Welfare all set for big kick-off

Josh Stevenson is among the players to have remained at Kimberley from last season.
Josh Stevenson is among the players to have remained at Kimberley from last season.

Manager Paul Rawden says his Kimberley Miners Welfare side are itching to get the season started as they prepare to begin life in the East Midlands Counties League.

Welfare will head to Holbrook Sports on Saturday for their first ever game at step six of the non-league pyramid having been promoted from the Notts Senior League last season.

And after a summer of building a squad fit to take on the challenge, Rawden says he is happy with how things are shaping up.

He said: “The hardest part has been narrowing the squad down as we must have had around 50 players turn out for us on trial over the summer.

“But we’ve got a good set of around 20 players now, the last piece of the jigsaw having been to find a goalscorer, which we think we’ve found now.”

That striker is Anthony Gregory, who has experience with the likes of Hucknall Town and Eastwood Town at higher levels and who scored all five goals as Kimberley dismantled Central Midlands League North champions AFC Mansfield 5-1 last Saturday.

Rawden added: “Anthony has a good pedigree higher up the pyramid, albeit mostly as a midfield player. But he showed on Saturday that he can be deadly in front of goal and he should be a good addition for us.

“Only four or five of last season’s first-team squad will feature for us this time with a few others having dropped back into the NSL with the reserve side, but the likes of keeper Matt Walsh, midfielders Josh Stevenson and Martin Lench and defender Ian Shepherd will offer some continuity from last term.”

Rawden firmly believes his side will be competitive at their new level.

“At first we’ll be an unknown quantity for a lot of teams which could work to our advantage,” he added.

“But although pre-season means little in terms of results, we’ve put in some good displays against some decent sides, including AFC Mansfield who have lots of experience.

“We’ve a good balance to the side which should hold us in good stead and several players with higher level experience have signed which will also be crucial.”

With regard to the opening day clash, Rawden says anything can happen.

He said: “The opening day can produce a few freak results as everyone is so enthusiastic and fresh so we’ll have no fear at Holbrook.

“We’ll then have a clear week unlike the rest of the division, something we’ll benefit from quite a lot given we’re not in the FA Cup or FA Vase this year, so we should be fresh for the home game with Greenwood Meadows on the 16th”

EMCL Fixtures, August 9: Ashby Ivanhoe v Radford, Bardon Hill v Aylestone Park, Barrow Town v Stapenhill, Blaby & Whetstone v Arnold Town, Gedling MW v Borrowash Vics, Graham St Prims v Greenwood Meadows, Holbrook Sports v Kimberley MW, Holwell Sports v St Andrews, Radcliffe Olympic v Ellistown & Ibstock, South Normanton v Anstey Nomads.