Friday, 2 August 2013

2013/14 Season Preview - Part Four

2012/13: 2nd in Conference South – “play-off success                        
Salisbury City
After several summers of turmoil at the club, it’s nice to see the majority of last season’s play-off winning side sign on for the new campaign! The ones that have gone are expected, and only Dan Fitchett is yet to sign (has just had a trial with Southend). However, it hasn’t all been plain sailing, with our gaffer, Darrell Clarke going off to take the number two position at Bristol Rovers after 6 years with the club. Whilst there were plenty of well known applicants for the job, number two, Mikey Harris got the job, despite being only 28 and never playing above the Southern Premier…he knows what he’s doing though, and with Warren Feeney coming in to partner him, I’m sure those two are more than capable!
Squad wise, hopefully Jamie White can get fit after he has his hernia op, as he will be a big man for us up top with his goals, but apart from that we look pretty solid particularly in midfield with the likes of Chris McPhee and Ricky Wellard. And hopefully with a few additions at the back (Exodus Geohaghon and Steve Tully are both currently on trial), we should have a decent little squad, and I do mean little!
As for our ground, it won’t be one of the best in the league, but it’s our home! We’ve got a covered terracing at one end, which’ll be the ‘home end’ if any games are segregated, with two small stands of seats either side of the scoreboard on the half way line, opposite the main stand. Holds a capacity of 3,500-5,000 depending on who you speak to, and we’ve now got a very bright scoreboard opposite the ‘home stand’ (inherited from Pompey apparently). The floodlights are also up to scratch, as before the Conference kicked us out three years ago they made us buy some new ones (!) Oh, and just a tip – for car parking you might be better off over the road in the industrial estate, particularly if it’s wet (it’ll save you £2 too!)
Looking forward to the whole season really, it’s good to be back! Obviously you’ve got the Lutons and Barnets of the league, which will always be a big game for someone like us, but the biggest game has to be the visit of Forest Green on 9th November…probably the biggest rivalry we’ve got in the league.
To get promoted: Kidderminster (Champions) and Forest Green Rovers (Play-offs)
To get relegated: Hyde, Alfreton, Dartford and Nuneaton
Salisbury’s finish: 17th (although anything outside the bottom four will do!)

2012/13: 20th in Conference – “We stayed up!
We’ve definitely lost a lot of key players. As manager Liam Watson left for Telford, he took almost all of the squad with him. However, the biggest loss was winger Shaun Whalley who left for Luton. I expect Shaun to have a great season there! However, we’ve brought in Stockport’s Danny Hattersley after he was on a loan spell here. The signing of Danny was a big relief, as we only had one striker in the squad! We also brought in ex Fleetwood Town central midfielder, Jamie Milligan. I believe Jamie will prove to be a crucial signing, who will be the centre of any success.
We appointed Alan Wright after Liam Watson left and he’s made five promising signings so far, including Barrow AFC winger Paul Rutherford. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more players come through the door throughout the season due to Alan’s wide contact range, which is never a bad thing to have. Alan has made it clear that his aim is to be around the play-offs.
The Merseyrail Community Stadium is a typical non-league ground. You have the Jack Carr Stand behind the goal, which is known as the chanting stand. To the right of the Jack Carr Stand, there is the Popular Side, which runs along the full side of the pitch – it is a terrace with no roof. Opposite is the Main Stand: fairly big, with half normally being unsegregated. Behind the other goal is the Blowick End – another terrace with no roof, which is where away fans are allocated.
Luton at home is our first game of the season and I can’t wait to see the ‘new’ team! I am also looking forward to Chester away, which couldn’t be played at a better time than New Years Day! Another game I am excited for is Dartford away and finally Barnet (both home and away), to see how they perform after being relegated.
To be promoted: Luton (Champions) and Wrexham (Play-offs)
To be relegated: Salisbury, Hyde, Nuneaton and Aldershot
Southport’s finish: 17th

