You probably want to take on a couple of the favourites early doors and really test yourselves against them, says Maidstone United boss Jay Saunders
MAIDSTONE UNITED boss Jay Saunders says he is going to have a go at reaching the play-offs during their debut Vanarama National League South campaign.
The Stones clinched promotion by winning the Ryman Premier League title last season and will be playing in this league for the first time when the season kicks off on Saturday, 8 August.
The fixture computer has dished out a couple of mouth-watering fixtures for Saunders side, opening with a trip to Sutton United – who like Maidstone United will be playing on an artificial pitch – followed by an all-ticket, segregated home clash against Ebbsfleet United on Tuesday, 11 August.
Maidstone United have celebrated winning the Kent League (2006), Ryman League Division One South (2007) and Ryman Premier League titles in recent years and Saunders is excited with his new challenge.
He said: “It is exciting for everyone at the club. There’s still a real buzz at the club after going up and with the new stand being built and everything and with new players coming in, there’s always that excitement for the fans.
“But for us as management and players and all the staff it’s nice to go into a new league and go to new grounds and play different teams and test yourself against different managers and things, so it’s something we’re all looking forward to as a club and it will be interesting to see how we do.”
Saunders wants his side to hit the ground running.
He said: “I haven’t really set targets. I’d like to have a go and try to make play-offs, if I could.
“I think if you go into a league and say just go up and just try and stay safe it becomes a struggle, so I’d love to be able to say we’ll have a go for the play-offs. Whether that happens or not, it’s a different matter but certainly with the squad we’ve got, I think we’ll have a crack.
“Until we get into that league and start the proper bread and butter football starts, it’s hard to judge.”
The fixture computer produced a quirky opening day clash at Gander Green Lane, the first league game played at Sutton United on an artificial pitch.
Two seasons ago, Paul Doswell guided the U’s to runners-up in the Skrill South (Conference South), but last season the Surrey club finished in a disappointing fifteenth-place in the table.
Looking ahead to their opening day clash at Sutton, Saunders said: “It will be interesting. I think they’re one of the favourites because Dos (Paul Doswell) always has good sides down there.
“I think the last time we went there with a Maidstone team I was playing and I think we lost about 5-0 so hopefully we’ll go there and put on a better performance than we did back then.
“It seems a long time ago now and the club has moved on a lot. It will be an interesting opener and it doesn’t get easier after that!
Ebbsfleet United finished in eighth-place in Vanarama Conference South last season and went through Steve Brown, Jamie Day and Daryl McMahon as managers during the campaign.
“Daryl (McMahon) has got a hell of a squad down there, a hell of a side, so it’s going to be a tough one but it’s a tough start,” said Saunders.
“But then I suppose if you go into a new league you probably want to take on a couple of the favourites early doors and really test yourselves against them and maybe they’re not settled in yet, so we’ll prepare right for both of them.
“It will not be easy and it will be a step-up for some of the lads but we’ve got plenty of experience in there that have played at that level and above so it’s something that we’re looking forward to.”
Visit Maidstone United’s website: www.maidstoneunited.co.uk
Sutton United v Maidstone United
Vanarama National League South
Saturday 8th August 2015
Kick Off 3:00pm
at The Borough Sports Ground, Gander Green Lane, Sutton, Surrey SM1 2EY