City of Peterborough’s ambition for 2017-18 is clear. Winning the East Premier A Division is the sole target.
City finished a close third last season behind Old Loughtonians and St Albans, but improved competition for places makes manager Graham Findding believe the title is well within reach.
City have lost talented youngster Nicky Reddy (university) and top strikers Sam Blunt and Matt Porter to long-term injuries, but exciting attacker Adam Wilson has returned after a season with St Albans and current RAF defender Thom Fowler has also joined the ambitious city club.
“Our target is to win the league,” Finding said. “But we expect stiff competition from St Albans, Wapping (who were relegated from the National League), Harleston Magpies (who have a new player-coach in former GB star Tim Whiteman) and ever-improving Bedford.
“But we have had a very good level of fitness and intensity from the very start of pre-season which has resulted in very healthy competition for places, not least from a very good crop of players from the second team who won the Premier B Division title last season.
“Last season we successfully blooded a number of young players, principally Mani Patel and Brendan Andrews, who now that they have a season of Premier A hockey under their belts, we expect them to be making significant contributions this year.
“Pre-season friendlies have included wins against regional Premier Division sides West Bridgford, Banbury and York, while we have also testedourselves to the full a gainst National League outfits Nottingham University, Olton & West Warwicks, Doncaster, Fareham and Sheffield Hallam.
“The pick of the results have been a 3-1 victory over Notts University and narrow losses to Fareham 1-3 and Sheffield Hallam 3-5.
“This has been our hardest pre-season in years, hopefully giving us the ideal preparation for a tough opening set of fixtures.”
City start with a trip to an unpredictable Cambridge University side this Saturday.
Wapping provide the first home opposition on September 30 before City travel to Harleston on October 7.
City’s squad to take on Cambridge University is: Cameron Goodey, James Fisher, Joe Finding, Ben Newman, Thom Fowler, Manish Patel, Ross Booth, Alex Armstrong, Ben Read, Ross Ambler, Jordan Heald, Adam Wilson, Danny Sisson and Brandon Andrews.
Only the top side are promoted to the National League. Spalding play at Premier A Division level for the first time. They start at Letchworth.
City seconds start the defence of their Premier B Division title at home to Cambridge University seconds. They weren’t allowed to go up because of their first team’s presence in the Premier A Division.
Bourne Deeping host Dereham following promotion from Division One last season. Wisbech, who launched a great escape against relegation are at home to West Herts.
Opening day East League fixtures
Saturday, September 23
Premier A Division - Cambridge University v City of Peterborough.
Premier B Division - Wisbech v West Herts, Bourne Deeping v Dereham, City of Peterborough 2nds v Cambridge University 2nds.
Division One - East London v Long Sutton.
Division Two North - City of Peterborough 3rds v Norwich Dragons.
Division Three North West - Cambridge City 4ths v City of Peterborough 4ths, March v Ely, St Neots v Spalding 3rds, City of Peterborough 5ths v Cambridge City Vets, Spalding 2nds v Bourne Deeping 2nds.
Division Four North West - Wisbech 2nds v Long Sutton 2nds, Cambridge City 5ths v Bourne Deeping 2nds, Bourne Deeping 4ths v City of Peterborough 6ths.
Division Five North West - March 2nds v Kettering 2nds, City of Peterborough 7ths v St Neots 4ths, Spalding 4ths v St Ives 3rds, Louth v Wisbech 3rds.
Division Six North West North - Wisbech 4ths v Bourne Deeping 6ths, Spalding 6ths v City of Peterborough 8th, Leadenham 2nds v Spalding 5ths, Long Sutton 3rds v Louth 2nds.