BOSS Rob Cousins is hoping Yate Town can exorcise their past demons by making a winning start to the new season.
Pre-season optimism went flying out of the window when Yate lost their opening game 4-1 at home to Wimborne last year and that set the tone for a miserable first three months, with their first league win coming at the 13th attempt at Taunton in mid-November.
They visit Didcot Town for their first Evo-Stik Southern League Division One South and West game of the campaign on Saturday and with Cousins targeting a play-off challenge he knows his side must not put themselves in the position of playing catch up again.
Yate’s encouraging pre-season ended with a 2-1 defeat at home to Conference South side Bath City, but Cousins insists it will count for nothing if they fail to get early points on the board.
“You try to learn from experiences and mistakes,” he said.
“The players have been working extremely hard and everyone has seen that in the games we have played.
“All the other teams have been complimentary about our performances but you win nothing in pre-season.
“It all starts this weekend and if we’re prepared to work hard our ability will come through.
“It will be difficult this year because all the teams are improving but we can’t worry too much about other teams, we must back ourselves and take each game as it comes.
“There’s a lot of hard work to be done and we need to get off to a good start.”
Yate’s preparations suffered an unexpected setback when first choice goalkeeper Josh Dempsey joined Chippenham just two weeks before the season and although Chris Humphries has signed on a dual registration, he remains committed to Brislington as his main club and played for them in the FA Cup last Saturday.
Young Forest Green goalkeeper Rob Brown impressed on trial against Bath and could yet join the club on loan at a later stage, but Cousins will put his faith in Lubos Ancin, who proved a reliable deputy for Dempsey when stepping up from the reserves in the last two years.
Cousins said: “Lubos Ancin is a more than capable goalkeeper, but my worry is his availability as he works odd hours.
“He will be number one but we’ll keep a lookout for an opportunity with another goalkeeper.
“I won’t be rushing into anything as long as Lubos is available and it gives us time to look at the situation.”
Strikers Mitchell Page and Adnan Hiroli, midfielders Danny Wring and Micky Bryant and defender Ollie Barnes could all make their Yate debuts against Didcot after joining in the summer.
Yate assistant manager Michael Meaker added: “All the new signings have been a breath of fresh air.
“We haven’t got a big budget –there are lots of higher ones in the league – but the boys are winners and haven’t come for the money.”
Captain Edd Vahid, who only played 60 minutes against Brislington during pre-season, is available again after working with Great Britain’s top sailors and divers at the Olympics, but winger Matt Groves will miss the opening game due to work commitments.
Groves scored Yate’s only goal in their defeat to Bath, cancelling out a former Bristol Rovers and Cheltenham Town star Josh Low’s 12th minute strike by firing past goalkeeper Jason Mellor in the second half.
City grabbed the winner six minutes from time when an attempted clearance by Brown was blocked by Noah Keates and the ball rebounded into the empty net.
Yate take on Evesham United in their first home game of the season next Tuesday (7.45pm).