A BUMPER crowd is expected at The Meres tomorrow when Grantham Town host non-league leviathons FC United of Manchester.
Joint manager Wayne Hallcro described the fixture as “perfect” for the Gingerbreads’ return to the Northern Premier League Premier Division, following their championship-winning season in Division One South.
FC United are renowned for their large home support and sizeable travelling contingent. Internet forums this week suggested that the Manchester side will be bringing anything from 300 to 700-plus supporters, which could easily make an attendance of more than 1,000 for the season opener.
Hallcro said: “Saturday is the perfect game for opening day. With a big crowd and the lottery of [it being the] first game, we could cause a surprise or two. We would certainly prefer to be playing FC United now than in 10 games time.
“We haven’t watched them and don’t know too much about them. But would we change what we do at home? No way. We do need a plan B in case it isn’t working. We will have more information about them before the game.”
Despite two fantastic previous seasons, Grantham have suffered slow starts to their campaigns, but Hallcro does not see that as a problem and said last year’s opener against Lincoln United was more of a pressure game than tomorrow’s meeting with last season’s Premier Division play-off contenders FC United.
Hallcro said: “In some respects, we have got to go out and play our way and let them worry about us. We are all comfortable with what we do. We need to stay in the game as long as we can to get something out of it.
“We are under no pressure this Saturday and will go out to get a result. It is the first game in a higher league.
“We can’t be complacent because we won the league last time round. It is a big game and a big crowd lifts everyone.”
Hallcro said that the Premier Division was going to be a “massive” learning curve for the whole Grantham Town set-up and different tactics would have to be employed at times if they were to match their opposition, including FC United tomorrow..
He said: “If we defend properly and be patient, chances will come. We must make the right decisions when we have got the ball and need to clear our lines to the right place.
“Their front two are very experienced and we need to keep tight to them.”
Grantham chairman Steve Boam said he had spoken to FC United of Manchester on Wednesday night and they confirmed that they were expecting to bring around 700 supporters.
Mr Boam would have preferred the FC United game to have come a little later in the season but said that the potentially largest attendance of the season for the first game scenario was far more preferable than the Manchester side visiting The Meres on a cold, frosty winter’s night, watched by “one man and his dog”.
Mr Boam said: “We are expecting close on to 2,000 tomorrow, but I am forever the optimist.
“Looking at 700 travelling, I hope interest around town will at least match that. We have had record season ticket sales, which is a good indicator.
“I want people around town to get behind us 100 per cent and enjoy the level of football the club is at now.”
To be part of that big crowd atmosphere and witness what could the start of another momentous season for the Gingerbreads, get along to The Meres tomorrow for the 3pm kick-off.