Hastings United Football Club manager Adam Hinshelwood was cautiously positive when discussing his team’s aspirations for the new season.
United and their supporters will hope to again be among the leading contenders in Bostik League Division One South, and regain the Premier Division status which they lost in 2013.
Hastings have a new manager and new-look relatively young team for 2017/18, although a number of the players have plenty of experience at this level and in some cases above.
Asked if promotion is the only thing on his mind, Hinshelwood said: “It’s a tough one really. For the stature of the club, especially when you see the pictures of the (proposed) new ground, the fanbase that’s here and could be generated here, it’s a club that’s got to be looking for promotion.
“At the same time, I want to carry on the good work the academy’s done in the last year or so and give the youngsters an opportunity. They’re still learning the game, there’s going to be mistakes made, but hopefully we can blood them in. I still want to be competitive and I think we’ve got a good mixture.
“The style we want to play (involving passing out from the back) is a bit new to a few players as well. But I don’t want to be a pretty football team that doesn’t pick up any points.”
Hinshelwood expects the division to be very competitive over the coming eight-and-a-half months, with a number of clubs setting their sights on progressing to the next level.
“There will be a nucleus of potentially eight teams that will fancy their chances and be looking to go up automatically,” he continued.
“I think because of the way it’s been structured this year, with two automatic promotion spots and the play-offs going down to sixth, some clubs are investing because this is the year they feel they’ve got a chance of going up.
“It’s going to be a tough league, as tough as it’s ever been, because everyone’s sensing that opportunity. We want to put ourselves in one of those 8-10 teams up there.”
On the subject of tough, three of Hastings’ opening four league fixtures are against clubs who also finished in the top nine last term.
They will get underway with an eye-catching home match against Corinthian-Casuals today (Saturday) before travelling to Carshalton Athletic on Monday night. Game number four is at home to Lewes on Bank Holiday Monday.
“Within the first four games there’s going to be some tough ones so we’ll know where we are and what we need to do,” added Hinshelwood.
“It’s a tough start in the opening two games and they’re the type of teams we want to be competing against this season. I went and watched Corinthian play, and they’re a good side.”
Hinshelwood is hoping one or two knocks will clear up in time for today’s game, which is probably the stand-out fixture in the division on the opening day given that both clubs lost on penalties in the play-offs last time out. Kick-off at The Pilot Field is 3pm.
Hastings concluded their pre-season friendlies with a 2-2 draw at home to higher grade Worthing last weekend.
After trailing 1-0 at half time, a fine run and finish from Sam Cruttwell brought Hastings level and Ollie Rowe scored from a corner to put Hastings 2-1 up. Worthing nabbed a late equaliser.
“I thought we weren’t very good, probably the worst we’ve played, first half,” said Hinshelwood, whose team was up against his former club.
“We got better second half and then disappointed after taking the lead to only draw the game. Another goal (conceded) from a set-piece was disappointing and something we will be working on to get right.
“We had a few players back and we had a look at the players that needed minutes still rather than what I thought was going to be the strongest team.”
Hastings contested seven warm-up matches in all and although the results carry very limited significance, they lost only one of them.
“Overall it’s been quite pleasing,” continued Hinshelwood. “We’ve been competitive and given a good account of ourselves in all the games. And we’ve implemented the style and way we want to play well.
“We’ve had lots of games and I think that’s important as well when you’ve got a new group together. But we’ll find out a lot more by this time next week.”