Whole new ball game for the Rams

The Southern League central division will provide Petersfield Town's latest challenge Picture: Mick Young
The Southern League central division will provide Petersfield Town's latest challenge Picture: Mick Young
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Petersfield Town are heading into the great unknown as they embark on their first-ever season in the Southern League.

The Wessex League premier division champions start their central division campaign at AFC Rushden & Diamonds on Saturday, not totally sure what to expect!

The Rams have enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks following two successive promotions, but manager Ian Saunders knows they now face their biggest test yet.

The Southern League will be a whole new ball game for the Love Lane outfit.

One of the biggest differences they will have to come to terms with is the increased amount of travelling involved.

That will put greater demands on the players’ commitment, while understanding employers will be needed due to the schedule they face.

The step up in standard will also be felt on the pitch.

In the Southern League Petersfield will come up against teams who are a bit more experienced with a greater physical edge.

Many of the sides at this level contain ex-professional players who have dropped down but still have an effective role to play.

They will also find that teams are more physical than those in the Wessex League.

During the summer months, Saunders brought in some new faces to strengthen his squad ahead of the challenge that lies in wait.

He has kept the majority of last season’s player rota and made a few quality signings.

One of those is experienced central defender Dan Sackman, who played 44 games last term for Bognor in the Ryman League premier division.

In midfield, the boss has gone for a blend of youth and experience, with young Harry Wedlake brought in from the Hawks to provide energy.

Ryan Woodford, from Chipstead, and Stuart Green, from Winchester City, add the experience.

Up front, Saunders has acquired a big, powerful forward in Mike Dickson from Andover Town.

How the Rams handle new expectations will also be crucial.

Last season they stormed through the Wessex premier on a crest of a wave, and what they achieved was beyond their wildest dreams.

It was the result of a lot of hard work, which showed itself in their successful last-minute efforts to earn Southern League ground grading for Love lane.

Petersfield have shown in the past two seasons that they are capable of surprising everyone.

In their new league the ability to grind out results and bounce back from a few defeats will be important.

It will be a steep learning curve and the Rams will need to adjust to their new surroundings quickly.

If they can do that then there is no reason why they shouldn’t prove competitive.

For Saunders, if his team are still a step-four club at the end of the season, he will regard that as a successful season.

It promises to be a different type of campaign but one the Rams are ready for.