The U’s go into the new season away to promoted Concord Rangers full of optimism after finishing as runners-up last season. Consecutive top-five finishes aren’t enough for Paul Doswell though, who would love to avoid another year of heartbreak in the play-offs by taking the one guaranteed promotion place. “I’m not sure we deserve to be made favourites though,” says Paul. “Several clubs have been very active in the transfer market and teams such as Lowestoft, Bury and Croydon Athletic are pretty much unknown quantities. Lowestoft, Croydon and Tonbridge have all strengthened their squads significantly and Kingstonian will be challenging again. We’ve had Croydon watched and they look useful. It will be a good league this season, I expect it to be tight at the top with no one side running away with it.
Apart from the End Goal Initiative, which I’d still urge people to support, our budget is exactly the same as it has been in each of the last two seasons. We have brought some good players in without paying any transfer fees. A couple of the lads were on Bosman deals, which does involve compensation, but we are losing Sam and Sonny on the same basis so hopefully those will just about cancel out. We have a smaller squad than last year but the players have a lot of versatility about them so will be able to change positions easily and that also means we can switch formations when we need to. Pre-season has gone well but I’m looking forward to the real action.”
For tomorrow, Jerson Dos Santos is suspended after being sent off in a reserve team cup final last season but other than that we have a full squad to choose from and Alan Bray is back in contention after injury kept him out of the last few pre-season games
This will be the U’s first ever game against newly-promoted Concord Rangers, whose ground is on Canvey Island. Leave the M25 at J30 and take the A282/A13 towards Tilbury. Go right onto the A130 Canvey Way and then right at the roundabout. Carry on down Canvey Road, into Long Road (still the A130) then right into Thames Road.