Braintree Town: Premier task becomes clear

BRAINTREE Town’s final league game of last season was played in front of 355 people at Weston-Super-Mare’s Woodspring Stadium.

In five weeks’ time, they kick off their first ever season in Conference football at the 25,000-capacity Northern Rock Arena – home to one of the Blue Square Bet Premier pre-season favourites Darlington.

There is no greater example of the challenge facing new boss Alan Devonshire and his men, but it is something everyone at the club is relishing, according to chairman Lee Harding.

He said: “I don’t get too fazed by fixture lists but visiting Darlington after our last league game at Weston-Super-Mare does bring it home.

“The other one that made us smile was a trip to Fleetwood on a Tuesday evening in January. But these clubs have got to come to Essex as well and we have been told some are considering flying with Stansted so close to us.”

While Harding works out the logistical problems, Devonshire has come in looking to steady the ship after the shock departure of last season’s championship-winning manager Rod Stringer just days after the celebrations began to die down.

The former West Ham player has ensured the vast majority of last season’s squad remains – Phil Starkey (Dover) and Cliff Akurang (Chelmsford) are the notable exceptions, while Jai Reason is the latest to sign up for another year.

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And Devonshire has quietly gone about his business, adding a bit of guile and strength to the squad with the likes of 22-year-old striker Ben Wright and left-back Aswad Thomas joining from Crawley and Woking respectively.

Iron fans will get their first chance to see the new boys when League One Leyton Orient visit Cressing Road on Tuesday night with Wycombe, Colchester, Southend and Gillingham all to follow in an exciting build-up to the August 13 opening day showdown.

Harding said: “We have a great pre-season programme to look forward to. Obviously we have moved up the football hierarchy and with the football pitch we have, teams want to play us.

“With keeping most of last season’s squad and retaining assistant manager Keith Rowlands, we have ensured continuity on and off the pitch. Alan has brought in some new faces and is making an impact on the training ground and we are all looking forward to the season ahead.”