Mellor unsure how Boyne Hill match up to league rivals

Boyne Hill’s captain Tom Mellor said this week’s he’s looking forward to the new season starting in a couple of weeks, but admits he has little idea how his side will match up to their Thames Valley League Division 1 rivals.

The easing of COVID-19 restrictions has enabled senior and colts’ teams to return to training in larger groups outside and the first team played their first practice match at the weekend.

Last season Hill finished a creditable second in a truncated, nine-match league season which started late because of the pandemic. And, while Mellor admits they played well, he also accepts they may well have exceeded expectations during a campaign where overseas players weren’t able to take part, other players refused to play on safety grounds and some clubs prioritised other cup competitions.

He hopes they’ll be competitive once again when the season starts at home to Stoke Green on May 8 but feels this could be the strongest the league has been in many years.

“It’s just nice to get back out there playing,” said Mellor. “We had our first practice match on Saturday and the numbers in training have been really good.

“We’ve picked up a lot of good club players across the board and of different abilities, not necessarily for the first team, but it means we’ll comfortably be able to put four teams out.

“Fingers crossed restrictions continue to be lifted. Rules will initially be the same as last summer, with players unable to use clubhouses or changing rooms and we’ll have to sanitise our hands before and during play. But these should be eased, and by June 21 hopefully things will be almost back to normal.”

On Boyne Hill’s prospects of matching or bettering last season’s second placed finish, Mellor added: “I think the league is going to be the strongest it’s been in the time we’ve been in it.

“We finished second last summer and did really well, but it’s not comparable to what the league is really like. There were no overseas plyers, other players weren’t playing, so I wouldn’t take what happened last year as much of a guide to what’s going to happen this summer.

“The issue with setting targets is that we just don’t know the strength of the teams we’ll be coming up against. Teams don’t play their full-strength sides in friendlies, so you aren’t able to make a reasonable judgement until a couple of weeks into the season.”

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