2012/13: 19th in Conference – “Room for improvement
We’ve lost Adam Cunnington, who scored all the goals and pretty much carried the team last season. Tom Marshall is another who will be missed, as he was a big presence at the back for us. Never rated by the fans, other than myself is Sam Oji – another centre half – who oozes quality and by far the best defender in the team. We’ve gained Richie Baker who’s a good goal scorer from midfield and has played a lot of games in the Football League, and goalkeeper Cameron Belford is a massive coup for the club. He’s also the son of the manager.
Manager Dale Belford is definitely right for the job. He’s a legend at the club and will have the players put in a shift every game. He’s a hit with both fans and the players.
The Lamb Ground may need a bit of attention, but the atmosphere it can generate is amongst the best in the league!
I look forward to every fixture if I’m honest, but notably: Nuneaton (home/away), Luton (home), Kiddy (away), Barnet (home/away), Salisbury (away), Dartford (away) and Wrexham (home).
To get promoted: Barnet (Champions) and Chester (Play-offs)
To get relegated: Hyde, Nuneaton, Welling and Aldershot
Tamworth’s finish: 13th

2012/13: 1st in Conference South – “Like watching Brazil!
Welling United
Anthony Acheampong has moved to Barnet for reasons best known to himself – commanding defender and good for a few goals. With Ben Martin also leaving The Wings, that's a couple of regular central defenders down.
Jamie Day is a fabulously passionate young player manager who encourages and inspires great team spirit. Without a doubt, he’s the right man for the job.
Park View Road is shabby and old fashioned. We walk round the ground at half time so we can always stand behind the goal Welling are attacking.
As a former Barnet season ticket holder I have to say I’m looking forward Barnet at home.  Also the two matches against local rivals Dartford.
To get promoted: Wrexham (Champions) and Grimsby (Play-offs)
To get relegated: Alfreton, Salisbury, Hyde and Southport
Welling’s finish: 16th

2012/13: 12th in Conference – “New, exciting, successful
We have only signed one player so far in the approach towards the start of next season and that is midfielder Josh Payne who recently played at Aldershot Town. Woking’s squad will mainly be made up of loan players and this was seen as the key to success last season. However, the most successful players that featured last season, including Billy Knott, Bradley Bubb and Jayden Stockley, are not likely to return this season so new key players will have to be found. The side will be boosted by the return of Woking’s spine from last season including captain Mark Ricketts and the impressive Kevin Betsy.
After taking over halfway through the 2010/11 season Garry Hill took Woking to the Conference South play-offs and then the following season won the league to see the club return to the Conference Premier. After an impressive first season in the Conference, I and many other supporters believe that he is very much the man to keep Woking away from the relegation zone this season.
Kingfield is situated just over a mile from the town centre and railway station and its main feature is the Leslie Gosdon stand behind the goal, of which away supporters usually get a quarter of. Visiting fans also get a full open aired terrace along the side of the pitch which is a great view. The only negative to this is, with no roof, visiting supports can expect to get wet if the weather isn’t great!
The game all Woking fans were looking out for when the fixtures were released were the games against Aldershot Town as the clubs are local rivals and due to their success and our relegation, the sides haven’t played since 2007. As with all smaller clubs in the league the big away days are still games that we look forward to including Luton, Macclesfield, Wrexham, Grimsby and of course Barnet. I personally am looking forward to visiting the likes of Halifax and Chester as I am yet to visit either of these clubs and have heard good things about their respective grounds.
To get promoted: Luton Town (Champions) and Wrexham (Play-offs)
To get relegated: Aldershot Town, Southport, Braintree Town and Nuneaton Town
Woking’s finish: 15th

