The Battle to Beat the Drop: A Look at the Business Houses Premier Relegation Fight

The excitement surrounding the Liverpool Business Houses League is consistently bubbling with the landscape of all seven division’s emphasising the quality on show.

Just a few weeks ago, Campfield joined an esteemed group of teams in the country to win the FA Sunday Cup for a second time.

Over recent weeks and with lockdowns lifting, the Premier Division in the Business Houses has come under the microscope and for good reason.

Fuelled by the standard, the competitiveness in the league is clear and obvious – unlike the chaos created by VAR in the top-flight of English football – up and down the league clubs battle it out week-in, week-out to claim bragging rights over teams just a couple of miles down the road.

Typically in the best leagues, there is a title race, the Business Houses is no different. But what does make it different and add fuel to the fire that is the hype around the league is the competition to not only win but stay in the league as well.

Over the course of the season, there have been shock results that have saw clubs pushing for the title see their hopes dented by those fighting for survival.

Mathematically, as many as six teams are not safe from falling into the Championship with a number of clubs in the division below circling in a predatory fashion as they eye promotion into the league dubbed ‘the best Sunday league’ in the country.

Games in the league are won and lost by the finest of margins, teams are fighting to maintain their place in the league ahead of next season. But first, they need to pick up enough points to survive in their remaining fixtures with a number of doubleheaders as the top and bottom are pitted against each other.

9. Pineapple – 21pts

Individual mistakes have cost us a lot, you can’t really legislate for that and the goals we’ve given away in this league, if you give teams or players half a chance you will get punished.

Curtis Lopez, Pineapple manager

Pineapple currently sit ninth in the Liverpool Business Houses Premier with 21 points, 10 off Dengo United at the bottom of the league and just eight off the relegation places.

The Chunks have won six games this season, but have lost four of their last five games, with the 1-1 draw with Dengo their only point out of a possible 15. Their last win came in an enthralling 5-4 win over AFC Bull, at the end of April.

A culmination of injuries, mistakes and the departure of their goalkeeper contributed to the dip form.

Currently level on points, with Melling Vics, only ahead on goal difference, manager Curtis Lopez believes the three wins that they picked up against the Vics, Lobster and the Bull has given his side some breathing space in the relegation battle but remains wary of the threat.

“I fancied us at the beginning, but it was a stop-start at the start but as the season went on we were languishing a little bit; win one, draw a couple and lose a couple, so we couldn’t build any consistency.

“We lost our goalkeeper and we didn’t have one for three weeks which crippled us. In this league that’s what happens if you haven’t got a goalkeeper, you get punished. Individual mistakes have cost us a lot, you can’t really legislate for that and the goals we’ve given away in this league if you give teams or players half a chance you will get punished.

Pineapple score a penalty to equalise against Mayfair in the Liverpool Business Houses.

“You fancy yourself to beat everyone and at the end of the day as long as we manage to pick up points and get away from the relegation zone then it’s about building for next season.

“Anyone there with the games remaining could get dragged into it but us winning those three games has helped us kick on out of it but I wouldn’t say we were entirely out of it until we were mathematically safe.”

Remaining Fixtures: FC Dovecot (A), Custy’s (A), Custy’s (H), Campfield (A), Home Bargains (A), Canada (H).

10. Melling Victoria – 21pts

We just need to get out of this rut and get the next few weeks out the way, we are desperate or even we just make sure we’re safe.

John Baccino, Melling Vics Chairman

Melling Victoria are in a slightly precarious position in 10th, three places off the bottom with an eight-point gap as they’re on the wrong end of a winless run with chairman John Baccino confident that his side can avoid being pulled into the dog fight.

They have won just once since the resumption of play following the post-Christmas lockdown, coming against Home Bargains on April 4. As a result, they’ve plunged down the table with the threat of being sucked into the relegation battle.

Elliot Owen’s double for AFC Bull helped his side to a 3-1 win over the Vics which saw their winless streak extend to seven games.

Despite the cushion, John Baccino is conscious of the threat of being sucked into the relegation fight.

With five games to go, including back-to-back games against second-bottom, Canada, the stakes look set to increase game by game with the Melling Vics manager keen to get points on the table in order to dismiss his feelings of wariness surrounding the trailing pack.

“You can’t be too complacent because they’re all good teams, you think of yourself as one of the top teams but the league doesn’t lie and there are some great teams in there.

“Everyone wants to go out every week and it doesn’t matter about league position, you just want to beat the team in front of you or compete or put in a good performance.” He said.

