
“It’s been a long season for UEL as a club. We haven’t performed as we would have liked and our place in the leagues reflect this.”
Away from the first team, the seconds have also struggled, and only a win in their final game against Brunel 3rds, will guarantee safety. UEL went into the year with a similar side to last season and promotion was the number one target. After a 9-2 victory in their opening game, promotion seemed a real possibility.
However, a run of just of just two wins since have seen UEL scrapping at the bottom of the table with Essex and UCL to avoid the drop.
The one positive for UEL heading into their final game is that they have been unbeaten in their last two outings, which gives them all the hope they need going into the final day survival bid.
Once again, it’s fair to say the lack of a settled squad for the second team could be attributed to their poor campaign, as the team has seen players move up the first team and also seen players replaced by members of the third-team squad.
With just one more game to go the seconds have a great chance of staying in the division and like the first team, can look to a more successful season next year, if their league status is retained.
Brittan went on to speak about what survival could mean.
“Anything can happen in these games, but survival will mean we can kick on next year. It’s key for the future of UEL football that we maintain our respective leagues status.”
The first team’s play-off game is coming in a few weeks’ time. Their opponents have yet to be confirmed but one thing is for sure, Survival is the only aim.