2012/13: 5th in Conference

Thursday, 1 August 2013

2013/14 Season Preview - Part Three

2012/13: 18th in Conference

2012/13: 2nd in Conference – “Just missed out!
Kidderminster Harriers 
This season we are looking to go one better and the majority of last season’s squad has remained unchanged with a few exceptions like Pilkington going to Hereford and Vincent going up to Scotland to join Inverness but to replace those we have brought the likes of Lee Fowler and Dior Angus in to name a few to Help strengthen the overall squad.
Steve Burr is one of the best managers that we could find for the Harriers. His knowledge of unknown players is exceptional and he works very hard to get the best out of them, which can be shown with Chey Dunkley who was fairly unknown and is know one of the league’s top defenders. Burr knows if the players work hard then we can achieve big things this season.
Aggborough is a nice ground for this league and holds just over 6000 fans. It has great food here so make sure when you come to Aggborough this season you check out the £4 pies – they are well worth the money!
There are quite a few games to look forward to the season. Top of my list has to be Wrexham as that is always a cracking day out, as well as the other big teams (like Luton, Grimsby and Forest Green). I am also looking forward to the games against the new members especially Chester and Barnet – and look forward to a trip to The Hive later on in the season.
To get promoted: Kidderminster (Champions) and Wrexham (Play-offs)
To get relegated: Salisbury, Halifax, Woking and Welling
Kidderminster’s finish: 1st

2012/13: 16th in Conference – “stressful, worrying, frustrating
Lincoln City
We lost our two best strikers in the summer: Jamie Taylor who scored 16 goals last season left us for Sutton United for family reasons, and Vadaine Oliver who scored 13 goals last season was snapped up by League One Crewe. I feel that our gaffer has done a great job of replacing them by signing four strikers. The two who I am most impressed are Waide Fairhurst (who scored 13 for Macclesfield last season) and Nick Wright who was part of Mansfield’s promotion winning side and has had previous impressive goal scoring records at Conference level with Tamworth and Kidderminster. I am pleased Alan Power, Jake Sheridan and Tom Miller signed new contracts in the summer as they were key for us last season.
I believe Gary Simpson is right for the job as he has a passion and love for the Imps having been our assistant manager to Keith Alexander, and has unfinished business having seen us come close to promotion in League Two. Since being appointed manager back in February he saved us from relegation from the Conference on the final day of the season and masterminded an impressive set of results together. He clearly has a good eye for players in the transfer market, although it may be beyond him to get us promoted in his first season in charge.
We play at Sincil Bank, an all-seater stadium with a capacity of 10,120. This coming season there is a change to where the away fans are being housed – moving from the corner of our biggest stand (the co-op) to our smallest one on the opposite corner which was previously our family stand. The Stacey West stand behind the goal is being closed for this season to cut costs but will be open if necessary for larger away followings to sit in. The whole of the co-op stand is being given to home fans this season – the way it should be in my opinion as it is our biggest stand. The cathedral can be seen from the upper sections of the stadium. We have a bar at the ground which welcomes away fans and shows any live football; there is also a Wetherspoons which is always popular on match days, as well as a selection of bars in the town centre.
I am most looking forward to playing our fierce local rivals Grimsby as since dropping to the Conference, we are yet to beat them. Also looking forward to Alfreton away again this season as it is a short trip, which we have very little of in this league.
To get promoted: Luton (Champions) and Forest Green Rovers (Play-offs)
To get relegated: Braintree, Alfreton, Hyde and Salisbury
Lincoln’s finish: 7th

2012/13: 7th in Conference – “Paul bucked up!
Luton Town
Most people will say Stuart Fleetwood is the biggest loss; however, I don't agree. There’s no doubt he can score goals, but his attitude was terrible. The signing of Luke Guttridge being the pick of the bunch, I also expect Mark Cullen to do a job up front!
John Still is now in charge and I'm hoping he's finally the right man to lead us back to the Football League! As expected he’s cleared out a few of the players, but to date has made eight signings.
If you've never been to Kenilworth Road then this is the season to come and visit us. As away fans you almost go through people's gardens to get to the stand but don't let that put you off! The atmosphere inside the ground is fantastic and expect 5-6000 home fans every home game!
I'm personally looking forward to seeing Barnet’s new ground and Cambridge away is always good!
To get promoted: Forest Green Rovers (Champions) and Cambridge (Play-offs)
To get relegated: Hyde, Dartford, Welling and Braintree
Luton’s finish: top five

