PORTLAND United begin the defence of their Dorset Premier League crown as the Blues host Cranborne at Grove Corner today (3pm).

Boss Gary Bailey will be without Ross Carmichael and Jake Price but will welcome a host of other new additions to his squad to kick-start the campaign.

Bailey’s men finished top by seven points in the campaign last time out, and accumulated 37 more points than this weekend’s opposition, who finished 15th last term.

Bailey told Echosport: “I am delighted to have retained everyone I wanted to from last season and to have made a few additions to the squad ahead of the coming season, which will help freshen things up a bit.

“At times last season we were short on competition for places and I felt the squad was a little too small but, with Charlie May, Dan Austin, Charlie Holland, Jake Price, Brandon Heal, Chris Reader and Nick Carroll all signing in the summer, I now have cover in all positions and it should keep everyone on their toes for a place in the side.”

Bailey put his squad through their paces for the final time against Balti House at Redlands in a 2-1 defeat on Thursday evening, and the manager believes his squad are now finely tuned and ready for the competitive campaign to start.

“The players have worked extremely hard over the pre-season period and we have had some testing warm-up games, which will stand us in good stead come the start of our league campaign,” he added.

“You never really know where you are until you start playing competitive games so hopefully we have got our preparations right and we can hit the ground running.

Blues (from): Weeks, Newnham, Bessant, Austin, Whyton, Holland, Reader, B Doidge, Halloran, Mutch, McKechnie, R Doidge, Bastic, Smith, Linaker, Clarke, May, Heal

* Jake Richmond’s Weymouth Reserves, runners-up in the league last season, travel to Sturminster Marshall and Bridport Reserves make the trip to Poole Borough.

* Dorchester Reserves were held to a goalless draw at Parley Sports in midweek.

The Magpies had countless chances to take the lead but utimately had nothing to show for the dogged and creative performance, despite a fine show from striker Kieron Parrett.