See the champs - free

Defending Ridgeons Premier Division champions Lowestoft reward their loyal fanbase with free entry to today's Crown Meadow curtain raiser against Halstead.

Defending Ridgeons Premier Division champions Lowestoft reward their loyal fanbase with free entry to today's Crown Meadow curtain raiser against Halstead.

Club officials hit on the novel idea after the Blues ended a 28-year wait to land the championship last season.

“We wanted to give something back to the supporters,” said manager Micky Chapman. “They played such a big part in what we achieved last season. It's a way for the club to say thank you, and hopefully we will get a decent crowd.”

Chairman Shaun Cole believes the progressive club can build on last year's memorable achievements.


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“Not only did we win the league and the Suffolk Premier Cup but we were also the best supported team in the league with an average crowd of almost 300,” he said. “That is a figure which many teams far above us in the non-league pyramid would love to have.

“Lowestoft featured in the three highest gates in the league last season. The two local derbies against neighbours Kirkley and the title-clinching match against Needham Market were way above any other matches in the league.”

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Chapman is confident his men can deal with raised expectations. Neil Plaskett joins a settled squad from Diss which has only lost Greg Crane - the former Norwich City youth product attracting interest from Cambridge United and King's Lynn.

“Everyone wants to beat the champions and we know it is going to be harder,” he said. “Both myself and Adie Gallagher are well aware of that, but we are looking forward to it. Halstead are always hard to beat, and I am sure they are going to come here in determined mood.”

Chapman praised his team's superb attitude in the recent 2-2 against Unibond Premier Grantham. The Trawler Boys completed their pre-season preparations with a 4-0 romp against neighbours Yarmouth in midweek.

Wroxham boss Damian Hilton is braced for a tough assignment at Ipswich Wanderers.

“We'll have to work our socks off,” he said, after the Yachtsmen slumped 3-0 in last year's corresponding fixture. “We expect their pitch will be hard and bumpy after the recent drought, so our effort with have to be spot on. It's important for the team to get off to a fine start if we are to achieve success and compete for a top five place.

“I'm absolutely delighted with the way the friendlies have gone and the new players who I regard as vital additions to the general player pool. Hopefully we have solved our right flank problem with the acquisition of Danny White from Diss. I've been experimenting with him and Justin Fox and it has been quite successful.

“Perhaps our defence needs tightening up a bit at set plays, but Graham Challen has certainly impressed at the heart of the back four since joining from Dereham.”

Diss boss Robert Fleck is pleading for patience when his new look squad begins against Felixstowe & Walton.

"We're rebuilding again," he said, after a heavy close season turnover of players. "We have some great young lads at the club. If they can see through this season and I can add a couple of experienced players during it, I think we will surprise a few people. Usually I go into a season thinking we can win the league. I can honestly say this is probably the first time I don't think that, but they might surprise me and I hope they do. We will finish higher than we did last year."

King's Lynn Reserves host Harwich & Parkeston at The Walks, Dereham visit Needham Market, Norwich United entertain CRC (formerly Cambridge City Reserves) while dark horses Wisbech welcome Leiston to Fenland Park.

Fakenham joint boss Paul Tong insists the Ghosts are in tip top shape ahead of the Ridgeons Divison One kick off against Walsham-le-Willows at Clipbush Park.

“It's all systems go,” he said “The lads have been working hard and everyone seems to be committed. The boys have got to be patient because we have a squad of 18 or 19. No 11 players win trophies, it's a squad which wins them. Players are bound to pick up injuries or be unavailable.”

Striker Ben Darby is on holiday but new signings Steve Johnson and Simon Bush head a list of high quality recruits. Downham travel to Hadleigh, Great Yarmouth make the trip to Long Melford and big spending Swaffham host Godmanchester.

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