Spalding RFC take something of a step into the unknown on Saturday as they begin their bid for Midlands Two East (North) glory.
After suffering a heart-breaking relegation on the final day of last season, Town are hoping to bounce back to Midlands One East at the first attempt.
They get their promotion bid under way some 100 miles away at Bakewell Mannerians (3pm), in what promises to be one of the tougher fixtures.
Spalding skipper Harry Sharman led his side to promotion from this division back in 2010, but admits that’ll count for nothing this time around.
He said: “I’m not sure what to expect, a lot of the teams we’ll be playing are a bit of an unknown quantity.
“Yes, we’ve come through this division before against a lot of the same sides. But it’s been a while since we played them and a lot has changed.
“Starting at Bakewell isn’t really a fixture we’d have chosen, but we have to go there and deliver.
“Because they are so far away, it’ll be a game that nobody will relish and I’d expect them to do well at home.
“I’d certainly not write them off as title rivals, while the likes of Oakham, Stamford, Loughborough and Melton Mowbray will probably be strong too.
“I don’t want to make any bold predictions, but I don’t see any reason why we won’t be up there come the end of the season.”
Spalding come into the game off the back of Saturday’s 90th anniversary celebrations – and a 19-10 win over Norwich 1st.
Other than a surprise NLD Shield loss at Ashbourne, Town have been very impressive in pre-season, having taken the scalp of Peterborough RFC and racked up over 80 points against local rivals Sleaford.
They are also boosted by the return of influential skipper Sharman, whose two-week ban finishes tomorrow (Friday).
Ryan Chappell has also recovered from a broken nose and is in the squad.
But Spalding are missing vice captain Rob Lucas (unavailable) and new signing Lance Charity (ankle) for the trip to Derbyshire.
• Midlands Two East (North) line-up for 2013/14: Ashbourne, Bakewell Mannerians, Belgrave, Dronfield, Kesteven, Loughborough, Melbourne, Melton Mowbray, Nottingham Casuals, Oakham, Spalding and Stamford.