Preview: Harriers v Leamington
Pre-season is over and the real stuff begins this afternoon as Harriers begin their fourth National League North campaign with the visit of Leamington to Aggborough.
New manager John Pemberton takes charge of his first competitive game with the side and could hand debuts to up to five new faces. Loanees goalkeeper Cameron Gregory and defender Rhys Williams join permanent signings Correy Davidson, Cliff Moyo and Alex Prosser in hoping for inclusion in the side for the first time. Richard Peniket has returned to the club also seven years after a brief loan spell.
After a mixed-bag of pre-season results Harriers are now raring to go in the rough-and-tumble of National League North. In the games where Harriers fielded what would be considered a first-choice eleven they won two, drew one and lost one while the remaining games saw a win and two defeats. Pemberton is likely to start with Gregory in goal, with Sam Austin and Davidson taking the wing-back slots and new skipper Moyo, Williams and Ryan Johnson completing the defence. In midfield Declan Weeks will probably start behind Prosser and Milan Butterfield and in attack Ed Williams will partner Ashley Chambers who bagged himself six goals in the friendlies.
Leamington have had to make changes to their squad late in pre-season with their skipper, former Harrier, Tony Breeden leaving the club after an incident in training. He has been replaced by another former Harrier Jake Weaver. He played one game on loan from Birmingham last season and has joined The Brakes on a season-long loan. Also rejoining them on loan from Solihull is Jordan Murphy, yet another former Harrier. In the last week Brakes boss Paul Holleran has also added Gift Mussa and Ravi Shamsi to his squad. Apart from those already mentioned there are three other former Harriers who could feature today: Joe Clarke, Callum Gittings and Cieron Keane.
Last season this fixture ended in a disappointing 2-1 defeat for Harriers, Joe Ironside with the goal. Since Leamington's reformation the sides have met four times with Harriers winning two and drawing one of the other three.
I expect Harriers to line-up as follows (5-3-2): Gregory; Austin, Davidson, Moyo, R. Williams, Johnson; Weeks, Butterfield, Prosser; Chambers, E. Williams.
Subs (from): Higginson, O'Connor, Palmer, Peniket, Penn, Taylor-Randle, White.
The referee this afternoon will be Kristian Silcock from Liverpool. This will be his first time in charge of a Harriers game.
This afternoon's weather is forecast to be cloudy at kick-off time with a 25% chance of rain and a temperature around 23°C.