Pontefract Collieries boss looking forward to big opener with Ossett United
A big crowd is expected at the Regional Electrical Services Ltd Stadium on Saturday when Pontefract Collieries stage an opening day cracker with a West Yorkshire derby against Ossett United.
The first game in the newly created Pitching In Northern Premier East League kicks off at 3pm and will provide an instant test of where the Colls are at as they go into a campaign they hope can end in promotion next April.
Ossett, managed by former Hemsworth MW boss Wayne Benn, have enjoyed a strong pre-season with five victories and a couple of draws, one coming against a Sheffield Wednesday XI, and look to have recruited smartly ahead of the big kick-off.
But Ponte have strengthened significantly since they last played competitive football with manager Craig Rouse bringing back a number of familiar faces from the two promotion campaigns in the NCE League.
They have been hit by injuries in the build-up games, but look to be closer to full strength for the Ossett clash, based on the side they were able to put out in their final pre-season match against Gainsborough Trinity.
Up against higher league opposition, Colls lost 4-1, but Rouse was happy with aspects of his side’s play.
He said: “I thought for long spells were in the ascendancy and were on top.
“I know it sounds stupid saying that after a 4-1 defeat, but really the tale’s in the two boxes - in one they have been clinical and we probably haven’t defended as well as we should have and in their box we have been a little bit wasteful.
“Through pre-season we were always geared up to finishing with tougher tests and work the boys harder towards the end of pre-season. They’re the sort of games we wanted to be involved in and I’m not too disheartened with the scoreline because I think in pre-season things can be false.
“We want to focus on performance and the performances in pre-season have been good.”
On the test ahead against Ossett when Rouse will take sole charge of the team in a competitive game for the first time, Rouse added: “You couldn’t pick a better game for your first one - a local derby and for both sets of supporters, players and staff it’s a great game to open with.
“Obviously we are looking forward to it.”
Rouse has added to his squad this week with the signing of Australian centre-back Noah Stokes.
The manager said last week that he wanted to strengthen the depth of his squad and Stokes will do that after previously being at Mansfield Town and Curzon Ashton.
“He’s a player we have been chasing for a number of weeks,” explained Rouse.
“He brings a presence to us and will come in at centre-half. He gets on the ball, he’s a good player and is exactly what we need, competition for places and we hope he adds to the group.”
Pontefract Collieries’ development team has been added to the EV2 Sportswear Sheffield and Hallamshire County Senior League and will be play in Division Two.
They are hoping youngsters at the club will gain valuable competitive match experience in this competition and first team players looking for minutes on the pitch will also play in the development side.
Colls will feature alongside Boynton Sports, Hepworth Development, Kiveton Reserves, Mexborough Athletic, Millmoor Juniors, NEFA, Parkgate Reserves, Sheffield City, Sheffield Lane Top, Silkstone United, Swinton Athletic Reserves, Thurncroft MI, Wadsley Athletic, Wakefield AFC EFP and Worsbrough Common Athletic.
Their season will begin with a home game against Sheffield Lane Top on the opening weekend in September.