CLEE Hill United boss Wayne Whitbread believes the slimmed-down Herefordshire League top flight will be as competitive as ever this season. United, champions in 2018-19, were well placed to retain their title last term before the pandemic voided the season and have seen title rivals Malvern and Kington join other leagues. That has left the Herefordshire Premier on 11 teams and Clee Hill kick off at home to Westfields Reserves this Saturday. Whitbread said: “I don’t think the teams leaving will lessen the league. In fact I expect the top six, and perhaps lower, to be very competitive. “Our first three games are all tough but if we play well, we will be in with a shout of the league as we’ve managed to keep the squad together, we haven’t lost anybody.” Ludlow Colts start with a trip to Holme Lacy, seeking revenge for a 5-1 defeat on the opening day last season – and boss Mark Tonkinson is targeting a top-half finish. But Colts – who have lost key men Tom Poyner and Jack Gittoes in the summer – face a tough start. Tonkinson said: “We are a bit depleted this week with a few people away, injured or working but overall we’re looking to finish in the top five and keep progressing and building.” In Division One, Tenbury United and Tenbury Town were battling for the title last season before the campaign was voided – and both believe they will be in contention again. United, who topped the table for much of last term, are at home on opening day to a Fownhope side who have dropped down from the Premier. Boss Aaron Morris said: “I’m hopeful we can challenge again. We had a decent squad last season bit didn’t have much depth. “We had maybe 14-15 players whereas in pre-season we’ve had 20-22 – and I’m quietly confident.” Town, meanwhile, visit a Pegasus Colts side who have come up from Division Two. Keiran Fish is stepping down as Town player-manager, to be replaced by Jack Moran. Fish said: “We’ve had a good pre-season, played five games and we haven’t lost one. Hopefully we can replicate that form in the league. “We’ve got a good enough squad to challenge and I would like to think we will be in and around the top three.”