FOOTBALL: Differing aims for rivals ahead of big kick-off

GO TIME! Spalding United boss Pat Rayment (above) and Holbeach United chief Glen Maddison (below) are ready for the start of the new season.
GO TIME! Spalding United boss Pat Rayment (above) and Holbeach United chief Glen Maddison (below) are ready for the start of the new season.
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Perennial rivals Holbeach United and Spalding United make their much-anticipated return to UCL Premier Division action this weekend.

Defending champions Holbeach play host to Harborough Town on Saturday, while title-favourites Spalding welcome Northampton Sileby Rangers to the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field (both 3pm).

Boston United Football Club reserve team H/S.

Boston United Football Club reserve team H/S.

After a hectic summer of ins and outs, the footballing landscape in South Holland has changed dramatically.

Just a few months after their title party at Irchester, the Tigers lost boss John Chand and virtually all of their championship-winning squad – including four key men to the Tulips.

Almost universally acclaimed as the team to beat this time around, Tulips boss Pat Rayment told the Spalding Guardian that he and his players are well aware of the great expectations.

“There is a massive level of expectancy at our club,” said Rayment. “We all believe that it’s going to be a big year.

“Everyone is excited, there is a tremendous atmosphere in the changing room and a genuine buzz around the place.

“We’ve added a lot of quality and we’ll be demanding big performances from the players. By that I don’t mean 8-0 wins, but much more solid showings.

“Last year we conceded 48 goals in the league – I’ll be looking for us to halve that.

“No disrespect to Sileby, but for me Saturday is about us. I’m focused on preparing the team and getting the best out of a talented bunch of lads.

“If we play to our best, I’m confident we’ll beat most teams at this level.”

If the Tulips have lofty ambitions, it’s going to be a little different for Holbeach this time around.

New boss Glen Maddison inherited a squad decimated by departures, with only Leigh Overton, Jack Smith and new skipper Matt Warfield staying on.

Although the ex-Sleaford Town chief admits there are “no expectations” for the champions this term, he doesn’t fancy being involved in a relegation dogfight.

Maddison said: “I’m looking forward to getting started, I’ve never been a big fan of pre-season. There’s been a lot of changes here, but it’s settled down nicely now.

“You never really know where you’re at as a new team before you play a league match, so it’s hard to say what our aims are right now.

“Obviously, I don’t imagine we’ll hit the heights of last season and the club understands that. There are no big expectations on me or the players – some of them haven’t experienced the UCL before.

“What I will say is that I don’t fancy another relegation battle. It’s mentally draining when you’re scrapping at the bottom.

“Harborough isn’t the easiest first game, but it’s not the hardest either.”

Curt Yeatman (knee) is an injury doubt for the Tigers, while Chris Shipley (holiday) and Tom Waumsley (suspended) also miss out.

Spalding, meanwhile, are without Andrew Tidswell (away), Miles Chamberlain (injured) and Dan Cotton (ban) against Sileby, but could have Jamie Stevens available after a lengthy hamstring injury picked up while playing for Holbeach last season.

Follow @LFPSport on Twitter for live updates on both games.