Dawn of new era for Hallam at Knaresborough

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So, after watching some awful so-called ‘friendly’ games over the past few days, it is time for the curtains to raise, the band to strike up and the real league games to commence in our ‘theatre of dreams’ this weekend.

The Toolstation Northern Counties East League commences on Saturday, with the Evo-Stik League starting next week.

In the NCEL Premier Division we only have 21 clubs due to Wakefield’s late resignation with one more in Division One.

Five of our clubs feature in the Premier Division and just two in Division One.

I am off to Knaresborough Town’s Manse Lane ground on Saturday as guests of the club who face Hallam in a Division One game that should tell us much about the Countrymen.

A new era begins at the club with a new manager Steve Toyne and a whole new squad and with the likes of Flynn, Mirfin, Osbourne, Mayala and Allott in the squad, where much is expected.

However, with eight of their first nine games away it will be a must to start with a win, but I expect Town to be strong and a draw looks the most Hallam can hope for.

Our other representatives are Worsbrough Bridge, who also have had upheaval at their club. New manager Dave Mace is relying on youngsters to fill his squad but I feel he needs a couple of old heads to boost his team’s chances - although it is good to see the return of Adam Podmore up front.

They start with a visit to relegated Lincoln Moorlands on Saturday where again a point would represent a solid start for the club.

Eccleshill United, Pontefract Colliery and Shirebrook Town look favourites for promotion whilst the dark horses could well be Clipstone Welfare.

In the Premier Division our five representatives include the renamed Handsworth Parramore, Maltby Main, Parkgate, Staveley and Worksop Town, who have been relegated two divisions.

Handsworth Parramore are one of the favourites for promotion, and rightly so. They start their fixtures on Saturday with a home game against Glasshoughton Welfare.

Maltby Main also look a stronger outfit this season and at home to Nostell Miners Welfare should see them make a winning start.

Staveley, meanwhile, entertain Bridlington Town who completed a winning double over them last season, whilst Parkgate visit Armthorpe Welfare and a completely new look Worksop Town travel to Garforth Town.

Then on Tuesday Handsworth visit Thackley, Parkgate entertain Armthorpe Welfare and Staveley visit newly promoted and big spending Shaw Lane Aqua Force.

On Wednesday Maltby Main and Worksop Town are both at home to Glasshoughton Welfare and Liversedge respectively.

Handsworth Parramore, Barton Town, Bridlington Town and Pickering Town are my four clubs to fight out the one promotion place whilst relegation for one club may be the unlucky Nostell Miners Welfare.

Both Sheffield Club and Stocksbridge Park start their campaign next weekend - and having watched them both in ‘friendlies’ recently it is probably just as well they have an extra week to prepare!