We'd love to better what we did last year, says Erith & Belvedere boss Matt Longhurst
ERITH & BELVEDERE manager Matt Longhurst says there’s no pressure on him to improve on their top three finish.
The Deres kick-off their new Southern Counties East Football League campaign with a trip to newly-promoted side AFC Croydon Athletic on Saturday, 8 August.
The Rams have made the switch over from the Combined Counties League and welcome Longhurst’s side to Mayfield Road on opening day.
“I can’t wait! I can’t wait to get going,” said the 34-year-old manager.
“I just want to get going now. We know where we are. We’re two or three players that we’re not sure on. We’ll make our minds up on the starting eleven for the first game of the season but we’re very close now what we want.
“The question’s been answered every game so far, positives and negatives.
“We’ve learnt enough on the players and also if it had just gone to plan the whole way through pre-season sometimes you go into the season on a little bit of a high and come down with a bump, so it’s been a blessing in disguise.”
Longhurst says he wants to hit the ground running, just like they did last season when they lost only three games in their opening 24 league and cup games.
“We’ll have AFC Croydon watched and we’ll be ready. I think everyone’s just looking forward to getting going now, every manager,” said Longhurst.
“We had a lot of games last pre-season and we hit the ground flying when we started.
“I think we lost one in the league in 20 games or whatever it was. We lost to Corinthian and we didn’t lose again until we lost to Beckenham.
“We started the season brilliantly last year and I’m hoping we can do the same again this year, but it’s going to be tough!”
Longhurst added: “They’ll obviously be buzzing (after winning promotion). We have to have a look at them and know what they’ll do and what their strengths and weaknesses are and we’ll do that.
“We’ll be one of the most organised teams in our division but there’s some good people in our division now, some good players and a lot of money flying about in it.
“People think we’ve got a big budget just because we play at Welling United – but that’s far from it!
“I’m pleased with the group of players we’ve got there and all through pre-season they’ve been fantastic.”
Longhurst then welcomes his former club Corinthian, to Park View Road on Tuesday 11 August (7:45pm).
He said: “I get on well with the people down there. I had a great time when I was there, it was enjoyable.
“We know exactly what to expect. They’re going to be a young team, they’re going to pass it, they’re going to be energetic.
“We’ll have them watched and pay them the same respect as we pay to anybody else in the division and it will be nice to get them here under lights. The pitch will be cut short because Welling are playing at home on the first game of the season, hopefully we’ll have a bit more rain as well.
“Yes, it’s always enjoyable playing against them. It will be an open game, a decent game of football.”
Greenwich Borough and Ashford United are the two clubs expected to be fighting it out for the league title this season.
Longhurst said: “We need to try to finish in the top three if we can but at the end of the day there’s some big clubs in this division, there’s some big money being thrown around.
“We’re over-achieving at the moment. We over-achieved last year and hopefully we can over-achieve this year in terms of what we’ve got as a budget.
“We’ve got some young players and we’ve brought a couple of senior players to aid that but we’ll try to better what we did. That’s the aim of every team, is to try and do better than what they did last year.
“For us to match what we did last season or better than we did last year will be difficult.
“We’re under no pressure whatsoever with the likes of Greenwich Borough and Ashford in our division, there’s no pressure on us. People think there is, but there isn’t! There’s no pressure form the chairman or the board. They’re happy with what we’re doing and we can just go out, enjoy it, pass and play and see where it takes us.
“Yes, we’d love to better what we did last year. The FA Vase run was fantastic and was enjoyable and I’d love to do that again.
“Ten games in then we can start looking at where we’re going to be and until then it’s very difficult to see what people have done but we’ll just worry about ourselves.”
Visit Erith & Belvedere’s website: www.erithbelvederefc.co.uk
AFC Croydon Athletic v Erith & Belvedere
Southern Counties East Football League
Saturday 8th August 2015
Kick Off 3:00pm
At Mayfield Stadium, off Mayfield Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey CR7 6DN