IT’S the dawning of a new age for Taunton Town this Saturday, with Staines Town the visitors for the first ever Southern League Premier match at the Viridor Stadium.

Promoted as champions last campaign, the Peacocks are looking to make their mark on Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division South after a pre-season which – in the words of manager Leigh Robinson – “couldn’t have gone much better”.

Five wins and a draw (2-2 with Exeter City, having been 2-0 down) from six matches indicate that the mentality behind last season’s extraordinary unbeaten run has not melted away in the summer sun.

Regarding Monday’s win over a Bristol City XI (see above), Robinson said: “It was right up our street, a real test against high level opposition.

“The players’ fitness is phenomenal – way ahead of any team I’ve managed at Taunton.

“We got stronger as the game went on against a pro team; we know the season starts for real on Saturday, but this gives us confidence and gives the crowd a lift.

“Pre-season couldn’t have gone much better for us, with good fixtures – three against lower league sides and three with pro sides.

“We’ve had a few minor [injury] niggles but nothing major, and everyone’s got the minutes they need.”

Robinson was boosted by 13 of last season’s squad agreeing to stay for the forthcoming campaign, and a couple of new faces have made an impact in pre-season.

Andrew Neal, the ex-Truro City striker, has hit the ground running with nine goals in those friendlies – as deadly a marksman as he is astute in his all-round play.

Robinson said: “We knew what he’s capable of; he’s a pest [for defenders] and an out-and-out goalscorer.

“He works so hard, creates his own opportunities and has the knack of being in the right place at the right time to score.

“He knows a lot of the players already [from Truro], and so it’s been easy for him to settle.”

He is one of a group of players who can play in a front two or front three for the Peacocks, combining the physicality of Matt Wright with the pace of Neal, Dan Sullivan and Craig Veal.

It means Robinson has plenty of flexibility in his firepower for the season – and could have yet more in trialist Douglas Camilo.

He has played a role in most of the Peacocks’ friendlies – but they await international clearance for him to feature in competitive games.

“It’s a little frustrating because there’s no limit on how long international clearance can take [to process],” said Robinson.

“So we’re waiting on his old club in Portugal.

“He doesn’t speak a word of English, so we’re communicating with him through Nuno Felix and Google Translate!

“But he looks a hell of a good player and can fill two or three positions.”

Looking at the make-up of the league, there is familiarity in old rivals Salisbury, Swindon Supermarine, Tiverton Town and Wimborne Town, but also new teams – many based in and around London.

Robinson added: “It’s an exciting time for the club, with the success of the last two years.

“There’s real determination and the players are so close-knit.

“I never make promises or predictions for the season, but I think if we show the same desire [as last season] and score a few more goals, I’d back our chances to have another progressive season and establish the club in this league.

“The first couple of months are dominated by the FA Cup – and the importance of the prize money.

“From there it’s about winning as many games as you can before Christmas, to try and keep ourselves in the mix.”