The 2018/19 season finally gets underway on Saturday in the new Southern League Premier South as Basingstoke Town make the trip to Walton-on-Thames to take on newly promoted side Walton Casuals. The Stags will be hosting a seventh-tier match for the first time in their history after finishing 6th in the Isthmian League Division One South before winning promotion via the playoffs and being transferred to the Southern League.
Elsewhere in the league, Hartley Wintney’s impressive rise through the divisions means they’re landed with an opening fixture away at another league newcomer in Poole Town. Just two years ago these sides were three divisions apart but differing fortunes bring them together to begin the season this weekend.
Another contest between two of the league’s new teams features a pair of promoted clubs facing off at Holloways Park as Steve Claridge’s Salisbury travel to Beaconsfield Town. Both sides won automatic promotion last time around to earn a place in the seventh tier this season and will be keen to make an early statement of their credentials at a higher level.
Other matches involving local sides include rivals Farnborough hosting Division One West play-off winners Wimborne Town while Gosport’s last-ditch escape from relegation in April has set them up for a home opener against fellow Premier Division strugglers from last season Kings Langley as the Boro aim for a better season with more stability off the pitch.
Weymouth and Hendon return to league action hoping to challenge for promotion again after they both suffered defeat in the play-offs last term. Weymouth could be forgiven for feeling their haul of 97 points should have ensured they finished higher than their eventual fifth place while Hendon will be looking to transfer a strong campaign from the Isthmian League to the Southern League. Their opponents are Harrow and Frome respectively.
Frome’s Somerset neighbours Taunton Town travel east to open their season against Staines Town while the final newly promoted side faces a tough assignment as Swindon Supermarine travel to Devon to take on last season’s play-off challengers Tiverton Town. The two remaining matches on opening day see Merthyr Town making the journey from South Wales to visit Chesham United while Dorchester Town are at home to another side that transferred into the league from the Isthmian League in Met Police.