Friday Aug 10, 2012


LIVE MATCH - Hereford United v Macclesfield Town
Last season's relegated clubs from League Two kick-off the Blue Square Bet Premier season and the English domestic season at Edgar Street on Friday night.
The Premier Sports cameras will be there to capture two sides who will be looking to regain their Football League status as quick as possible, but with two new managers at the helm who will know that the task will not be an easy one.
First season returns are extremely unlikely in this day and age with the last case occurring in 2003-04 as Shrewsbury gained promotion via the Play-Offs.
To find the last champions who were making an immediate return we have to go back to the Darlington side of 1989-90. New Hereford boss Martin Foyle has experience of the division, most recently with York City and it can certainly be said that some of his good work paved the way for Gary Mills to be successful with The Minstermen last season. Steve King brings a wealth of lower league experience to Macclesfield and has built a solid squad from the embers of last season's relegated team.

Macclesfield return to the division for the first time since the 1996-97 season, Hereford's last season at this level was more recent - in 2005-06. Foyle will no doubt be concerned that The Bulls had few home comforts during the last campaign with just five home victories. Only one of those wins came against a team outside of the bottom 10! Their away form was actually respectable and they would have ended up comfortably in 14th spot on away games alone.
Their fans have not had much to cheer and the side may be conscious of that as they embark on this new season in a new division. Although not many players remain from the battle with Barnet to avoid the second relegation spot back in the Spring when they actually finished with a flourish in four unbeaten games - which obviously proved not to be enough. In contrast Macclesfield finished bottom of the League 2 table with just 37 points. They get a chance tonight to win what would be only their fourth away league game since May 2011.
It was Macc who came out on top last season with a draw at Edgar Street and a comprehensive 4-0 home win earlier in the season. The Blue Square Bet prices pitch Hereford as slight favourites at 11/8 with home advantage. Macclesfield, who haven't won an opening weekend fixture since August 2004, are offered at 7/4 and the draw is priced at 12/5.

Both teams have plenty of new signings to bed in and that could lead to a low scoring game. ‘Under 2.5 goals' is offered at 4/5 and that looks like the right side of the line to be on. 5 of the 11 (one game was postponed) opening weekend fixtures in the Blue Square Bet Premier last season ended in draws. With the transfer window still open it's worth speculating that sides may still be a work in progress and ‘not losing' becomes a bigger priority than winning - particularly for the away sides. In this match a 1-1 draw appeals at a price of 6/1. The First Goalscorer market will be popular for this live game but team news is key. Charlie Henry looks fit to start for the away side and could be worth a small e/w bet on that market at a price of 14/1. Matthew Barnes-Homer could lead the line for the Silkmen and if he is back to his best could present some value at 7/1.

Saturday's Matches
The rest of the Blue Square Bet Premier teams get underway on Saturday with 11 mouth-watering fixtures. The best of those looks to be Forest Green Rovers hosting Cambridge United at The New Lawn.
Both teams have been well-backed in the outright and promotion markets to build on last season's mid-table finishes. Forest Green are the 6/5 favourites to pull off a home win, with Cambridge the outsiders at 2/1. The U's only achieved one point against Rovers last season, but that was enough to finish one place above them in the table. Cambridge games were the lowest scoring in the division and Saturday's opponents also had a low average throughout the season. ‘Under 2.5 goals' could be the best bet outside of the result market at 8/11.

Title favourites Luton Town are the joint-shortest price of the opening weekend at 4/7 - along with last season's runners-up Wrexham.
Paul Buckle's team face Gateshead at Kenilworth Road and all eyes will be on summer signing Jon Shaw who has to face his old club in his first competitive start for The Hatters. Shaw is the 7/2 favourite to score the first goal of the game. Luton centre-back Janos Kovacs has been in good form in pre-season and has contributed with a couple of trademark headed goals.
He could represent each-way value at 18/1, particularly if the home side have to break their tough opponents down gradually. Ian Bogie would surely settle for a point for his away side, but the ability to cause a shock is never far away on opening weekend and some people might not rule out an away ain at 5/1. Wrexham's 4/7 chance is at home to newly promoted Woking who cantered to the Blue Square Bet South title last season. The Cards are 11/2 to come away from the Racecourse with an unlikely three points.

Mansfield Town are another team to have been well-backed and kick-off the season as second favourites to become champions. They have a tough game at home to Newport County, who have made solid additions to their squad in pre-season. The Stags have also been busy in the transfer market and considering their run towards the end of last season they could be popular at a price of 4/6 to start with three points. Kidderminster Harriers look to have a strong squad and I could fancy them at 6/4 to win at Lincoln City who look set for another season in the lower reaches of mid-table. Grimsby Town visit last season's surprise package Southport, but we make the away win our favourite at 11/8.
Stockport host Alfreton and both sides finished last season with lots of promise. A home win looks a solid bet at Evens as Town boss Nicky Law adjusts his squad after a summer of key departures including striker Nathan Jarman.

Towards the lower reaches of the title prices and the head of our new market for the ‘Bottom 4' we have a number of fixtures between clubs expected to finish in the bottom half.
Of course it would be completely ridiculous to call these matches six-pointers on the opening weekend but they could shape the confidence of squads for the opening few weeks. Barrow are the 10/11 favourites at home to AFC Telford United, if the away side pull off a win at Holker Street at 11/4 it will give huge pointers to Barrow's strengths which usually include making their home ground a fortress. Braintree are odds-on at home to last season's Blue Square Bet North champions Hyde. The North-West side have been well backed to prove the relegation predictions wrong and start with a win. Dartford host Tamworth as the narrow 11/8 favourites at Princes Park whilst neighbours Ebbsfleet travel to Nuneaton at a best price of 9/4 to bring three points back to Kent.

Alan's Best Bets for Hereford United v Macclesfield Town:
UNDER 2.5 GOALS - Total Goals Over/Under
1-1 DRAW - Correct Score

Alan's Best Weekend Treble:
STOCKPORT COUNTY to beat Alfreton Town
GRIMSBY TOWN to win at Southport

Hereford United v Macclesfield Town is live on Premier Sports TV - Friday 10th August 7pm (7.30pm kick-off) - visit for subscription details.

You can play your part in the commentary for this game! Contact commentators Steve Bower and Ian Snodin during the action to give your thoughts - OR Twitter: @steveandsnodsps.

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