ALONG with the rest of the footballing world, Bridgwater Town Football Club is treading water while carefully preparing Fairfax Park for the tentative return of the game this week, with the first pre-season friendlies behind closed doors, writes Kerry Miller.

In order to stay compliant with government legislation and keep everyone safe and virus-free, the club is forced to keep the gates shut tomorrow (August 4), when Western League Division 1 side Wincanton Town bring a side over, and also for the other friendlies at Fairfax Park against Weston-super-Mare (Aug 7), Somerton Town (Aug 11), Bodmin Town (Aug 22) and Helston Athletic (Aug 26).

The Robins are also due to visit Ashton & Backwell United on August 15.

Club vice-chairman Bob Buckingham explained: “All the pre-season games will be closed to our supporters as per the guidelines, but we fervently hope that when the competitive stuff starts in September we will be able to welcome them back, as well as visiting fans also.”

Players and match officials will be asked to arrive changed as the dressing rooms will not be opened, and the clubhouse and café are both staying closed until instructed otherwise.

The ground is being prepared for the return of supporters, who will see that social distancing measures will be evident all around, but despite the dos and don’ts there is an air of relief and anticipation after such a prolonged spell.

Predictions that the FA cup competitions may only be staged for the bigger clubs made early in the lockdown have happily proved off the mark, as the FA has issued a statement saying that those clubs who have been accepted into the competitions will be told this Monday and the draws will follow soon after.

As a Step 5 club, the Robins are already accepted into the draw for the extra preliminary round on Tuesday, September 1, followed by their opening league game on the following Saturday.

Future rounds of the Cup and Vase are provisionally:

FA Cup preliminary round: Saturday, September 12

FA Cup first qualifying round: Tuesday, September 22

FA Vase first qualifying round: Saturday, September 19

FA Vase second qualifying round: Saturday, October 10

Co-managers Karl Baggaley and Dave Pearse continue to mould their squad for next season, and have confirmed three new signings this week.

Ex-Wellington forwards Conor Bryant and Josh Wadham have arrived, Wadham having previously played for Bridgwater in 2014/15.

They are joined by midfielder Ryan Brereton, from Bishops Lydeard.

On their way out are Oscar Latas (who moves to Street), Jake Brown (Bradford Town) and Harry Horton (Middlezoy Rovers).

Bridgwater's squad for the 2020/21 season is as follows:

Mark Armstrong, Ryan Brereton, Conor Bryant, Mike Duffy, Tom Ellis, Tyne Govier, Jake Horsey, Jake Llewellyn, Oliver Morris, George Painter, Jack Taylor, Dave Thorne, Sam Towler, Andy Venning, Jake Viney, Josh Wadham, Finley Wilkinson