STOCKSBRIDGE Park Steels have the honour of opening the new 2012/13 season with Chris Willcock’s men facing Chorley at Bracken Moor tonight (7.45).
It presents Steels with a tough start against a team that reached the play-offs last term after finishing third only to lose out in the semi-final against FC United. Chorley looked impressive on their last visit to Stocksbridge in March when they won 3-0 and the Magpies manager Gary Flitcroft has already targeted the Championship this season.
Willcock is confident Steels can avoid another season of struggle after avoiding relegation on goal-difference last term, and he too has gone on record saying a top half finish is not beyond his side and believes Stocksbridge are in for a more enjoyable campaign.
Willcock has rebuilt the squad over the summer with 13 new arrivals at Bracken Moor. Gone are the likes of goalkeeper Ben Scott midfielder Matt Telling and striker Jack Muldoon, who has joined North Ferriby.
Among those Willcock is likely to hand league debuts is goalkeeper Adam Billard from Frickley Athletic, full-back Ben Turner, central defender Lincoln Adams and experienced striker Kevin Sanasy. Skipper Brett Lovell looks set to miss tout through injury.
Sheffield FC travel to Lincoln United for what is the start of a new era with former Sheffield United midfielder Curtis Woodhouse at the helm.
The Dronfield side missed out on promotion last term after getting walloped 7-0 at Ilkeston in the play-off semi-finals.
It’s seen in many quarters as a bold step by Club to hand Woodhouse his first crack at management though Chris Adam’s return to the club in a player/coach role will be a huge help to the fledgling boss.
Woodhouse has brought back experienced striker Vill Powell for a second spell after hitting 20-goals for Goole last term, while goalkeeper Nick Draper has been snapped up on a season long loan from Lincoln City. Woodhouse aims for a winning start against a side that finished fourth bottom last term though they did take four points off Sheffield drawing the corresponding fixture 2-2 to add to a 3-2 victory at Dronfield
Elsewhere, Frickley who were given a reprieve from relegation last season, face a tough start at Hednesford Town, while Worksop Town travel to Ashton United where boss Simon Clark could hand debuts to as many as eight new summer signings.
Matlock Town start at home against Nantwich Town where a surprise debut coould be in store for 18-year-old striker Joe Leesley. Buxton travel to North Ferriby United.