Season opener promises derby day delights

A new northern league season, and a new adventure, starts for Melville at Gower Park on Saturday (March 30).

In 2018 Melville achieved their season objectives in style, making it the most successful single season on record for the club in terms of winning matches, as they secured the Division One title and lifted the Thompson Shield with three matches to spare, eventually winning by a whopping margin of 16 points. Their tally of 61 points was a record for a 12-team first division, in a league which was first contested in 1965.

But this time around it is premier league competition, and there will not be the same mug teams to take to pieces.

The season opener against Wanderers Sports Club (Gower Park, 3pm) is a tantalising prospect.

For the first time in three seasons we contemplate the most binary of derbies: Red v Blue, East v West, and Good v Bad.

Add to that we have Melville stepping to premier league, and Wanderers effectively stepping down from the summer national league. One team is rising, one is dipping.

And to add further interest, The Soccer Shop has introduced the new Challenge trophy for matches between Hamilton’s two leading clubs. The word is there will also be enough money in the deal to cover the misconduct fines for the winning team (even allowing for the fact Wanderers may be playing Jordan Shaw).

The unknown factor is whether Melville will feel the need to adapt its preferred formation of three at the back (Flynn O’Brien, Aaron Scott, Luke Searle) to cope with Wanderers mercurial quicksilver attack, which features the outstanding Tommy Semmy and Derek Tieku.

At the other end Melville also have huge goalscoring potential, with Marc Hitman Evans and Josh Davies prolific marksmen, and Mark Jones a proven performaer.

The battle in midfield may be key, with Melville now nicely balanced with the arrival of Cole Peverley adding steel to the technical prowess of the likes of Liam Steffert, Logan Wiznewski, Federico Marquez and Levi Clark. (Liam Hayes is suspended.)

In his match programme column, Melville co-coach Sam Wilkinson says the Unicorns are ready.

“I can’t think of a better fixture to kick start our return back to the NRFL Premier League.

“On the subject of rivalries, Michael and I have always maintained that the rivalry between the regions two biggest clubs is healthy and good for the game in general.

“We’ve been guilty during our time at Melville of firing a few calculated shots at Wanderers. There’s never been anything malicious behind it, we both have a lot of respect for the people at Wanderers. On the flip side we’ve always been happy to take a bit of flack when it comes back the other way.”

The match will be the first back on the renovated Gower Park pitch.

There will be an ethnic food fiesta in operation at Gower Park.

Squads:

Melville: Max Tommy, Luke Searle, Aaron Scott (C), Josh Galletly, Flynn O’Brien, Mark Jones, Cole Peverley, Josh Davies, Marc Evans, Levi Clark, Joel McMullan, Federico Marquez, Kieran Richards, Liam Steffert, Ernest Pidoke, Harry Rose, Logan Wisnewski, Liam Hayes, Jamie Searle

Wanderers: Matt Oliver, Liam Fellowes, Aaron Bayliss, Adam Luque, John Clout, Hamish Smylie, Steve Salter, Steffano Riley, Martin Maybin, Brad Whitworth, Jordan Shaw, Raheem Hunter, Tommy Semmy, Will Stephen, Joe Terry, Bayley Foster, Xavier Pratt, Jamie Woodlock, Quest Tipping, Derek Tieku (C), Cory Townsend

Referee: Matthew Trent.

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