2012/13: 11th in Conference – “Interesting, but frustrating
Macclesfield Town
Sam Wedgbury and Keiran Murtagh are the key midfield losses, but once again they were expected to go. Our Player of the Season Wedgbury gave everything, all the time. And always came across as someone who knew what the supporters expected of him and the team. Such was his effort, it was no surprise when a League club came calling for him. With Murtagh, he was always solid in the centre and Macclesfield were a lot different and underachieving whenever he wasn't playing in the squad. Unfortunately such was his tendency to get booked, Murtagh spent times on the sideline through suspension, and this certainly didn't help us. Matthew Barnes-Homer, our main goalscorer has not yet officially left, but most supporters expect him to. He's currently on trial at Notts County. Given the amount of goals he got for Macclesfield, it will be a key loss. But John Askey has signed Chris Holroyd, a Macclesfield born lad who scored nine goals for us during a short loan period last season. This included a hat-trick against Stockport County at Edgeley Park, which is certainly a good way of endearing yourself to the Macclesfield supporters! I'm also delighted that keeper Rhys Taylor has signed a new contract, and that Jack Mackreth has committed – a young, pacy winger who has great potential to make it in the higher leagues.
John Askey knows Macclesfield Town in and out, and what the supporters want to see at the Moss Rose and away. And that he would most likely commit to the same style of play that his predecessor used. Having been in charge of Macclesfield's youth output, I'm sure a few young prospects will make their way into the squad as the season goes on. Not only that, his new assistant is Efe Sodje, another Macclesfield legend who will bring in his in depth knowledge and status to ensure the squad has passion before the game begins. For a coaching team that have nearly 800 appearances in a Macclesfield shirt between them, they already have the respect from the supporters; they need it from the players though. I just get the feeling they didn't have it last season.
Moss Rose is a very quaint, standard League Two/Conference ground, that combines the modern stands with the old quite well. I suppose it's nicely old fashioned in the sense that it still has a terrace without a roof – away fans be warned if you're playing us in the winter!
Wrexham and Chester are the stand-out games – it's good that after one local rival departs (Stockport County) another can take their place. A bit more local for myself though, based in Staffordshire, is the trip to Tamworth and I went there for the first time last season on a Tuesday night. A dour goalless draw, but I enjoyed good conversation with some of their supporters beforehand, inside a typical lower capacity Conference ground. It was what I would call a proper Conference away game. I look forward to Kidderminster Harriers again this season as well, for the same reason about supporter interaction.
To get promoted: Kidderminster (Champions) and Luton (Play-offs)
To get relegated: Southport, Salisbury, Tamworth and Gateshead
Macclesfield’s finish: 11th again

2012/13: 15th in Conference – “Incredible last third 
Nuneaton Town
We have signed Louis Moult permanently who we had on loan at back end of last season and formed a great partnership with Andy Brown. Browny himself scored 20 goals last year in a ‘bottom four’ side which is remarkable. We've also just signed Greg Pearson who is a proven conference goal scorer so attacking wise we look good – we just haven't got a goalkeeper yet!
Our boss Kevin Wilkins is absolutely the right man. He stuck with us through demotion and delivered three promotions in four years, as well as Conference survival last season. He was also a brilliant goal scorer for us in the late 90s.
Our ground is adequate and is quite similar to others in the league. With metal terraces either end – one of which holds 1100 for away fans. The Main Stand holds around 400 fans but is located towards the away end.
Look forward to playing any of the big ex Football League teams. Luton away in front of 6200 last year showed how far we had come in four years when we had Dunstable and Marlow as league games! Aldershot will be good as we've never played there and Macclesfield first game when it's warm (rather than a freezing cold December fixture)!
To get promoted: Luton (Champions) and Wrexham (Play-offs)
To get relegated: Hyde, Alfreton, Aldershot and Gateshead
Nuneaton’s finish: 17th