Pre-season encourages Middleton
NEW manager Ross Middleton has been encouraged by what he has seen during pre-season at Ilfracombe Town.
The Bluebirds kick off their campaign in the Toolstation Western League with a trip to Bitton on Saturday.
And on Tuesday evening, Street are the visitors for the first game at Marlborough Park (7.45pm).
Middleton, who took on the role of player-manager when Barry Yeo stepped down at the end of last season, has kept together most of the squad.
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He has added new signings, including four from Barnstaple Town in Kevin Darch, Kane Dryden, Gary Skinner and Billy Tucker, along with Ed Yeo, from Barnstaple AAC, and Ben Layland, from Braunton.
"It's very positive on the pitch and off it," said Middleton. "I'm excited about the players who are there but I'm not going to go saying I've got a great squad and they are all brilliant.
"I know in my head what I expect from the boys.
"Bitton away is a tough start.They have a pool of players they can pick up from the Bristol area.
"If we can get a result, it's a positive start. And from what I've heard Street are spending a bit of money to challenge again this year."
After good attendances for friendlies against Bideford and Appledore, Middleton hopes the fans will return to Marlborough Park to get behind the team.
"We have got to make it a hard place for (away teams) to come," he said.
"It's right on the top of the hill and it's generally a bit wet and windy up there.
"There is a loyal fan base and hopefully we can add some more. We had a great crowd against Bideford and there was a good crowd against Appledore."
To encourage supporters, Ilfracombe will look to play entertaining football with a young side of mainly North Devon-based players.
Lee Francis, Karl Baggaley and Craig Allan have all worn the captain's armband during pre-season and Middleton will name the new skipper ahead of the Bitton game.
The manager wants the team as a whole to be more vocal.
"A couple of the youngsters are quiet on the pitch and that's something we're trying to bring out of them," he said.
"It's the simplest thing in the game and once they get that they will be even better.
"They are all technically good players and if we can add a bit of talking and a bit of organisation we'll be all right."
Ilfracombe completed pre-season with a game against the club's reserves on Tuesday. They beat Crediton United 3-1 but lost 3-2 to North Molton last week.