Sherwood Colliery and AFC Mansfield all set for the big kick-off
Both AFC Mansfield and Sherwood Colliery ended their pre-season matches with victories at the weekend and are now looking forward to the big kick-off of the Northern Counties East League Premier Division season this Saturday.
AFC Mansfield are no strangers to this level but newly-promoted Sherwood Colliery know they will begin as underdogs.
Sherwood boss Wayne Savage said: “If I am being honest we have to say we'd like to finish in the top half.
“But we can't take this league for granted. It's a very strong league with some very good sides in it.
“Off the bounce we'd be happy to finish top half. But we are a club with expectations and we want to go for everything and see how high we can finish.
“It would be nice to finish top six, but I don't want to be disrespectful to anyone as there are some very good sides in that league.
“We are going into this league as massive underdogs, having been up there as favourites the last two seasons.
“We are going in totally blind as far as the opposition are concerned, but I am looking forward to it.
“It will be different grounds to visit and I wanted a different challenge. I am glad we joined this league as it's the best Step 5 league around for a long way.”
Sherwood won 4-3 at Hull-based Hall Road Rangers last weekend and Savage can't now wait for Saturday's opener at home to Athersley Recreation.
“We have had a good pre-season and the tournament was good for us to get back in the swing of things and blow off the cobwebs nice and early,” he said.
“We have a couple of new lads in and we are looking pretty sharp.
“We had a good side anyway and after the 10 games we played this last season plus the season before the void I think we were 27 games unbeaten. Our last defeat was at Hucknall back in 2019.
“So I think we've got what we deserved over the two seasons though I didn't think we were going to get it.
“I was worried they would void it and we'd be running at Step 6 again which would have been very harsh.
“Eastwood and Heanor also got what they deserved with their promotions. It was a very long waiting game but worth it in the end.”
AFC Mansfield completed their friendlies with a 3-2 win at Clipstone and now head for Staveley MW on Saturday.
That means an immediate return for new Bulls signing Mark Dudley, who returned to AFC this week.
“Mark is experienced, obviously he's been at the club before, and we've signed him from Staveley,” said boss Phil Buxton.
“I think he has come across as the 4G pitch they've put in there was not good for his knees. He wanted a grass-based team so I snapped his hand off .
“We have also signed a centre half called Sam King, who has just come back from Greece.”
He added: “That is the squad pretty much done and dusted though we are on the lookout for a striker. I won't just dive in and get one, he has to fit us. We are just that one player off.
“We will see where we are on Saturday. It is a difficult start at Staveley and it will be a good test. They are normally a good side and they have a good manager.
“We will find out a lot about players in our squad.”
The biggest hope is to finally complete a full season after the last two were wrecked by Covid.
“We have Covid protocols to follow and we have to test as much as we can. We want to keep as many games on as possible and hopefully we'll get a full season,” said Buxton.