All the hype and hope that accompanies the build-up to any new season has finally given way to the real thing, with the starting gun sounding for another Vanarama National League North campaign on Saturday afternoon. Here, Altrincham director BILL WATERSON takes you through the opening exchanges.
And they’re off! The Vanarama National League North season is underway, and there is now a first set of data points to quantify the weeks of speculation from the fans of the 22 clubs. Every football fan is an optimist at 3pm on the opening Saturday - but how are they feeling as they awake on Sunday morning and remember the game they beheld the previous day?
I like to write this round-up on the way back from our game, but I was being entertained initially by happy Charlton Athletic fans, on their way back from an unexpected win at Blackburn Rovers, and then, on the way out from London, by bemused Birmingham City fans, who still could not fathom how they had managed to beat Brentford at Griffin Park.
Our game with York City also had a set of happy away fans wending their way home. The match was heralded as the Game of the Day by the Non-League Paper and others, and with the Minstermen victorious, they have shown some of the form needed to justify their billing as pre-season title favourites.
However, the story could have been very different, had we taken more of our first-half chances, cheered on by an impressive opening-day attendance of 1,879, the highest at The J.Davidson Stadium since our 2-0 win over New Brighton in the Cheshire League in August, 1967. Even Wigan Athletic, on the opening day in 1977, only saw 1,460 at Moss Lane.
Meanwhile, all hail Curzon Ashton, fastest out of the starting blocks with a 5-0 demolition of Bradford (Park Avenue) on Tameside. I am not a great believer of reading too much into the results of the first weekend, other than to observe that last season's opening-day game at Edgeley Park, where Stockport County beat FC United of Manchester 5-1, was a clear indicator of what was to come for both teams.
New boys King's Lynn Town were on the end of a 3-0 reversal at Guiseley, whereas Farsley Celtic triumphed at home over fancied Darlington by a 3-1 scoreline. There were two more wins for the new clubs, with next week's opponents Gloucester City prevailing 2-1 at Blyth Spartans and Kettering Town chalking up an impressive victory by the same scoreline at home to AFC Telford United. The other new boys, Gateshead, drew 0-0 at the International Stadium against Southport.
Two fancied teams played out an exciting 2-2 draw, as Hereford entertained Spennymoor Town, while, just up the road, Kidderminister and Leamington played out the same scoreline at Aggborough.
Brackley Town launched their campaign with a 1-0 home victory over Alfreton Town, with the goal coming in the 84th minute, while Boston United drew 1-1 at home to Chester.
There's a long way to go, but the first goals have been scored and the first points earned. Tuesday night sees a full set of fixtures, with early leaders Curzon travelling to Southport and York hosting big winners Farsley.
Guiseley travel to Bradford, with Gloucester hosting Hereford, Kettering travelling to Kings Lynn and Brackley to Leamington. In other games, Telford host Kidderminster Harriers and Alfreton are home to Boston.
Alty, of course, travel to Chester. On Wednesday, Darlington host Gateshead, while it seems that Spennymoor and Blyth do not have a match this midweek.