NCEL: Armthorpe Welfare set for tough FA Cup opener

Armthorpe manager Brian Johnston
Armthorpe manager Brian Johnston

Armthorpe Welfare face a baptism of fire when they kick off the new season with an FA Cup clash at home to Handsworth Parramore on Saturday.

Handsworth are seen by many as favourites for the NCEL Premier Division title and will provide tough opposition on the first weekend of competitive action.

Armthorpe enjoyed an excellent run in the competition last term, reaching the second qualifying round before bowing out 6-1 at home against Evo-Stik Premier Division side Buxton.

The run earned the club a very handsome £6,000-plus in prize money.

Brian Johnston’s side will be hard pressed to repeat that achievement this time around.

Should they pull off what would be a shock win against big spending Handsworth in the extra preliminary round, then a clash with Evo-Stik outfit Stocksbridge Park Steels awaits in the next round.

Johnston has been busy over the summer reshaping his squad, bringing in defender Jack Waldren from Nostell MW, as well as central midfielder Neil Shepherd and striker Brett Thomas who both played at Westella last term.

Luke Walker has also joined from Staveley, while local Armthorpe lad Jason Kearsley has made the switch from neighbours Rossington Main. Striker Tyla Bell is also hoping to resurrect his career at Church Street after being released by Leeds United.

Armthorpe have lost goalkeeper Leigh Overton to Evo-Stik side Ossett Town and defender Steve Garner has moved to Parkgate.

There will be a new face in the Welfare dugout this season following Tony Wigfull’s appointment as assistant manager.

Wigfull arrives with a wealth of experience having played in the NCEL, Northern Premier League and Conference. He has coached professionally at U19 and U20 level for 20 years and has more recently worked as a National Academy scout at Sheffield United.

Maltby Main also have home advantage in the FA Cup against Squires Gate of the North West Counties Premier Division.

The Miners will be looking to avenge a 3-0 defeat at Muglet Lane in an FA Vase first qualifying round tie at the hands of the Blackpool-based side back in 2013.

Maltby look like a different proposition from the last meeting, having seen their fortunes turned around under the joint managership Spencer Fearn and Mark Askwith who guided the club to a seventh place finish in the Premier Division last term, the club’s highest finish for almost two decades.

The Miners have enjoyed a decent pre-season too. In their penultimate warm-up game they beat a Sheffield United X1 2-1 with a goal in each half from Ryan Carroll and Steve Hopewell before a young Blades side pulled one back.

Rossington Main, meanwhile, start their Division One campaign at home against Selby Town.

The visitors finished mid-table last term but appear to be pushing the boat out this season.

They made a statement of intent by signing midfielder Liam Ormsby, son of former Leeds United star Brendan Ormsby, from Tadcaster Albion.

Striker Ash Lattimore, who has joined from Premier Division Barton Town, is also amongst a host of new faces.

Rossington boss Lee Holmes has also had a busy summer reshaping his squad as Main look to improve on last season’s disappointing 20th place finish.

Holmes has raided neighbours Armthorpe Welfare for defender Tom Dorgan, along with fellow defensive players Josh Morris, Jono Cook and Rob Sanderson.

Goalkeeper Ryan Musselwhite has arrived from Westella.

The midfield has been strengthened with the arrival of Callum Black and Andy Wood from Parkgate.

Striker Christian Savage has joined from Staveley MW and the forward line has been further boosted by the arrival of Regan Kelly and former Rossington favourite Jason Stokes following a stint in Australia with Darwin.

Richard Watson (Nostell MW), Jake Outram, Steve Wilkinson and Ryan Hall are among those to move on.

Rossington will feel they have a score to settle with Selby after losing the last five league meetings between the sides.