Horndean host Wessex League 'favourites' Lymington Town as curtain comes up on new season
Michael Birmingham reckons Horndean have been handed the toughest possible start to the Wessex League premier division season.
The Deans welcome Lymington Town to Five Heads Park on Saturday (3pm).
And Birmingham insists his side, who finished runners-up last term, are up against the favourites for the title.
The boss said: ‘What a way to start the season.
‘Lymington have made some super signings and on paper must possess the strongest squad in our league.
‘The only good thing is everyone will expect us to get beaten.
‘We have improved year on year but each time it gets tougher and tougher.
‘I like to think we go about it the right way and will continue to do so.’
Horndean are expected to give debuts to new signings Bobby Scott, from AFC Portchester, and Louie Martin, from Moneyfields.
However, they have lost Benny Read who has stepped up to National League South with the Hawks.
Fareham Town lift the curtain against Bournemouth at Cams Alders.
Reds manager Pete Stiles is looking for a big improvement on last season – when his troops struggled in the lower reaches of the division.
‘I have put together a decent squad and we are ready to get started,’ he said.
‘Last season we had a lot of experienced players but we lacked legs at times.
‘This time I have added a number of younger players to give us a bit more energy.’
Levi Hernandez, who has played in the Spanish third tier, is set to make his debut.
Goalkeeper Ross Casey is also in line for his Fareham bow after arriving from Horndean.
But new recruit Connor Messenbird is ruled out by a three-match ban.
AFC Portchester will aim to capitalise on home comforts as they start against Shaftesbury at the Crest Finance Stadium.
Royals boss Mick Catlin is desperate to make a winning start after the disappointment of finishing 13th last term.
Baffins Milton Rovers are without new signing George Way for their trip to Amesbury Town.
Way, who signed from Chichester City, is on holiday.
United Services visit Andover New Street in division one.
Petersfield Town are also on the road as they go to Laverstock & Ford.