Blues begin 14th season in top flight

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WHITBY Town have just kicked off their 14th season in the Northern Premier’s top tier, with only Frickley Athletic and founder members Marine staying at non-League’s third tier for longer, writes Andrew Snaith.

Chester are most people’s favourites - the newly-promoted fans-run club has already snapped up the league’s second-highest goalscorer Jamie Rainford from Marine and Buxton’s 19-goal Mark Reed.

They’ll play alongside the First Division North’s runaway leading marksman Michael Wilde, who has scored 36 goals.

Manager Neil Young has also added FC United’s highly-rated midfielder Jerome Wright to his side. United themselves are expected to challenge again, after losing out in the play-off final to Colwyn Bay, last season.

The Red Rebels reached the second round of the FA Cup last season, losing in a replay at eventual League One champions Brighton and Hove Albion.

But town manager Tommy Cassidy also believes they face some of the stronger sides themselves early on.

“Obviously there’s Chasetown, then I think Bradford Park Avenue will be one of the favourites for the play offs - they’ll be up there, then Mickleover and Stafford, who’ve just been relegated, so it’ll be a very difficult start.”

The Seasiders have signed former Sunderland star Darren Williams and a number of former Hartlepool United youngsters.

These include midfield trio Callum Martin, Billy Blackford, and Marc Ellison plus striker Matty Tymon, who previously played for Town while on loan from Pools in 2009, under Harry Dunn.

It’s no secret Cassidy has been searching for a striker since taking over from Dunn last October.

But, despite the addition of Tymon, the former Workington manager is refusing to call off the forward hunt.

He revealed: “Matty’s going to get his chance, he did all right when he came on last Saturday.

“I’ve got one or two irons in the fire - ideally one of the current players would go up front and do well, but the search does go on.”

Cassidy has also added midfielder Mark Robinson for his second spell with the Blues, goalkeeper Matty Calvert, who was previously with Morecambe, right-back Tom Marron from Garforth Town and Kirkbymoorside striker Rob McDermid.

New clubs this season include Stafford Rangers, relegated from the Conference North and the returning Hednesford Town, also from the West Midlands, who’ve moved across from the Southern Premier.

They’ll be alongside promoted trio Chester, Chorley (both First Division North) and Rushall Olympic, from the Walsall area (First Division South).

Burscough, who finished fourth-bottom and will play at nearby Skelmersdale United after their ground was sold for development, were reprieved from relegation due to other sides folding above them in the non-league pyramid.