Isthmian North: Hornchurch manager Jimmy McFarlane expecting another tough season with more ‘massive clubs’ in league

PUBLISHED: 14:00 02 August 2017

Hornchurch manager Jim McFarlane congratulates Leon McKenzie (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo).

Hornchurch manager Jim McFarlane congratulates Leon McKenzie (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo).

©TGS Photo +44 1376 553468

Urchins will be among the favourites for promotion after missing out in the play-off semi-finals last April

Hornchurch boss Jimmy McFarlane expects the 2017/18 Isthmian North campaign to be among the toughest yet with the season kicking off in less than two weeks time.

Urchins will be among the favourites for promotion and especially with two teams going up automatically this year, but the Bridge Avenue manager knows it will be difficult.

Grays Athletic, Canvey Island and AFC Sudbury were all relegated into the Isthmian North last season and will no doubt be looking to bounce back at the first time of asking, while Maldon & Tiptree and Haringey Borough are likely to be strong again.

McFarlane said: “I think this season will be the toughest the league has ever been because there are some massive clubs in there.

“I am not going to name them because I don’t want to be detrimental to the others, but there are some real big ones.

“The league is going to be tough, but we are better than we were last year and the areas where we were weak we have improved.”

Hornchurch continued their plans for the new campaign with two more friendly games over the last couple of days, as they held Whitstable Town to a goalless draw on Saturday before they lost 3-2 to Kingstonian on Monday night at Fetcham Grove.

Both provided McFarlane’s squad with a strong work-out ahead of the season opener on August 12.

Monday’s defeat saw former Cray Wanderers midfielder Sean Roberts make his first appearance for Urchins after an injury-hit summer.

The recent recruit suffered an ankle issue just before the start of pre-season so had to wait a while before making his Hornchurch bow.

But he came off the bench against Kingstonian, as Urchins lost a five-goal thriller despite goals from George Purcell and Ross Wall.

“Sean twisted his ankle running down the stairs the day before pre-season and our initial thought was it may only be a week,” said McFarlane.

“But where it was quite bad and with us playing on some hard grounds, we don’t want him to come back and then he gets put back a couple of weeks.

“I am told he will be the fittest boy at the club, so I am hoping it won’t take him long to catch up.”

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