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Bourne Town open their new United Counties League season against Clipstone Miners Welfare

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Manager Steve Wilson is hoping the difference between the past 12 months will show when Bourne Town kick-off their United Counties League campaign on Saturday.

The Wakes host Clipstone Miners Welfare at the JJ Mac Stadium in their opening match of the Division One season.

Bourne finished 19th in the 23-team division last season after a difficult campaign which was hit by uncertainty over their league placement that was only settled just a few weeks before their league opener.

Steve Wilson and Tom Florence (58289728)
Steve Wilson and Tom Florence (58289728)

But, fast forward 12 months, and Bourne are looking a much stronger outfit after a healthy summer recruitment drive that has raised targets at the ambitious club.

Wilson said: "It was a struggle from day one last season and it didn't really get any better.

"Our league position didn't make it look like a very good option when we were trying to sign players.

"But I think that people can now see that, with the players we've got in, we're a much better proposition to a year ago without a doubt.

"There's been a massive difference between now and 12 months ago. The club is in a very good place and we've now just got to get it right on the pitch.

"I am sure that the crowds will be coming down in their hundreds this season and our aim is to get in the play-offs. Hopefully we can do that and see where it takes us."

Harrison Dee. Photo: Chris Lowndes
Harrison Dee. Photo: Chris Lowndes

Bourne have still retained the backbone of last season's squad in goalkeeper John Swales, defensive duo Herbie Panting and Tom Palmer as well as full-back Dan Wilson who has now been joined by brother Sam following his switch from Deeping Rangers.

Jake Brown has also left the Clarets for the Wakes who have also signed ex-Deeping and Stamford midfielder Jake Sansby.

Matt Cox and Josh Edmondson have joined from Blackstones with Dylan Knowling and Nathan Smith moving from Peterborough North End.

Ben Cowles has made the switch from Whittlesey while Harrison Dee has been recruited from Harrowby United along with ex-Yaxley and Deeping youngster Archie Sootheran.

Wilson added: "Most of the lads that have come in know each other from before so, although it is a relatively new squad, it isn't in some aspects because they have played and known each other for years.

"Our recruitment has gone well and we've got some good players in. I am probably a bit biased but, you look at Bourne Town, and ask yourself why players wouldn't want to play there.

Josh Edmondson. Photo: Chris Lowndes
Josh Edmondson. Photo: Chris Lowndes

"We've got a good playing surface and the crowds have been brilliant. We've been getting more than 100 for friendlies and some would love that for league games.

"We'll just have to see how it all works now because every signing is a gamble to a certain degree as it's about gelling and getting playing together.

"I'm pretty confident that we can because we have added more to the squad. I thought that last season when we had the full 11 that I wanted out then we had a reasonable side.

"But, once we got a couple unavailable, it was a weak side. If it gets like that this season then we have players who can come in and do a good job.

"It will be a case this season that, if the starting 11 doesn't do the job, then there will be players coming in who will take that chance. It's up to the players who start with the shirt to keep it."

The Wakes have also strengthened their management team for the new season with former Peterborough North End boss Tom Florence arriving as Wilson's assistant.

Nathan Smith. Photo: Chris Lowndes
Nathan Smith. Photo: Chris Lowndes

Ex-Deeping Rangers manager Michael Goode has joined as the club's director of football with Matt Robinson and Junior Jones remaining on the coaching team.

Wilson commented: "We're quite happy with how it's gone so far. Tom has come in as my number two and we are working well together.

"Goodey's been great as well. He helped Matt Robinson with pre-season and they put on some good sessions for the lads.

"We're gelling as a team and management and you couldn't ask for anything better."

Saturday's visitors Clipstone have been switched to the United Counties League for the new campaign.

They finished second-from-bottom of the Northern Counties East League Division One last season and will face their longest trip of the campaign from Mansfield on Saturday.

Wilson said: "It would be nice to start with a win but we know very little about them so we'll have to see what it's like on the day.

"As long as we get our game right and we perform then I'm sure we'll be alright."

The Wakes ended their pre-season programme on Tuesday night with a 1-0 home win over Oakham United.

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