LEYTON ORIENT’S welcome to Non-League football is hardly plastic fantastic for the East Londoners… their National League awakening comes on the artificial surface where Sutton United made the big boys weep.
Football League clubs Cheltenham, AFC Wimbledon and Leeds United couldn’t find a way past them in the FA Cup as even the mighty Arsenal had sleepless nights.
The U’s know how to handle the pressure of big games, even if a number of their heroes of last season have moved on to pastures new.
Now Paul Doswell has warned Orient – relegated from the EFL for the first time in 112 years – that they’re in for an eye-opening year.
“There are some good, good sides in this league and no club that comes into it from League Two, whatever their size, believe they can steam-roller it any longer,” he told The NLP.
“I think maybe we’ve got ourselves the game of the opening day. I’m sure they’ll be well prepared and they’ll know a lot about us but it’s a game we’ll relish.
“They’ll probably bring 1,500 fans so it will be a carnival atmosphere, a lot like when we played at Gander Green Lane in the FA Cup last season. Hopefully our supporters will be singing at the end of it as well.”
BT Sport subscribe to Doswell’s view that it’s the pick of the first day fixtures and they’ve selected the game as the live early kick-off.
Hartlepool begin life in Non-League with a visit from Dover Athletic and Dover boss Chris Kinnear’s right-hand man says they could get a nasty opening day surprise.
“Ideally I would have wanted to start with a home fixture,” Whites coach Mark Newson said. “But Hartlepool are coming into the unknown, which could well work in our favour.”
Wrexham’s strongest squad for some time have home advantage on the first weekend with Macclesfield in town, while fancied AFC Fylde welcome Boreham Wood.
Last term’s National League play-off finalists Tranmere Rovers begin away to Torquay United.
FC Halifax’s first game back in Non-League’s top flight is demanding, at home to last year’s beaten play-off semi-finalists Aldershot. The other side who stumbled in the semis, Dagenham, have a visit from Barrow to contend with.
Anthony Limbrick’s first game in charge of Woking is at home to Gateshead while promoted Ebbsfleet United travel to Guiseley.
Two champions collide in National League South – Ryman kings Havant & Waterlooville go to winners of the Southern Premier, Chippenham.
Two talked about teams, Chelmsford City and Gloucester, meet at Melbourne while Braintree Town’s return to this level starts with a tough game at Eastbourne, whose new manager Jamie Howell will be keen to impress his home public.
In National League North, York City’s bid to bounce straight back begins with a home test against AFC Telford United and their new boss Rob Edwards.
Southport start with Boston United at Haig Avenue, while perhaps the pick of the games is Salford City vs Darlington.
Kidderminster seek play-off revenge against Chorley, who broke their hearts in the semi-finals in May, while promoted Spennymoor start their first season at this level with a visit from Stockport County.