Dulwich Hamlet could be without new signing Kalvin Kalala long-term, after the midfielder picked up an ACL injury in last week’s pre-season friendly against Farnborough, writes Yann Tear.
Kalala is still waiting to see whether he needs an operation on his knee, with boss Gavin Rose keeping his fingers crossed that the worst fears are not realised.
There are two other players out ahead of tomorrow’s National League South opener at home to Braintree Town at Champion Hill, with James Comley (Achillies) and Josh Hill (knee) still two or three weeks away from a return to action.
Those setbacks apart, Rose, who has been in charge since 2009 and knows all about the trials and tribulations of pre-season, declared himself satisfied at the progress made ahead of the big kick-off, and believes his side can once again punch above its weight to be a play-off contender.
They played last year’s champions Maidstone United in their final warm-up – which ended in a highly creditable 2-2 draw.
“To be honest, I don’t take much from pre-season,” Rose told the South London Press. “The main thing is that the players are as fit as possible and that we have no major injuries. But you go into pre-season building up to the last one before the league starts and I thought against Maidstone, we gave a good account of ourselves. We were up for the battle and showed some really good signs.
“If anything, I think we overachieved last year in finishing 10th, given our budget, and I don’t think the run we had [of 11 without a win from February to May] was a slump because in reality we had over-achieved in the games before that.
“Tenth was about right last year.
“We are not big spenders and our big crowds don’t reflect what we spend, but of course if you do well, your ambitions get higher. The play-offs are a reasonable target, though, and we will try to get in the mix.
“There are good teams in this division, but if we can keep our players fit, we’ll have a good chance of making those play-off places.”
The fans can once again play a big role in giving his team the rousing support they are known for.
Rose said: “They are always well turned out and get behind us well.”
But he is not going to name the key players he thinks will have the fans most excited in the months ahead.
“I did that a few years ago and probably it’s not a wise thing to do,” he said. “Who I think might have the wow factor might not, and it sometimes ends up being players you least expect. It will be for the supporters to decide who their favourites are.”
In the National League, Bromley, who also finished 10th in their division last term, begin their campaign with a trip to Wealdstone, who were 16th.
Tooting & Mitcham United travel to Cobham for an FA Cup tie this weekend.
Their Isthmian League opener is at Northwood on August 13.
Pictures: Rob Avis