ALAN Connell believes Cherries' Merit League One campaign will provide a learning curve for the less experienced members of his squad.

Cherries tomorrow begin their fixtures in the top tier of the regionalised competition with a trip to Southend United.

Several scholars are on loan at non-league sides, leaving boss Connell to call on his younger charges.

He told the club website: "It will be a good opportunity for a lot of our first-year players.

"The league always presents difficult fixtures, especially now we’re going to play the top teams from the South East league as well as those from our South West league."

The Dorset club prepared for the Merit League contest with a hard-fought 1-0 friendly win against Fulham. A trialist netted the only goal at Canford Arena.

"I am really pleased with the performance as we showed glimpses of quality despite the wind and the pitch conditions," said Connell.

"In the second half, we pressed higher and won the ball back more than in the first and, as a result, we created more chances.

“There is always more we can work on but this was a really good exercise against top-quality opposition in Fulham.”