On Saturday, the new season kicks off with Simon Howarth aiming to hit the ground running when Mickleover Sports visit (kick off 3pm). Mickleover finished last season in twelfth, after finishing the season strongly. There will be a Twitter feed for this match, but the Match Centre will be in much reduced mode. This match's selected charity is the Anthony Seddon Fund.
Mickleover's last twenty games last season, starting on Boxing Day, saw them lose just four games, with their last loss at home, in April, to Marine when they lost 2-1 and their last loss away being a 3-2 defeat in Whitby. They also lost away at Sutton and Warrington. They had seven wins, with the last being a 1-0 home win over us, during our month of hell (it was our eight game in a fortnight), a game that saw Mickleover win with the last kick of the match, George Sykes-Kenworthy saving a ninety-second minute penalty, only for Evan Garnett to reach the loose ball first and fire in the games only goal.
Mickleover's last away win was the game before, when they beat Hednesford Town 3-1. Mickleover only had seven wins in that twenty game run, the remaining nine games were draws, seeing them rise only slowly from seventeenth to twelfth between Christmas and the end of the season. With four wins in November, seeing them score twelve and concede once in those wins, this was Mickleover's purple patch last season, and included their other game over Celtic, a 5-0 win at Bower Fold, a game in which they had six chances and scored five of them, whilst former Celtic keeper, Lewis King, had the game of his life, keeping Celtic at bay with a fine display.
Last season, Mickleover scored sixty-eight goals, thirty-five of them on the road, at a rate of 1.5 goals per game. They conceded sixty goals, twenty-six of them on the road, at a rate of 1.3 goals per game (1.1 per away game). They failed to score in eight games (five away) and kept thirteen clean sheets, six of them away. With thirty-three points from sixty-nine away from home, compared to twenty-eight points from sixty-nine at home, their away form just edged their home form. Mickleover's top scorer was Andrew Dales, who scored nineteen goals (twelve away), with Evan Garnett close behind on thirteen. They never lost a game away from home that they were winning at half time, in the seven games this was the case, they went on to win six of them.
Mickleover's last game was a 3-3 home draw with Barwell, whilst their last away game was a 3-1 win over Halesowen. You have to go back to March for the last time they dropped points away from home, when they drew 1-1 with Ashton, and the game before was their last away loss, when they were beaten 2-3 by Whitby.
Former Celt, Oli Roberts, has signed for Mickleover, whilst striker Andy Dales has left to join Scunthorpe and defender Morgan Williams joined Coventry. They have brought in veteran non-league striker Nathan Jarman from Gainsborough, and seen quite a few other changes over the summer. As an example, in their last match, the 3-3 home draw with Barwell, Mickleover lined up as: Lewis King, Jak Hickman, Eccleshall, John McGrath, Morgan Williams, Alex Morris, Andy Dales, Clinton Morrison, Scott, Evan Garnett and William Norcross. In their final pre-season fixture, they lined up as: Lewis King, Curtis Burrows, Tom Burgin, Tyreece Robinson, Ben Turner, Jake Scott, Jimmy Phillips, Oliver Roberts, Fin Davies, John McGrath and Evan Garnett.
Both teams will be eager to kick the new campaign off with a win. Hopefully, Celtic can replicate last season's opening game, and start with a win, but not replicate the rest of that season!