THE Northern Counties East League is set for its earliest ever start, with games due to get underway from July 31.

With the last two seasons ending up incomplete, the league are hoping it will be third time lucky, and unusually, will kick off proceedings before the FA Cup gets underway.

Every previous NCEL campaign has begun in August, except the delayed September start to the 2020/21 season.

But this provisional July date for 2021/22 will allow teams to play a league fixture before the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round, which takes place on Saturday, August 7.

It will be the first time that the vast majority of NCEL clubs will have been in competitive action since December because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thackley, Eccleshill United, Campion, Albion Sports, Silsden and Liversedge all play in the NCEL, though the latter have been given the chance to apply for promotion up to the Northern Premier League for next season, given their superb record over the last two seasons.

Campion have also been invited to apply, but it is Emley, Winterton and Skegness who will be initially considered to go up from Division One of the NCEL.

Steeton's North West Counties League campaign is also due to get underway on July 31.

Many clubs are currently playing in behind closed doors friendlies to get their players some match practice, and to give them something to look forward to.

And there was a nice story in Thackley's friendly with Campion.

Dennyboys man Jamie Underdown, who suffered a dreadful knee injury that kept him out of the game for a few years, netted his first goal for the club since his return.