Southam United face a baptism of fire in Midland League Division One with a trip to last season’s runners-up Bromsgrove Sporting getting the season under way tomorrow, writes David Hucker.
For manager Quentin Townsend, in his second season in charge at Banbury Road, it will be a chance to avenge the 3-2 defeat by Sporting in the Les James Challenge Cup final at the Banks’s Stadium in May.
Saints will be missing the injured Louis Bridges, who notched 37 goals last season, but Townsend has brought in a number of new signings, including strikers Gareth Evans, who has joined the club from Midland League Premier Division side Coleshill Town, and Kyle Turner, who scored 37 goals for Pilkington XXX last season.
The pre-season programme brought mixed results, finishing with a 1-0 home defeat to Evo-Stick Northern Premier League Division One South side Daventry Town last Saturday.
There was a minute’s silence before the match for juniors manager Steve Buckle, who passed away recently.
Young Town goalkeeper Ben Heath twice denied the hosts, making an excellent save minutes before the break from Suki Nijjar and, in the 75th minute, coming quickly off his line to smother a shot from Kevin Spencer.
Saints keeper Will Freeman had kept his side in the match with an acrobatic first-half save but he was powerless to stop former Kings Lynn striker James Tricks wrapping up the contest in the 83rd minute, heading home a free-kick from the right.
There was further woe for Saints with defender Lee Thomas having to leave the field for treatment after suffering a nasty head injury in the first half.
Reflecting on the match, Townsend said: “I thought that, given the difference of levels, you couldn’t tell which team was in a higher division on the day.
“We had the better chances to win the game, particularly Suki Nijjar and Kev Spencer, who missed when it looked easier to score.
“Overall we weren’t up to our normal standards but the lads are more than fired up for the season opener.”
Assistant manager Ian Ray has moved to Coventry United to take charges of their ladies’ team but Townsend has filled the void by appointing Kim Casey as his right-hand man.
Casey needs no introduction to south Warwickshire, having been one of the most prolific strikers in non-league football, including at AP Leamington under manager Graham Allner in the 1980s.
Townsend added: “In my opinion, Kim is one of the best coaches in the Midlands and already a huge favourite with the players with his coaching style and tactical knowledge.”
Saints are back in league action again on Tuesday evening when they entertain Littleton (7.45pm).