GO TIME: Chris Rawlinson is glad to see the back of pre-season. Photo by JAKE WHITELEY

Rawlinson believes in new-look Spalding United ahead of season opener at Steels

Boss Chris Rawlinson insists that Spalding United’s disappointing pre-season forms means “absolutely nothing” ahead of their Evo-Stik NPL First Division South opener at Stocksbridge Park Steels on Saturday.

The Tulips have lost five of their seven pre-season matches – conceding 11 goals and scoring just four – but come into the new campaign with the lofty goal of securing promotion to step three.

Having suffered defeat in the play-off final last time around, Rawlinson has lost the services of a number of players – most notably skipper Nathan Stainfield and striker Bradley Wells.

With an extra promotion place up for grabs this season, the Spalding boss feels that last season’s side would have had a “great chance” of going one better.

But he insists that all involved with the club must now forget about the achievements of last year and get behind his new-look team, who he reckons are one of “ten to 15 teams” capable of mounting a bid to finish in the top six.

“We’ve all been involved with teams who have had amazing pre-seasons and started the season dreadfully,” said Rawlinson. “Our pre-season has been disappointing and I’m mindful of that.

“Nine of the 11 goals we’ve conceded have been errors and we’ve not scored enough goals – but it counts for absolutely nothing on Saturday. I’m not one for pre-season, it’s all very false. I can’t wait for the real stuff to get started.

“The league is a bit more open this year. There’s not one side over-spending like Shaw Lane, or a really big club like Witton Albion.

“But what there is this time is ten to 15 teams who will believe that have what it takes to mount a promotion bid.

“We’re certainly one of those teams. I believe in this squad I have and it’s all about looking forward.

“We can’t compare ourselves to last season. Yes, we had a great season and I believe that side would get promoted this time. But we’re a new team and shouldn’t be compared to last year.

“We’ve not suddenly become a poor side either.”

After visiting Stocksbridge on Saturday (3pm), league newboys Corby Town are the first visitors to the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field on Tuesday night (7.45pm).

The Tulips then make the trip to ChromaSport UCL Premier Division side Wisbech Town for an eye-catching FA Cup clash the following weekend.

“The start to the season is a difficult one,” added Rawlinson. “Stocksbridge is always tough and Corby appear to have a far superior budget to us.

“Wisbech will also be tricky and we’ve got tough games after that.

“But I like that we’ve got hard games early on, it will show us what kind of position we’re in.

“Like I’ve said, I believe in the squad I have. But it will evolve as the season goes on and if we need to make changes, we will.”

Jordan Lemon is Spalding’s only absentee on Saturday, having broken his arm in pre-season. He is expected to return next month.

New signings Gary King, Ellis Humble, Danny Durkin, Jack Fixter and Liam Harris should all be involved.

Jamie McGhee, the ex-Stamford winger, could also feature after joining the Tulips following his release from the Daniels.

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