Having avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth last season, probably the least welcoming opener for Fareham would be a trip to the reigning England Hockey Western Conference champions.
But off to Team Bath they go for a Saturday mid-day start – but with a far stronger looking side at their disposal.
Former East Grinstead playmaker Niall Stott and Loughborough University’s Luke Cornish are among seven new Fareham signings which gave given Ben Barnes’s side a completely fresh look.
Fareham had to beat Cheshire outfit Oxton and Indian Gymkhana in last season’s National League relegation play-offs.
But, realistically, they should do much better this time around, especially with Cornish and ex-Chichester striker Martin Gough sharpening up their goalscoring prowess.
Scotland Under-21 international Christian McKenna and Will Jones have also joined the Henry Cort set alongside two ‘overseas’ recruits.
Lanky Dutch Under-18 defender Stijn Kram and Australian David Andersson complete the set of new faces.
Fareham’s only significant departure is teenager Will Raymond, who has joined Cardiff Met – a switch which links in with his Sport & Exercise Science university degree course in South Wales.
Head Coach Ben Barnes says; “It’s been a good pre-season with the new players coming in making a difference.
“We have genuine tough decisions to make this season and this can only be a good thing in pushing the group and the team forward.
“Away to Bath, the league champions and habitual contenders, is as hard a start as we could get, so we shall see how we are doing as a group.
“The squad have trained really hard and applied themselves to some new ideas and tactics really well, I cant fault their effort and application.
Pre-season results have been mixed, with wins over City of Peterborough (3-1), Sevenoaks (5-3) and Teddington (6-5), and defeats to Oxted (3-1) and Old Loughtonians (5-2) in last weekend’s PLUM tournament at Lea Valley.
“But it’s been a case of bedding players in. We’ve really concentrated on fitness and conditioning, the crunch comes at Bath on Saturday,” Barnes added.
Fareham will renew acquaintances with newly promoted South League champions Havant in the Western Conference, with the first derby at Henry Cort on Sunday October 8.
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