FOOTBALL’S back this weekend (was it ever away?) as Bridgwater Town return to action in the Toolstation Western League.

Co-managers Karl Baggaley and Dave Pearse have assembled a strong squad at Fairfax Park, adding two from Premier Division rivals Wellington AFC – three if you include Sam Towler, who has arrived via Southern League side Tiverton Town.

Pearse told the Mercury: “Sam approached us; we spoke to him earlier in the summer, but he wanted to give it a go at Tiverton.

“It didn’t work out for him there, so we’ve been able to bring him in.

“He’s a goalscoring midfielder, something we maybe lacked last season, and he was a thorn in our side playing against us.”

Towler joins Ian Bellinger and Tom Ellis in switching Wellington for Bridgwater, with Jack Taylor making the same move during last season.

With the core of last season’s Robins squad still at Fairfax Park, Pearse is optimistic about their chances.

“On paper, the squad is very strong,” he said.

“But we have to show that on the pitch.

“We learned a lot from last year, and I think we can make the top six if we can be more consistent.”

He is also happy with how pre-season has gone; the Robins drew with Exmouth Town (0-0), beat Somerton Town (6-2), Wells City (2-1) and Welton Rovers (6-1), and then lost out to Southern League opponents Street (3-0), Bristol Manor Farm (4-1) and Paulton Rovers (3-1).

Pearse said: “It’s been good, and the lads have worked hard.

“This last week has been tough and we’ve conceded a lot of silly goals – which I hope is just one of those things that happens in pre-season and not when the league starts.

“Manor Farm were very strong, but I think we matched all the Southern League sides for periods in the games.”

He added: “We changed our formation around a couple of times, and the players adapted well.

“I think we can be a little bit better against Southern League sides, but it’s pre-season so you can’t read too much into it.”

Things get serious on Saturday (ko 3pm) as Bridgwater travel to Hengrove Athletic, which is followed by a home match against Buckland Athletic on Tuesday (ko 7.45pm).

Pearse said: “We went to Hengrove towards the end of last season and we were fantastic there [Bridgwater won 3-0], so more of the same would be good!

“Buckland at home will be a different matter; they’ve made a lot of signings, so they’ll be a great early test for us.”

Buckland are just one of the teams Pearse is expecting to challenge towards the top of the table and Bridgwater hope to be in the mix, too, having finished eighth in the Premier Division standings last season.

“Plymouth Parkway would be the favourites to win it,” Pearse said.

“Buckland and Willand Rovers will be up there, too, and I hope we can be up there challenging as well.

“The club is targeting the top six, Karl and I are aiming for the top four – and I think we’re in with a great shout if we can find some more consistency.

“If we can do that and go a round further in the cup competitions [than last year] then it will be a superb season for us.”