Westfield Football Club’s first team is set to kick-off its 2017/18 season this coming Saturday, a week earlier than originally scheduled.
The Westies will begin their Macron Store Southern Combination Football League Division Two programme at home to Jarvis Brook.
The fixture was initially pencilled in for Tuesday August 22, but Jarvis Brook informed the league they wouldn’t be able to make the 6.30pm kick-off, so it’s been brought forward 10 days.
It also means that Westfield’s trip to Cowfold on Saturday August 19, which was due to have been their opening league fixture, will now be their second match.
It’s likely to be a tough start for Westfield as Jarvis Brook beat them home and away (4-2 on both occasions) en route to finishing second last season - four places and 18 points above Westfield.
“They’re a good side,” said Westfield manager Jack Stapley. “They’re physical and we got bullied up there on Boxing Day (last season) so we’ve got to be up for a battle.
“I think we’ve got to better that (sixth) this year. At the start of the season it must be our aim to finish in the top two. It will be difficult - I definitely think the level has improved since we got relegated into it (two years ago).
“We beat all the sides below us last year, but we struggled against the top five. We’ve got to go to places like Sidlesham and Bosham, and get results.”
Westfield should at least by well prepared, having contested a number of friendlies over the past few weeks, including several against higher level opponents.
Their scheduled warm-up game away to Guildford-based Surrey Elite League club Merrow on Saturday was cancelled by the opposition, but Westfield managed to squeeze in a hastily-arranged match against a Hastings United XI on Monday.
Although Westfield have lost influential midfielder Liam Ward and attacking player Sam Ellis to higher grade Little Common, they’ve brought in several new faces over the summer.
Among them is Luke Caister, who Stapley describes as a ‘very accomplished’ goalkeeper. Caister has made the step up from Macron East Sussex Football League club The JC Tackleway.
Former Bexhill United defender Kingsley Parsons has joined the club after several seasons out of the game and looked like he hasn’t been away.
Young talent Jordan Cole, cousin of Westfield midfielder Aaron Cochrane, has arrived from Sidley United. “He’s a real prospect and on his day he will probably be the best centre-half in the league,” said Stapley.
Grant Payne, who played for Peche Hill Select two seasons ago, has looked good in pre-season and scored a couple of cracking goals to boot, while Allan McMinigal, who has played senior football for the likes of Bexhill United, Rye United and Sidley, joins a strong-looking midfield.
Callum Smith, who scored 34 goals for Westfield last season despite spending part of the campaign with Tunbridge Wells, is battling to shake off a knee ligament problem and could soon line-up alongside his brother Regan, who scored seven goals in four pre-season games.
“We’ve got a much better squad than we had last year,” added Stapley. “This year we’ve got options to come off the bench; there’s massive competition this year. And we’ve added in areas I think we needed to.”
Asher Grindle is banned for the first two matches, while Joe Dicken and Sam Winter are only due to return from Thailand today and Dicken has a severely bruised ankle having been hit by a bus while out there.
Westfield FC’s early season fixtures: August 12 Jarvis Brook (h), August 19 Cowfold (a), August 26 Montpelier Villa (a), August 28 Rottingdean Village (a), September 2 Sidlesham (h), September 16 Rustington (a), September 23 Bosham (h), September 30 Alfold (a).