Saturday 17th August and the new Bet Victor Northern Premier League season kicks off. That, therefore, means that summer is over. Yet again we start the season with an away match. The last time we started the season with a home win was season 2011/12 when FC United visited us in a Northern Premier fixture following our drop down from the Conference North. Technically we started 2016/17 at home to Barwell, but this was because the first game away to Ilkeston had been postponed due to their issues.
This pre-season has been quite a different one in that we knew the squad. In recent years we have had three or four players and a whole host of trialists, with team sheets being a veritable who’s who. There have only been a few new names to come to terms with, who include keeper, Lewis King, who having played for Mickleover is aware of our fans behind the goal. Also, from Mickleover is striker Evan Garnett. We have a new defender in Josh Burns, who for those who do not know is the brother of Dan Burns. I am not convinced they are brothers as Josh is not 7 foot tall. Possibly our marque signing this close season is Alex Ray Harvey who has played most of his football at a much higher level and should be an asset to the squad. His only fault is that he spent some time last season on loan to the side on the dark side of Cannock Chase.
Pre-season friendlies has seen us unbeaten winning 5 and drawing 2 with 25-4 goal difference. Remember you cannot use friendlies for true form as the games are put on to give players match practice, try out new formations. I remember on unbeaten pre-season followed by a first league win coming in October, so do not read too much into the games against Stafford Town and Lichfield, but the fat that all departments of the squad have been tested.
So, we start the season with a nice trip up the M6 along with all the holiday makers going to Blackpool for a game at Giant Axe, the home of Lancaster City. This was a regular journey back in the 70’s with this fixture contested for 9 seasons between 1970/01 and 1978/79 with us winning 4, drawing 2 and losing 3. The first and last games in that era saw Lancaster winning 1-0. Obviously after that run we moved up into the Non-league topflight and while we had our ups and downs and flirtation with Southern League, we did not meet up again till 2017/18 following Lancaster gaining promotion from Division 1. 2017/18 saw us draw 1-1 with a last-minute Robert Thompson-Brown penalty, and last season saw us draw 0-0, playing most of the game with 10 men.
I am not aware of any supporter’s coach going but I understand many will make it by car and train. The Lancaster railway station overlooks the ground, so if you fancy a couple of hours trainspotting you can also view a game of football as a bonus.