by: Paul Webster
When the fixtures were released for the 2017/18 season Stocksbridge Park Steels boss Chris Hilton couldn’t quite believe his sides opening game.
Steels will take on Spalding United at Bracken Moor on the season opener this weekend.
And for anyone with a short term memory Spalding were they team that ended Stocksbridge’s promotion hopes after defeating them 3-2 in the play-off semi-finals that saw Steels beaten for the first time in 10 games after Hilton’s men had done the league double over the Tulips.
“Who would have thought it, said Hilton. “But the fixtures often have a way of throwing things up like that.
“We have a good record against them but you have to say its certainly a tough start for us. We have two games in three days with a trip to Basford United to follow on Monday. They are two teams that I think will be up their challenging at the top end of the table.
“If we can take four points from the opening two games then I will be delighted.”
Stocksbridge finished fourth last season with 73 points from 42 games and the Steels boss is looking for his side to make further strides.
“We’ve improved every season since myself and the management team have been here and that has been our plan from the offset when we first arrived at the club.
“We will target ourselves to better last season, score more goals and conceded less and aim to be in the play-offs. I’m not going to say I want automatic promotion because that is a very tall order as there are some teams throwing big money around “
Hilton has been pleased with his transfer business over the summer brining in midfielders Luke Mangham and Alex Wiles from Frickley Athletic and Gainsborough Trinity respectively.
18-year-old Full-back Tom Charlesworth was released by Sheffield United while young striker Ryan Carroll joined from Maltby Main along with another youngster former Bury FC scholar Will Osgathorpe.
“We’ve gone for youth again bringing in players that we feel we can help them progress their careers ” said the Steels boss. “I have to say I’m happy with what we’ve got . Yes we would have liked a little more experience in midfield to replace Harrison (Biggins). But we don’t have the budget to go out and get anyone near the quality that Harrison had.”
Carroll has a shoulder injury and is the only doubt ahead of the game.