TAUNTON Town launch their 2019/20 Bet Victor Southern League challenge tomorrow, with the Peacocks' first Premier Division South match away to Gosport Borough (ko 3pm).

Gosport finished 19th in the division last season – only securing survival on the final day, courtesy of a 2-2 draw at Metropolitan Police.

Since then Lee Molyneaux has come in as manager, and a summer revamp of the squad means that they are widely considered as promotion contenders.

Taunton are among the favourites, too, after having come second last season, but they are likely to face stiff opposition from the likes of Chesham United, Poole Town, Salisbury and Weston-super-Mare.

Head of football Rob Dray said: “There’s an element of the unknown in the league this year – 10 or 12 teams could win it, and the teams know more about us now.

“Chesham, Gosport, Salisbury and Weston all look strong; Swindon Supermarine have recruited well, too – they could be a dark horse.

“I think it will be a more difficult league this season.”

Those thoughts are echoed by captain Matt Wright, who said: “I think the league will be a lot tougher than last season, with Truro and Weston coming down, good teams coming up, and I don’t think there’ll be a Staines this year [Staines Town finished with 12 points and a -128 goal difference last season].

“Any team can beat any other.”

But of course the Peacocks are not going to give up their spot in the top five (one automatic promotion place, and four play-off slots) without a fight.

They have won five out of eight pre-season matches, and Dray has been able to bring in six new players - goalkeeper James Sleeman-Keen, defender Jamie Price, midfielders Naby Diallo and Jamie Short, and forwards Josh Grant and Jack Rice.

And the winning mentality which has taken Taunton to the FA Cup first round and a promotion inside the last three seasons remains.

Wright said: “The players were disappointed to come second by a point last year; that tells you a lot about the characters we have.

“We want to win it this year, and we’ll work hard and graft for it.”

Dray added: “Having a level of consistency is key, and being hard to beat, and also managing expectation from fans, social media and so on.

“The management and players want to win every game, but we know we’re not going to win every one.

“But we need to be competing up at the top, as the club gives us so much, and the directors and volunteers work so hard.”

Dray expects to have a full squad to select from tomorrow, aside from midfielder Ryan Brett, who is working his way back to fitness following a knee injury.

****** WELLINGTON AFC are in FA Cup action tomorrow, away to Cribbs for an extra preliminary round tie.

Bishops Lydeard – hot off a 7-0 away win last weekend – are at home to Wincanton Town in the First Division of the Toolstation Western League.

The Uhlsport Somerset County League also begins this weekend, with Bishops Lydeard Reserves, Minehead AFC, Staplegrove and Watchet Town all getting their campaigns underway.