By Rich Lusmore
Easington United will be part of another “new era” in the local grassroots game on Saturday when the Right Car East Riding County League Premiership (HPL Feeder) Division gets under way.
As the name suggests, the competition replaces both last season’s Humber Premier League (HPL) Division 1 and East Riding County League Premier Division, and will see clubs competing for the chance to join the newly expanded 16-team HPL Premier Division as part of any ambitions to climb the football pyramid.
There are 14 teams in the new Premiership, with six of the opponents the Eastenders faced last season in HPL Division 1 being joined by seven teams from the previous top tier of the County League.
It promises to be a tough competition and although having three of the first four games at home, Easington’s start looks a fairly testing one. They open up against Scarborough Athletic Reserves and after a local derby at Hedon Rangers Reserves next Tuesday (22nd), Craig Smalley’s side host Holme Rovers (Saturday 26th) and Pelican Rangers (Tuesday 29th).
Smalley actually misses Saturday’s opener due to holiday. In his place assistant boss Mark Richardson can count on reserve team duo Adam Jamieson and Ash Snaith to help him oversee matters.
Player-wise, Richardson’s pressing concern is in goal where Dan Fincham, John Harrison and Harvey Dearing are all unavailable. In addition, the returning Charlie Holden and new signing Dan Shearer are also away.
Two other new faces are set to feature, in the form of Tom Ward and Toby Wilson, while John Pontone is another welcome return to the fold. Having trained well in recent weeks, skipper Liam Murrey’s involvement remains at the behest of his physio but, overall, the new assistant boss is satisfied he has a competitive-looking squad.
He said: “I’m excited about the new season and looking forward to seeing how the lads go. Most of them have had a run in pre-season and have done well. They now need to carry that confidence into the opening game, get on the front foot and start believing in their own ability.”
The manner of last week’s friendly success over County League Championship side Skirlaugh will certainly have whet the appetite of Smalley and Richardson for what might lie ahead this term, with several players impressing and an apparent confidence in the locals’ play that hasn’t been there for some time.
Several of the squad then formed part of a combined Ezzies XI that won at Filey Town on Sunday, with more players catching the eye.
In particular, Richardson will be keen to see Matt Adamson continue his fine form of pre-season, the striker having grabbed a hat-trick in both games. With Pontone weighing in with a brace at Filey and Jack Wright doing the same against Skirlaugh, it bodes well for the locals up front, especially with Murrey still to return, and youngsters such as Tom Tukoroa waiting in the wings.
At the other end of the field, the unlucky Sam McLaughlin recently suffered another setback after finally making his long-awaited return to training at the start of the month, while veteran defender Andy Graham is yet to kick a ball this summer. Hence Holden’s arrival has proved timely, while Oliver Bewell, Dan Warcup, Brad Bowden and new arrival Ward have all done well in pre-season games.
Youth will still be a feature of the senior squad (and indeed the club as a whole) with the midfield likely to see youngsters Harry Anderson-Richardson, Charlie Clark, Harvey Clarke and Freddie Wright competing with the slightly more experienced Adam Smith, ex- Hedon man Shearer and possibly Murrey.
It’s the type of competition for places the team has been crying out for and with Adam Jamieson and Ash Snaith looking to field a very competitive reserves side this season, nobody currently in the first team ranks should feel their place is a given.
This being Easington one wouldn’t expect full availability any time soon and sure enough, after the Scarborough game, Adamson, Murrey (if fit) and Warcup are all set to miss next Tuesday’s “derby” at Hedon, as traditional early season availability issues again resurface.
For now though the focus is very much on Scarborough, a team that did the double over United last season and enjoyed a top four finish in the competition. The Seadogs opened this season’s campaign at Sculcoates Amateurs last weekend, losing 2-0 in the Whiteheads Fish & Chips Cup.
The two teams’ last meeting, at Filey in April, resulted in a 6-1 win for Saturday’s opponents. Richardson’s first target will be to show the visitors that this Easington team is a different beast to the one that ended the season with a 13-match winless run in all competitions.
Saturday’s match is being kindly sponsored by Red Bear Equestrian, who we thank for their support. For any other individual / business that wishes to sponsor a match over the coming season, it costs just £30 for which full acknowledgement will be given across our website, in our weekly Gazette reports and on our various social media pages.
Anybody wishing to support the club can find out details of how to do so by emailing [email protected] or contacting a club member directly in order to get further details.
Finally, our best wishes go to Craig Foster who sustained a badly broken arm in Sunday’s game at Filey. Here’s hoping for a full and speedy recovery.
For up-to-date news, check out our club website at easington-united.co.uk, along with our social media pages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@EasingtonUtd), along with our new TikTok page at @easingtonunitedafc.