FOOTBALL: Tulips and Tigers ready for big kick-off

Ready to rumble: Spalding boss Andy Stanhope and (below) Holbeach supremo John Chand.
Ready to rumble: Spalding boss Andy Stanhope and (below) Holbeach supremo John Chand.

THE time for talking is almost over as rivals Spalding United and Holbeach United gear up for the start of the United Counties League season on Saturday.

After a summer of high-profile signings and verbal sparring, the Tulips and Tigers both begin their bid for glory with tricky away trips.

Holbeach v Coggenhoe football action at Carters Park, Holbeach.'Holbeach manager John Chand

Holbeach v Coggenhoe football action at Carters Park, Holbeach.'Holbeach manager John Chand

Andy Stanhope’s Spalding kick-off at Northampton Spencer, while John Chand’s Holbeach visit Kempston Rovers (both 3pm).

The omens are good for the new-look Tulips as they prepare for their first outing in the UCL since 2003/04.

Spencer were Spalding’s opponents at the start of what proved to be a title-winning Premier Division campaign eight years ago – and Stanhope’s side would be delighted with a repeat of the 3-0 win Dick Creasey’s men secured.

The Tulips boss admits he knows little about his opponents, but is confident his charges will deliver the goods.

Stanhope said: “I know nothing about them to be honest, but as far as I’m concerned it’s all about us and what we do. We can only take it one game at a time, but obviously we’re aiming to get a win.

“We’ve had a good pre-season but shipped a lot of sloppy goals, which isn’t a habit I want to take into the season. But we’ve been scoring plenty and have looked dangerous.

“Overall I don’t think any side will be 100 per cent fit yet, so there’s still plenty of work to be done.”

Spalding, who are billed by most neutrals as second-favourites behind King’s Lynn for the title, have a few selection concerns ahead of their opener at Studland Road.

Midfielder Liam Hook definitely misses out with a suspension carried over from last season, while Simon Mowbray and Elliot Dent are both doubtful.

Meanwhile, Chand has demanded that Holbeach hit the ground running at Hillgrounds Road.

The Tigers enjoyed a perfect six wins out of six in pre-season and are bidding to take that form into the league campaign.

Chand insists that his side couldn’t have had a better summer – but is taking nothing for granted against his home town club.

He said: “We’ve managed to develop a winning mentality and have been scoring a lot of goals. I don’t think we could have done much more than what we have.

“Everyone is looking forward to getting started and I expect nothing less than a full-blooded display.

“I know plenty about Kempston. It’s a great club with a good manager. They leave no stone unturned and are very young and athletic. On Saturday we’ll see how far we’ve come. Last season we didn’t win any of our first ten games.”

Andrew Tidswell, Holbeach’s top scorer in pre-season, is Chand’s only confirmed absentee but Jamie Stevens (hip) is also rated doubtful. The ex-Boston United defender won’t be risked if he’s in any pain, with the Tigers visiting Boston Town on Tuesday.

Midfielder Luke Kennedy should go straight into the squad after completing his Carter’s Park return this week.