Isthmian North: Barking boss Justin Gardner expecting good opening day test at home to Waltham Abbey
PUBLISHED: 10:00 11 August 2017
Blues entertain the Abbots this weekend and make the trip to Haringey Borough just two days later
Barking begin their Isthmian North campaign at home to Waltham Abbey on Saturday, and joint-boss Justin Gardner says it will give the Blues a chance to gauge their progress over the summer.
Over the past few seasons, the Abbots have normally finished near the relegation zone in the Isthmian North, though they are expected to improve this year having revamped their squad over the summer.
And Gardner expects Abbey’s business will make them a tougher proposition, though he believes it will be a good opening-day clash at Mayesbrook Park.
“I expect Waltham Abbey to be favourites as they are an established club in this league,” he said.
“They’ve spent a bit of money this summer and signed some good players, some that I’ve worked with before.
“With what they’ve spent, Waltham Abbey will be expecting to have a go at making the play-offs, so it will be a good test for us.”
Over the summer, ex-Dagenham & Redbridge forward Chris Assombalonga moved back to Abbey, with Gardner having worked with the striker while at Billericay Town.
And Barking’s new joint-boss is fully aware of Assombalonga’s threat, though he knows the Blues cannot solely focus on him.
“Working with Chris last season, I’m aware of what he can do, but there are others we need to worry about as well as him,” he added.
Former Barking man Petrit Elbi will also turn out for Abbey this term, and he is another player Gardner knows well having managed him while at Aveley.
“Petrit can be a handful for anyone and he’s shown already in pre-season for Waltham Abbey that he can get among the goals.” said Gardner.
Following Saturday’s opener, Barking hit the road on Monday to vist Haringey Borough, who made the play-offs last season.
But Gardner believes that, on the whole, the squad can cope with the quick turnaround.
“One or two of the boys who have had an injury in pre-season might struggle to play two games in three days, but other than that, they are all in good shape,” he added.
“Haringey for me are going to be a dark horse in the title race and their 3G pitch will suit them more than us as they’re used to it.”
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