Despite some setbacks, there are reasons to be cheerful about the ‘best-dressed team in non-league football’, says David O’Driscoll
It is said that the league table does not lie, and Walthamstow FC are currently in a healthy seventh spot, just outside the playoff positions. The general feeling from talking to fans is that Stow has been far from convincing.
What’s more, they are conceding loads of last-minute goals. In the recent away trip to Lowestoft Town (who are currently top of the league), they lost to a last-minute goal. At two home games, against promotion rivals Felixstowe and the bottom-of-the-table Gray’s Athletic, Stow conceded last-minute equalisers despite being dominant for much of the game.
These last minute goals have led Stow to a controversial solution by re-signing Jason Beck. A very competent defender, brilliant in the air, but with a volatile side, Beck has a very long string of match suspensions. So it is a risk.
As ever with non-league football, Beck has been one of many arrivals, and it feels like they’re trying to get the old gang back with the recruitment of several players who played for Walthamstow previously. Adalberto Pinto, a former captain who brings a lot of energy to the centre of the pitch, has returned, as has the forward, Ollie Sotoyinbo.
The player I was pleased to see back at the club is Bilal Sayoud, who has been playing at a high level for Hemel Hempstead, has been enticed to return to his old stomping ground. He’s a left-footed midfielder who can drift out of games, but when he’s on it he’s a very creative player.
For most fans the stand-out performer has been Damaray Anyadike. Stow season ticket-holder Alex Perry commented, ”I’ve been really impressed by Anyadike. A young local traditional right winger in the mould of [ex-Manchester United flying winger] Andrei Kanchelskis, [Anyadike] is lightning quick, learning the game and getting more consistent with his output. He’s now doing damage to opponents in every single game. It’s a wonder no bigger club has snapped him up yet. Stow fans need to enjoy him while they can”.
Despite his form, there is a sense that this team is still struggling to gel, maybe in part with all the coming-and-goings. This was a point regular Stow watcher Ben James felt. “Though Walthamstow is on the fringes of the playoffs, it still feels like there is more to come from this team. Our away form has been good, our home form is patchy, and we’ve thrown away a couple of wins in the last minutes of games.”
He added: “If we can start turning those draws into wins, Stow should be knocking on the door of the automatic promotion spot.”
While the general view is that the best dressed team in non-league football have been far from convincing, it must be remembered that this time last year, they were in the league’s bottom half. They went on to have a storming second half of the season and just missed on reaching the playoff final. So, there are still reasons to be cheerful.