County League sides ready for the new season

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THE County League Division 1 football season gets underway on Saturday and there will be extra games for all the sides this year after the league was extended to 22 teams.

After a summer of turmoil, Dorking Wanderers and Chichester secured their places in the division with appeals to the FA.

Littlehampton had been given a place in Division 1 with the league restructure – which saw the top division increase from 20 to 22 sides – after finishing fourth in Division 2 last season. But Chichester, who finished bottom in Division 1 last season, successfully appealed, which has seen Golds pushed back into Division 2.

Dorking also won their appeal after originally missing out through ground grading issues.

Here are our sides’ aims for the upcoming campaign.

ARUNDEL

Mullets are looking for an improvement on last season and are also hoping for a cup run.

Strikers Scott Tipper and Gary Norgate have left to join Worthing and Midhurst respectively and Mike Gardner has joined Burgess Hill.

Striker Dave Herbert has joined from East Preston, while the club have set up two youth teams and a reserve side for the season.

Arundel boss Brett Torode said: “We’ll try to improve on last year. There’s no massive expectations I don’t think as we’re in the process of trying to make the club more stable than it has been in recent years.

“Last year was a case of survival and we were a little bit negative at times. I’d like to see us be a bit more positive this season and score goals from all around the park.”

EAST PRESTON

EP manager Dominic Di Paola has no idea what to expect this season after his side were promoted from Division 2 as runaway champions last season.

Charlie Oatway, who scored 34 goals last campaign, has joined Brighton & Hove Albion’s development squad and last season’s 45-goal top-scorer, George Gaskin, has signed for Littlehampton.

Lewis Hamilton has also left but Di Paola has brought in several new faces, including Craig Grantham (Storrington), Mark Pullan (Whitehawk), Mark Zydonic (Redhill), Lawrence Edwards (Saltdean), James Wotherspoon (Mile Oak), Shaun Charles (Worthing) and Billy Rayner.

Di Paola said: “I don’t really know what to expect this season as I don’t know how strong the league is going to be.

“Lancing and Peacehaven will both be strong but I don’t know how we’re going to do, although I don’t expect us to be in a relegation battle.

“Last year, we were aiming for the top three and put our necks on the line and said that was our goal.

“We’ve lost 80 goals out of our team from last season but have got six or seven new players in and we’ve looked quite good in pre-season.”

LANCING

Martin Gander is in sole charge at Lancers this season after Jason Rutherford, who had been joint manager for the previous two seasons, joined Shoreham.

Lancing, who finished runners-up last season, have lost Charlie Walker, their 21-goal top-scorer last season, to Whitehawk, and Tony Di Bernardo has joined Shoreham.

Lancers have brought in keeper Alex Bryant from East Preston, as well as strikers Tyler Goatcher and Shaun Evans.

Gander said: “My aims are always the same – we’ll try to win everything.

“But we’ve got to be realistic and you don’t just go out and win games. Other sides will be more aware of us this season and that will make things a lot harder.”

SHOREHAM

Shoreham were reprieved from relegation for the second season running in the summer, after the league restructure.

Jason Rutherford has replaced Kevin Keehan as Mark Burt’s joint manager and Mussels are aiming for a top-six finish.

New signings include Ryan MacMillan, Justin Gregory, Bradley Bant, Tony Di Bernardo, Jamie Groves and Mark Pulling, although Keehan has left to join Peacehaven.

Burt said: “The squad’s shaped up very nicely and we’ve got to be looking for a top-six finish with the players we have got down here.

“We hope to be there or thereabouts but it will depend on how we perform in the big games.

“We’re looking to get off to a good start but we’ve got a tough start with Rye and East Preston in our first two games.”

WORTHING UNITED

New United joint managers James Baker and Martyn Rea have had to rebuild the side this summer as just two of last season’s squad remained at the club.

Dean Gilmour and Alex Gathern are the only players to remain after Tobi Hutchinson quit as manager at the end of last season.

A host of new players have joined the club and Rea said: “We’ve had to build everything from scratch but we’re hoping to catch a lot of people by surprise this season.

“A lot of people have written us off and it will be difficult without a budget. But we’ve got a good team spirit and morale and the lads are playing here for the love of playing football and we’re looking forward to the season.”

United’s new signings are Dan Azimi, Jon Donoghue, Dominic Shepherd, Paul Curtis, Grant Bean, Grant Thetford, Josh Sutcliffe, Jamie McLeod, Toby Feest, Dan Rahaman, Kyle Hunt, Alex Staines, Ali Giammattei, Richard Maymon, Mark Dixon, Steve Allfrey and Dean Lipscombe.