Hastings United Football Club is about to set off on the long road which it hopes will lead to promotion.
The U’s will kick-off their 2016/17 Ryman League Division One South campaign with a visit from South Park today (Saturday, kick-off 3pm), the first of 46 games over the next eight-and-a-half months.
Since narrowly missing out on a play-off place on the final day of last season, United have appointed a new manager and have recruited a number of new players over the summer.
“It’s a difficult league to get a foothold in,” said manager Darren Hare. “There’s probably half-a-dozen teams I would say who have ambitions of getting out of the league.
“Dorking (Wanderers), Greenwich (Borough) have got a roll call of ex-pros, Faversham (Town) will be strong, Lewes have got a decent side, but we’ve got to be mindful of anyone we play. There could be a Leicester City in that division, you just don’t know.”
As usual, the games will come thick and fast in the early part of the season. United are scheduled to play 11 league fixtures by the end of September, although it could well turn out to be less than that in the event of FA Cup progress.
“After the first 10 games we will have a better idea of what we’re up against,” Hare continued. “There’s a points target I’m going to try to get the players to buy into and if we get to that, it will give us a good platform to push on.
“I’m not going to get too excited if we start extremely well, but I’m not going to get too downhearted if we don’t. We will be looking to pick up as many points as possible for sure, but that will be the same for most teams and the first part of the season is normally extremely competitive.”
United have won their opening match in each of the last three seasons and they’ll be eager to continue that trend against a South Park side which finished 11th last term.
“It’s going to be a nervous occasion,” added Hare. “They will be strong, competitive, combative, and I think they’re going to come and let us have the ball so we’ll have to try and keep the ball moving.”
Jay May, a striker with impressive pedigree, joined United on an initial 30-day loan from Maidstone United yesterday. His temporary registration has been confirmed by the Ryman League and the 30-year-old will go straight into the squad for today's game.
Frannie Collin was thought to be in contention having trained on Tuesday, but now isn't expected to be fit. Reece Butler is likely to be on the bench as the top of his foot is still very sore as a result of a work injury, while Bright Temba’s hamstring problem is expected to keep him out for another 7-10 days.
United will be back in action on Tuesday night with an away game against Herne Bay.
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