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Andover Town start Wessex League campaign with home game at Winklebury
With work continuing on the revamped Portway Stadium Andover Town prepare to play their first ever Wessex League Division One match on Saturday at the Hampshire FA headquarters at Winklebury, Basingstoke.
Both the club and the Wessex League had voiced concerns over the state of the pitch which is used sporadically for county and representative matches but both have been assured by the County FA that the pitch is ready.
Visitors Hythe and Dibden finished bottom of the pile last season but began this campaign with a 3-1 defeat at Petersfield United and a creditable 2-2 draw at Tadley Calleva, Michael Gilham and Haseem Osumah on target.
Town manager Neil Benson has a full squad of 22 to choose from with only a couple of minor niggles and all are raring to go after what seems like an interminable break since the excellent League Cup win at New Milton a fortnight ago.
Benson has spent the intervening period getting several of his players’ fitness up to scratch in line with what will be needed for what promises to be a long but fascinating season but will be making no decisions until the day.
“There will be a number of changes from the New Milton match but I shan’t decide the starting line up until Saturday” he told the Advertiser. “I have a good squad and want to use the early part of the season to give them the opportunity to show their worth in comptitive matches.”
Meanwhile the Elite Academy fixtures are now released, which will be played at first at Sparsholt and then from October at the Portway under the banner of Southampton (Sparsholt) in the SW Division of the Conference Youth Alliance on Wednesday afternoons, kicking off at 2pm.
They begin on September 11 at Basingstoke Town then are home to Bashley a week later.
The league includes the likes of Eastleigh, Oxford City, Oxford United, JMA Reading, Salisbury City, Slough Town and Weston-super-Mare and the 12 teams mean 22 games spread out over the season.
The Saturday morning Andover Town side will also be up and running in the SW Counties Youth League and they begin on September 7 with a trip to Bath City followed by a home game with Bristol Academy.
Again September matches will be at Sparsholt until the Portway is ready and the league includes Dorchester Town, Newport County, Cirencester Academy, Forest Green Rovers, New College Academy from Swindon and Poole Town.