*BS*Friday will feel like Christmas Eve for many Dover supporters, full of excitement ahead of the new league season.*BF*
However, experience will tell Chris Kinnear that his team will need to be fully focused against a club that has been full of surprises over the last two seasons.
Whites make their first voyage to Gosport Borough since 1989 on Saturday, quite literally for those who travel by train and take the ferry from Portsmouth, unsure of what to expect from the Skrill South newcomers.
What is clear is that Gosport are not going to lack experience at this level. For a club that has gained two straight promotions via play-offs, many people will be surprised by the level of experience they have throughout their squad.
Midfielder Sammy Igoe will be a familiar name to many, the 37 year-old having played around 500 Football League games in a 16 year professional career. He knows this league, having played two seasons for Havant & Waterlooville until 2012 when he signed for Gosport.
*Q1*In addition, former Eastleigh players Andy Forbes (striker), Jamie Brown (midfielder) and Justin Bennett (striker) have more than 10 years experience and know this division well.
There is a dash of youth in the team but a large proportion of their squad are over 25 years old. The average age of their squad on Saturday will almost certainly be two or three years older than Chris Kinnear’s side.
Gosport have had a successful pre-season campaign, only losing one match to Bognor Regis 1-0. Their main concern will be that they have yet to keep a clean sheet and defence is perhaps the only area where they lack significant experience.
Gosport manager Alex Pike told his club’s official website: “Nobody knows what is going to happen; we could end up getting promotion or we could end up fighting against relegation.
“Like last season, we are an unknown quantity and an exciting one at that. I’ve got some experienced players in my squad that know how to win games at this level.
*Lpic1*”I wouldn’t be manager of this football club if there was not a vision to go forward and the aim was just to survive.
“People laughed at us last season but we surprised people and our aim will be to do exactly the same again.”
Pike has been manager at Privett Park since 2005 when they were in the Wessex League. He won the title in 2006/07, his first full season in charge, and stuck with the club despite an enforced £0 budget in 2008 after they lost key sponsorship deals due to the recession.
Pike stablised the club and squad, building them towards a second place finish in the Southern League South & West division in 2012. A certain Steve Claridge scored to help ‘Boro’ win the play-offs and return to the Premier division for the first time since 1990.
Last season saw them reach the play-offs again, sneaking in on the final day of the season after a bad start saw them low in the table. Stourbridge were beaten in the semi-final before a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory against Hemel Hempstead sealed promotion.
Dover boss Chris Kinnear has a full squad to choose from except midfielder Liam Bellamy, out for several weeks after an injury in pre-season. It is early days for his new team to gel and this won’t be an easy start for them. I’m sure the players, like the supporters, can’t wait to get going!
*BS*Are you travelling to Gosport?*BF* *Link1*