The race is on for the Ryman North title

Robbie Rees on the ball during Brightlingsea Regent's 1-0 home defeat to Thurrock last weekend. The

Robbie Rees on the ball during Brightlingsea Regent's 1-0 home defeat to Thurrock last weekend. The R's are at Waltham Abbey this weekend. Picture: STEVE ARGENT - Credit: Archant

The Ryman North title race could well go down to the wire, as local rivals Brightlingsea Regent and Maldon & Tiptree thrash it out at the top of the table.

Brightlingsea suffered their first league defeat of 2017 last weekend, edged out 1-0 at home to Thurrock, who also nurse hopes of poaching the one automatic promotion slot. Thurrock are third, nine points behind leaders Regent, with one game in hand.

In this weekend’s round of matches, Regent are on the road at Waltham Abbey, while the Jammers are also on their travels away at play-off candidates Cheshunt. Thurrock are at home to eighth-placed Norwich United.

Despite last weekend’s defeat, James Webster’s Brightlingsea side remain favourites to lift the title, and so secure promotion to the Ryman Premier.

The North Road club had been unbeaten in their previous 14 league matches, with 12 wins and two draws, and they will fancy their chances of returning to winning ways at Waltham Abbey.

The Abbots are a healthy nine points clear of the relegation zone, in 17th spot.

However, it will certainly not be plain sailing for the R’s during the run-in, because they have some tricky fixtures, including a trip to Haringey Borough (seventh) and a home match against AFC Hornchurch (fourth). They are away from home at Cheshunt (sixth) on the final day of the season, on April 22, so they will like to have secured top spot by then.

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Maldon & Tiptree, the long-term leaders of the division, have been inconsistent of late.

Kevin Horlock’s men have won three and lost three of their last six league matches, but their run-in looks far easier than Brightlingsea’s last eight games of the campaign.

The Jammers do not play any of the top-10 teams, after tomorrow’s trip to Cheshunt, and in fact no one from the top half of the table. They are at lowly Soham Town Rangers on the final day.

Elsewhere, Heybridge Swifts, who pulled eight points clear of the relegation zone with a vital 2-1 win over basement dwellers Wroxham on Tuesday night, are at home to play-off chasing Haringey Borough.

Mid-table Witham Town are away at Great Wakering Rovers, who are second from bottom and looking set for relegation.

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