Melling Vics power forward against Campfield in the Liverpool Business Houses.
Melling Vics power forward against Campfield. (Credit: Nick Gerrard).

“You are slightly looking over your shoulder at the bottom two places, but at the minute we are a bit wary of it. This game at the weekend for us is massive (against Huyton Cons). If they win, that’ll put them close to us, you’re just looking over your shoulder then, you don’t want to be praying for teams to lose every week.

“We want the relegation thing gone as quick as possible, if we can get six points from the next two or so games that will put us on 27 points and for those lower down to reach that they need to win four games. We just need to win on Sunday or the Sunday after, we just need more points on the table.”

Remaining Fixtures: Huyton Cons (A), Canada (A), Canada (H), FC Dovecot (A), Lobster (H).

11. Lobster – 19pts

“Every single game is massive now. We know week to week and get told by the people running this team how hard we have to work to get anything out of these games because if you don’t, you get punished big time.

Darren Turley, Lobster player

The topsy-turvy run of results continued for Lobster two weekend’s ago as they drew 3-3 with title-chasing Custy’s.

Since the restart, they have won three of their last nine beating; Huyton Cons, Home Bargains and Mayfair, which could prove to be crucial wins, come the final day. Whilst two of their defeats came to the National Cup winners Campfield.

But the 12 points against three good opponents, including the Mayfair – who at the time of writing are at the Business Houses summit – sees them currently sit six points clear of the drop.

However, it is just one home match in their remaining six with tough trips to Huyton Cons, Melling Vics and Dengo United which could be the deciding factor in the complexion of the league table, at the end of the season, but there is still firm belief in the Lobster camp.

He said: “It’s been a bit of a crazy one for us, we got a new manager who brought in a few very good lads. But it just didn’t seem to be working because we had different lads playing every week and could never get a settled 11 and in this league, you get punished every single week if you don’t turn upright.

“Things instantly changed (upon the return of two central defenders). Now you look at the results minus the Canada game. Beating Home Bargain, running Campfield right down to the wire, beating Mayfair and drawing with Custy’s shows just how good this team actually is.

Lobster equalise against Canada in the Liverpool Business Houses.

“It shows you just how good this league is. If you look at the table now there are six teams in it and you look at those six teams and the results some of them have had. (The likes of) Dengo beating Mayfair and the same with us. It’s just a testament really to the strength of this league.

“Every single game is massive now. We know week-to-week and get told by the people running this team how hard we have to work to get anything out of these games because if you don’t, you get punished big time. A prime example of that was when we played Canada.

“If we turn up with the right attitude I honestly believe there isn’t anyone who we can’t beat in this league.”

Remaining Fixtures: AFC Bull (A), Oyster Martyrs (H), Huyton Cons (A), Kensington Fields (A), Dengo United (A), Melling Victoria (A).

12. Huyton Cons – 14pts

“It’s been a season of two halves, the second half we have been much better even in most games where we have got beat, the lads can be proud of their performance and we’re still positive that we can pick up a few more points before the season’s finished, it’s a bit of mixed bag.”

Joe, Huyton Cons manager

Huyton Cons occupy the final position in the league that would ensure Premier Division football next season with Canada and Dengo United breathing down their necks as they too eye safety.

They have picked up three important wins in their bid for survival but remain a point ahead of Canada. Their win upon returning to action after lockdown against their relegation rivals proves to be the difference as they came from behind to win.

The gap between Cons and Dengo United, who sit at the foot of the table, stands at just three points.

Despite falling short against Mayfair and Campfield losing 3-2 and 0-1 respectively, it was the performances that pleased the Cons manager who has noticed a sizeable improvement from his team during the course of the season.

There are seismic consequences on the line with each point won or lost as the Cons fight to remain in the division, but the balance is slightly in their favour with three of their final five matches coming at home. But their final game of the season away to Dengo United could determine who will be playing Championship football next season.

“We came into the season quite positive then we had a bit of a bad start, I don’t think we won a game in December and every game followed the same pattern, in most of the games we’ve been in it until about the 60th or 70th minute then we’d implode, there would be a goal in it but then the floodgates would open and it’d finish five or 6-1.” The Huyton Cons manager said.

“We’ve got opportunities to pick points up but it is just about carrying our performances from the last games where we haven’t got results, against Mayfair and the Campfield, but the performances have been there.

Huyton Cons get a goal back against Mayfair in the Liverpool Business Houses League.

