Wokingham & Emmbrook vs Wallingford & Crowmarsh will kick-off the 2022/23 season for Berkshire when the two sides clash at Lowther Road on Tuesday night.
It’s the only fixture in the league ahead of the Extra Preliminary Round FA Cup ties on Saturday and is a welcome return of grassroots football.
The Sumas look in good shape, manager Eliot Whitehouse was in good form and has used his contacts to secure the signature of former Reading FC star Mikele Leigertwood (more on that here) while Wally boss Lee Matthews has suffered a bit of a pre-season injury blow to his top scorer.
Newly-promoted Wallingford though were brilliant at times last season with a superb FA Vase run and eventual play-off win over Hilltop that secured their place back at Step 5 for the first time since 2008.
Here’s what the two bosses have had to say about pre-season and signings.
Eliot Whitehouse – Wokingham & Emmbrook manager
Yes, we’re ready! The most important thing tonight is to take some points obviously, being the only game in the division until the weekend we want some points on the board. Wallingford are in the same position as we were last season, coming up and finding their way. It should be a good game.
All that said, tonight is about seeing where we are after pre-season. We’ve implemented a new style of play and we’ve tried to develop our squad physically. It will good to see where we’ve got to, the Combined Counties League is a long old season.
We’ve brought in some new faces, we’ve lost some faces as well. That’s the nature of football but we’ve got a very settled core we’ve been working with and we’re ready.
Lee Matthews – Wallingford & Crowmarsh manager
I think I jinxed it! I did an interview on the club website a few weeks ago saying everything was going well. Since then we’ve had holidays, injuries – everyone’s been away at some point!
That said in terms of the squad we’re very happy with where we are. The key over the summer was retaining that squad that did so well last season and trying to add some Step 4 experience to it. That was the only way we could see to improve it.
We’ve brought in Joe Jones from Thame United, a naturally left-footed left-back and we’ve got Ellis Wint from Eversley & California having previously played at Binfield.
Unfortunately we have lost our top-scorer Riccardo Benjamin for a month or so. We’re waiting on a scan after he picked up an injury last weekend but we’re told it doesn’t look as bad as first though. But it’s a blow for sure.
The club though is transformed. We’ve had tremendous support locally since the merger with Crowmarsh. There’s ad boards all around the ground and chairman Glenn Goudie has backed me all the way. It’s now up to me to pull it all together and I can’t wait to get started.
Wokingham & Emmbrook vs Wallingford & Crowmarsh kicks off at 7:45pm on Tuesday night at Lowther Road. Adults £7, kids £4 (kids in club colours go free). See a full list of all the weekend fixtures here.