This weekend signals the start of the new Evo-Stik League campaign.
Sheffield FC kick-off a new chapter in their world-renowned history with a home clash against Romulus as manager James Colliver sets out on his first full season in charge. While across the city Stocksbridge Park Steels open with a trip to Market Drayton Town in what will be Chris Hilton’s third season at the helm.
Colliver has been busy over the summer months reshaping the Sheffield squad whilst also putting his backroom team in place. Jay Roper is the new assistant manager with Oliver Ryan joining as player/coach and former Rotherham United shot-stopper Paul Pettinger becoming goalkeeping coach.
Amongst Colliver’s nine summer recruits are Ashley Longstaff who returns for a fourth stint with the club and experienced midfielder Michael Towey from Buxton.
While two late additions saw Colliver sign midfielders Pat Lindley from Ossett Albion and James Cottingham from Worksop Town following the 8-0 win over a young Chesterfield side in Club’s final warm-up game.
The Sheffield boss has been pleased with the build up but more signings are likely. “Pre-season has gone well, the lads look fit” said Colliver. “Finances dictate things but we’ve signed good players. We’ve got players who want to be here and are not chasing money.
“We’re still looking to add to the squad, but we may have to wait until the end of September.
“We’ve got a challenging start but the lads are raring to go” said Colliver. “Romulus have a good record against us but we’ll be looking to put that right. We then go to Shaw Lane on Tuesday who just missed out on promotion last season then face Ramsbottom United away in the Cup next weekend. We need to give a good account of ourselves and surprise people.” Midfielder Ross Goodwin is the only doubt after suffering tissue damage in pre-season.
Stocksbridge manager Chris Hilton is sweating on a number of players ahead of the Market Drayton trip. “Its been one of the toughest pre-seasons for injuries,” said Hilton. “Adam Hincliffe, Cory Gregory, Joe Lumsden, Connor Griffin and goalkeeper David Reay have all picked up injuries, so we’ve not been able to work with them on as much as we would like, which has been frustrating.
“We’re hopeful that a few of the injuries will clear up, although Cory and Matt Reay are both suspended.”
Steels finished just outside the play-offs last season following a nine-match unbeaten run. “You always want to better yourself so the play-offs has to be the aim,” Hilton said. “To do that we’ll need to hit the ground running and keep everyone fit. We beat Market Drayton comfortably at home in the first match of last season but we know it will be a difficult game at their place so we we’ll need to be on top of our game.”
Shaw Lane AFC start with a trip to Chasetown as Criag Elliott’s side look to go one better than last term when they missed out on promotion by a single point behind champions Stafford Rangers.
Fixtures: Premier Division: Buxton Halesowen Town, Corby Town v Matlock Town, Frickley Athletic v Ashton United.
Division One South: Chasetown v Shaw Lane AFC, Market Drayton Town v Stocksbridge Park Steels, Sheffield FC v Romulus.