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Story posted: Friday, 20th August 1993

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Exactly 12 months ago, Gresley Rovers manager Steve Dolby predicted his newly promoted team would be “there or thereabouts” when the Beazer Midland championship honours were decided. Few took him serious.
“A lot of people scoffed at the idea,” Dolby admits, charitably avoiding reference to the Midlands non-league soccer writer – not this one – whose preview didn’t even give his team a mention, let alone give them an outside chance of finishing runners-up to Nuneaton Borough and, after a gripping and memorable climax to the campaign, achieve promotion to the Beazer Premier at the first attempt.

With those memories still fresh, it would be a brave pundit indeed who would now dare to write off Rovers’ Premier prospects, although Dolby, perhaps more than anyone else at the Moat Ground, is aware of the task facing his team.

“This season is a different kettle of fish from last,” he says. “I’ve had a close look through the fixtures and there doesn’t appear to be an easy game. But I’ve got a lot of confidence in the players we’ve got and I honestly think we can push towards the top six. A lot of people have said my main ambition has got to be fifth from bottom – one place above the relegation zone – but I think that’s a defeatist attitude. I’m aiming a lot higher than that and I’ll be disappointed if we’re not somewhere near the top six.”

Dolby, who spent much of his playing career in the Southern Premier with Burton Albion, is well aware of the difference in the standard between the top division and the Midland league.

“Teams will be stronger physically. People say it’s a footballing league but a lot of the sides have big players and try to get the ball forward quickly. They will be hardest games for us and it may be that we’ll have to strengthen the side in terms of size and we’ve gone part of the way towards doing that by signing Nick Stanborough.”

Stanborough, along with striker Simon Osborne, represent the main close season imports to the Moat but by and large Dolby has so far kept faith with the majority of the squad that saw Rovers bounce to two successive promotion triumphs.

“We’ve got a strong squad now of 19 players and it’s going to be up to them to prove they’re up to Premier standard. I think one or two have still got to prove to me that they can do it but I believe most of the squad are capable. I played most of my football in the Southern and Northern Premier Leagues and I wasn’t the most gifted player in the world. We’ve got better players than I was but they’ve got to have application and determination.

“It’s certainly not a league we should be frightened of. Two years ago in the FA Cup we played VS Rugby, who were running away with the Beazer Premier at the time, and we were the better side in the game at our place, although they equalised right at the end of the game and won quite easily at their ground.

“The supporters have been very important to us over the eight years I’ve been at the club and they’re going to be important to us again this year. They’ve been brought up on non-stop success and are accustomed to us winning far more games than we lose.

“Some people say the fans will become frustrated if we don’t do that again but I give them more credit than that. Most of our supporters are football people and there are a lot of things they will enjoy about this season even if we don’t win everything.”
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League Position
  Team P GD Pts
12 Peterborough Sports 42 -8 51
13 Spalding United 42 -10 50
14 Loughborough Dynamo 42 -17 49
15 Sheffield FC 42 -19 45
16 Belper Town 42 -44 45
17 Gresley 42 -42 43
18 Kidsgrove Athletic 42 -20 42
19 Carlton Town 42 -10 41
20 Newcastle Town 42 -24 39
21 Market Drayton Town 42 -46 39
22 Romulus 42 -37 35

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