“If we can carry them over into the next few games, I think there are points there to be won and I think we’re good enough to stay up so it’s just about translating that onto the pitch.­

“Definitely (games lost by small margins), it sounds a bit cliché but any team can be anyone in this league you can’t rely on other results you’ve got to do your best to get three points because you don’t want to be relying on anyone else.”

Remaining Fixtures: Melling Victoria (H), Lobster (H), AFC Bull (A), Custy’s (H), Dengo United (A).

13. Canada – 13pts

“The games in this league don’t get any easier so we know we need to be on it to get the points we need, we can’t focus on anyone else or how they get on now.

Lewis Jones, Canada captain

It could be a matter of unlucky 13 for Canada as they find their place in the Business Houses Premier is under immense threat.

Their 5-0 defeat to title contenders Campfield, last weekend, further dented their hopes of survival but they are just a point behind having the greater goal difference, survival is still firmly in their sights.

A 7-0 win against fellow strugglers Dengo United and a 4-3 win over Lobster came as a welcome boost to the side but with two wins since the restart, time is ticking for ‘the Canada’ to ensure their place in the Business Houses top division for next season.

The run-in isn’t easy with two of their last five coming against title contenders Mayfair and Oyster Martyrs.

Captain Lewis Jones believes maintaining their Premier Division status is a “must” as poor finishing and game management has become exasperating over the course of the season.

“It’s been a tough season for us, we knew the league was going to be very strong this season, all you had to do is look at the teams in the table and you know there are no easy games.

“The frustrating thing is we have put some really strong performances in but we either haven’t been clinical enough or we haven’t had enough to hold on to a lead. We seriously need to pick points up quickly otherwise we are in trouble.

“We are desperate to stay in the league, it’s a must for us. The club is one of the oldest in the city with a boss history, so our expectation is to, at the very least, stay in the top league.” The 23-year-old captain said.

Canada's Michael Carberry fires home in the Liverpool Business Houses League.

“We need to take as many points as possible, the games in this league don’t get any easier so we know we need to be on it to get the points we need, we can’t focus on anyone else or how they get on now.

“We have got ourselves into the position we are in, so all we can do now is our best to take as many points as possible from the games remaining.”

Remaining Fixtures: Mayfair (H), Melling Vics (H), Melling Vics (A), Oyster Martyrs (A), Pineapple (A).

14. Dengo United – 11pts

“We will give everything we’ve got with the players we’ve got, we’ll see where that takes us.

Anthony Smith, Dengo United manager

Despite being at the foot of the table, Dengo United have the scalps of Melling Vics and Mayfair to their name.

By no means are they out of the race for survival with safety just three points away.

Dengo have faced a baptism of fire since their promotion to the Premier Division this season with games against Melling Vics, Lobster and the Oyster making up their opening fixtures.

Like those around them, they face the same opposition back-to-back and their task of survival is increased with two games against Campfield, a team looking to add to win the league the add to their National Cup win against St Joseph’s.

Such as the case for many results in the league, the outcome has been determined by the smallest of margins.

Smith said: “It’s been a tough season we knew the league was going to be strong going into it obviously we got promoted last season along with three others in our division so we knew it was going to be tough.

“We were up for the challenge but it hasn’t worked out for us in terms of results especially but in terms of commitment and having a full complement of players every week.

“It’s unbelievable (how tight the league is), any one of the 14 teams, on their day, will turn anyone over. If you look at the league table now, Mayfair have gone top and we are still bottom but four or five weeks ago, we beat Mayfair on their own ground and deservedly so.

“That just shows that on the day if you haven’t got the squad, or the players, or that the players aren’t up for it then you will get turned over no matter who you play that’s the beauty of the league and that’s the way it is but that’s across the divisions.

“We’re going to give it everything we’ve got and in terms of the end of the season that we finish in the bottom two, it’s because we deserve to finish in the bottom two, the league table doesn’t lie over the course of the season so whoever finishes top quite rightly deserved champions.”

Remaining Fixtures: Home Bargains (H), Campfield (H), Campfield (A), Lobster (H), Huyton Cons (H).

With just nine points separate ninth and the bottom of the table, 14th. With five games to play, only two can avoid the drop which opens up the spectacle that is the relegation battle in the Business Houses Premier.

The league table at the top and the bottom will continue to change until the end of June, it is called the ‘best Sunday league in the land’ for a reason.

(Photos: Paul Moran)