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More Friendlies Planned, Signings Made As Play-offs Approach
Some News in Brief items about the clubs in the Regional League Championship Winners Play-offs...

Rosso Kumamoto take on Avispa Fukuoka reserves on Sunday 13th... FC Ryukyu have made additional short loan signings of midfielders Domo Nitta and Jo Kobiyama, from Kyushu League side Kaiho Bank SC and Takenami Club of the Saitama Prefectural League respectively... On Sunday 6th, 1000 people watched Grulla Morioka go down 2-0 to fellow promotion hopefuls and joint Tohoku League championship winners TDK Akita... Banditonce Kobe lost only 3-2 in a friendly against J2 side Tokushima Vortis on Wednesday 9th...

11 Nov 05 - FC Ryukyu new loan signing Domo Nitta

FC Ryukyu's new loan signing Domo Nitta
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Sagawa Kyubin Chugoku Warm Up For Play-offs
On Sunday 6th November, Chugoku League outfit Sagawa Kyubin Chugoku played their first warm-up friendly match prior to the Regional League Championship Winners Play-off against FC Central Chugoku, themselves preparing for play-offs as they aim to move to the Chugoku League from the Shimane Prefectural League. The game was played over three periods of 40 minutes each and despite a hat-trick from Central's former Sun Miyazaki and Okinawa Kariyushi forward Syujiro Saeki, it was Sagawa Kyubin who emerged victorious by an 8-4 margin.

While Shimane Prefectural League champions Central will be hot favourites to achieve promotion as they take on sides from Tottori, Hiroshima and Okayama prefectures, Sagawa can be considered outsiders in their Play-off Group, which matches them up against the ambitious Okinawans of FC Ryukyu and Honda-backed Kanto League winners Luminozo Sayama - both of whom are able to boast several players with pro experience. Most of the Sagawa players come in contrast from colleges, universities and high schools around Hiroshima, although 11-goal top scorer Jyunji Ueda joined the club from prefectural league side Hiroshima FC.

11 Nov 05 - Jyunji Ueda in the dressing room after Sagawa Kyubin's last league game of the season

Jyunji Ueda, daisy fresh after Sagawa Kyubin's last league game of the season

Sagawa Kyubin itself is one of Japan's largest distribution / delivery companies and within the football pyramid is represented at JFL and Regional level by no fewer than five teams from branches in different parts of the country - and this year has in general been a remarkably successful one. As well as Chugoku winning their Regional League, the company supports Tokyo and Osaka in the JFL, together with Kyoto - champions in this season's Kansai League Division 2 - and Chukyo, who won the Tokai League Division 2.

Chugoku's own progress to their current position has been rapid, given that they were participating in the Hiroshima Prefectural League as recently as 2003 and gave a solid performance in their first campaign in the Chugoku League in 2004, when they finished third. The promotion to the JFL of last year's champions Mitsubishi Mizushima left something of a void in the League, which had been expected to be filled by the up-and-coming Fagiano Okayama as well as the more experienced campaigners of Hiroshima Fujita SC.

11 Nov 05 - Kenji Honda, Sagawa's former Jatco midfielder

Kenji Honda, Sagawa's former Jatco midfielder

But it was Sagawa who got off to a flying start back in May, gaining maximum points in each of their first four matches and scoring twenty goals in the process, including a 4-0 win over a Fagiano side who were a little slow to get going following their own promotion. A subsequent narrow defeat at home to Fujita, though, set things up for a closely-fought title race that was ultimately more or less decided in Sagawa's favour when they trounced Fujita in the return game in October 7-0, Ueda chipping in a hat-trick inside fifty minutes. The team's twin strengths are a miserly defence - just six goals conceded in twelve league games - combined with the fact that they have goals coming from all areas of the pitch, with midfield trio Kenji Kawakami, Kenji Honda and Hiroyuki Omae all making valuable contributions to the Goals For column.

But whether they will be able to make the step up to the JFL in the face of such stiff competition as Ryukyu and Luminozo is a different matter. As Mitsubishi Mizushima have found this year, the jump in quality between the two levels is considerable - at least without major investment, which the club's parent company seem willing to make up to a point, but no further. In the meantime, the team round off their play-off preparations with further friendlies against Sanfrecce Hiroshima's reserve side on 12th, JFL leaders Ehime FC on 13th and then Ehime Shimanami of the Shikoku League on 20th.
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