LEAGUE action returned for Isthmian Premier and North sides at the weekend, as National League South sides Concord Rangers and Billericay Town continued their pre-season preparations, reports Leon Imber. 

There was to be no action for Danny Scopes’ team this weekend, however their Essex-based National League South counterparts played out a tightly fought 2-2 draw against Maidstone United in a friendly.

Joe Felix and Jai Reason’s efforts put Jamie O’Hara’s side into a two-goal lead and would have comfortably seen out the game if not for a double blow dealt by Maidstone in the last 15 minutes of the game.

In the Isthmian Premier Division, Bowers & Pitsea played out a very eventful first half that saw Quentin Monville hit the post in the 14th minute, five minutes before J’Ardell Stirling was sent off for Wingate & Finchley.

Two minutes later, Monville again caused trouble to the defence of Spencer Knight’s side, tucking away a free kick.

Wingate & Finchley were not to go down without a fight and a great show of character saw them bring the game level just before half time.

This was to count for nothing though, as Rob Small’s Bowers & Pitsea scored late on in the second half. Dan Trendall was on target to win his side all three points on the opening day.

Elsewhere, East Thurrock United slumped to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Cheshunt. Nana Adarkwa was on target against Paul Martin’s side, subjecting them to a disappointing afternoon and ultimately not the start to the season they would have hoped for.

There wasn’t much joy for Essex sides this weekend, but the Hullbridge Sports camp will be absolutely delighted with their resounding 7-0 victory over Witham Town.

An own goal by Julian Simon-Parson in the third minute was a sign of things to come for Witham. Nathan Scarborough and Eman Akunja were joined on the scoresheet by Callum Fitzer and Lewis Watson, who both bagged a brace to compound Mark Benterman’s Witham to a significant defeat.

Darren Manning is now looking forward to the next game, where he believes that consistency is key.

“We were guilty last year of putting in really good performances and then letting our standards drop in the next one, so, now, it's all about us trying to focus and move onto the next game," said the Hullbridge boss.

Both Canvey Island and Great Wakering Rovers endured much less eventful starts to their campaign, both seeing out 0-0 stalemates against Romford and Felixstowe & Walton respectively.

The former saw a match with slightly more action, as Mark Bentley’s side saw three strikes hit the woodwork in the first half.

With a bit of luck, the Gulls could have enjoyed victory on the first day of the new season against Glenn Tamplin’s Romford.

Bentley will look to make his sides chances count in matches to come.

To round off the first weekend of action in Essex, Basildon United faced a difficult challenge against Bury Town, made especially tough by the sending off of Jamie Marsh in the 44th minute.

Basildon did well to keep it tight and not concede after being reduced to 10 men, but they could not find the goal to bring them back into the game and were beaten 1-0.