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Big kick-off: BetVictor Northern Premier S/East preview

By James Gordon

The BetVictor Northern Premier S/East Division has an intriguing look about it ahead of the season’s start on Saturday.

Lateral movements have meant a raft of new teams in to the division, as well as newly-promoted Ilkeston Town, who will be looking to rise back up the football pyramid having been formed after Ilkeston FC dissolved in 2017.

They’ve had a turbulent off-season though, losing manager Lee Fowler just weeks before the start of the season, though they did move quick to bring in Mark Clifford as a replacement.

Their first game is at home, against Cleethorpes Town, who enjoyed a fine run of form throughout the winter to climb away from the bottom of the table and in to the play-off hunt, before eventually falling away at the end.

One side that went the other way last season was Lincoln United, who started really well and were the early chasers of eventual champions Morpeth, before suffering an alarming dip in form that almost dragged them in to the relegation battle.

Everyone starts with a clean slate on Saturday though, and Carlton Town are the visitors. Carlton finished in the relegation zone last season but were reprieved by AFC Mansfield’s resignation from the league.

Sheffield reached the play-offs last season and it’ll be a case of going one or two better for them in this campaign. A pre-season tour of Russia has whet the appetite for a successful campaign, that gets under way with the visit of one of the league’s new boys in Newcastle Town.

Newcastle, like Kidsgrove, Market Drayton, Leek and others, have moved over from the West (now N/West) to the new-look S/East division.

Leek start with a trip to Wisbech Town, who struggled last season before just about finding enough to stay away from the drop zone. It’s the first ever meeting between the two sides.

Wisbech have a new manager in Seb Hayes, and he is keen to make the most of the opportunity in what he calls the biggest job he’s ever had, and is determined to make sure they aren’t merely making up the numbers in their second season at this level.

Market Drayton host Belper Town for their opener at Greenfields, somewhat of a re-union with both sides having previously locked horns on a regular basis in the South division.

Belper’s away form was as good as anyone’s other than Morpeth in the East Division last season, and only three clubs that finished above them remain in the league.

One of those is Loughborough Dynamo, who welcome Northern Counties East champions Worksop Town, on their return to the NPL after five years.

The Tigers kicked off their season in heartbreaking fashion last week, conceding two late goals to be knocked out of the FA Cup by Melton Town.

Perhaps worse than that was the departure of captain Daniel Patterson, who was released after the game having apparently refused to come on as a second half substitute.

Returning from the Southern League Central after a year away from the NPL are Sutton Coldfield Town. They welcome Spalding United on the opening day, Spalding having finished just one place above the relegation zone last season.

Kidsgrove Athletic, who enjoyed a fine run in the FA Cup last year, host Stocksbridge Park Steels.

Steels were basement boys for the first half of the campaign, but went on a run to drag themselves away from trouble.

Glossop North End host Stamford, as they look to make their mark in a league of unfamiliar opponents, while Frickley Athletic host Chasetown.

BetVictor Northern Premier S/East opening fixtures, Saturday August 17:

Frickley Athletic v Chasetown
Glossop North End v Stamford
Ilkeston v Cleethorpes Town
Kidsgrove Athletic v Stocksbridge Park Steels
Lincoln United v Carlton Town
Loughborough Dynamo v Worksop Town
Market Drayton Town v Belper Town
Sheffield v Newcastle Town
Sutton Coldfield Town v Spalding United
Wisbech Town v Leek Town

Where next?

Ilkeston bring in Freeman Ilkeston Town have signed defender Dean Freeman.
Radcliffe in gesture to Bury FC season ticket holders BetVictor Northern Premier new boys Radcliffe FC are to offer free admission to all Bury FC season ticket holders for their opener against South Shields on Saturday.

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