PREVIEW: Widnes (H) - The Season Opener

The pre-season has now ended, new players have been introduced to the squad, and fitness levels checked. It’s all systems go.

After what proved to be a successful and enjoyable campaign last time round when, following the appointment of manager Chris Willcock in October, the side residing in the bottom half of the table, rose into the play-offs, as well as progressing into the last 16 of the top non-league knock-out competition, the FA Trophy, hopes are high for an even better campaign this time round.

Due to the imminent completion of non-league’s much-awaited pyramid, which will come in at the end of this new season, lines have been redrawn, meaning that the Rams will be facing ten new teams compared with their opponents last season.

On the face of it, the newcomers appear to be stronger than those that have moved down to the South East Division, and should prove a sterner test for the Rams.

However, despite a number of last season’s squad moving on, Willcock has introduced a number of new signings with the intention of strengthening the team in preparation for the nine months ahead.

Amongst the newcomers is speedy winger Iyrwah Gooden, who endeared himself to the supporters during his loan spell at the club from Mansfield Town towards the back of last season.

Joining him are two of Willcock’s main targets, 6ft plus striker Karl Jones who has played under the boss before at Glossop, and fellow striker Daniel Naidole, whose impressive pre-season performances bode well for the coming season.

They join up with a number of last season’s squad, including influential captain and former Bury star, Tom Kennedy, and top scorer Nic Evangelinos, whilst fans favourite Jamie Rother embarks on his sixth season with the club, having racked up over 100 appearances.

Competing with Jamie in midfield is Eddie Moran, in his second stint at the club.

No doubt there will be an odd new face or two still to be added as the season gets underway with a home game against a Widnes side who surprised the Rams with a win here on their last visit in March, and as always it’s difficult to forecast the outcome of the coming campaign.

Most sides will have altered their squads from last season, and it’s very much a case of seeing what happens over the next few weeks before determining just which teams look likely to be successful.

Manager Willcock has had his first full pre-season at the HWRS, so Saturday may well give an indication of what lies ahead, but football is far from a straightforward game.

Promotion to BetVictor Premier Division is very much the target, and Saturday will see the first shot in anger as the Rams prepare for what should be another entertaining nine months.