Gosport bOROUGH boss Alex Pike is confident his side’s more than equipped for their new Southern League surroundings.
The Privett Park side begin life in the premier division with a home game against Barwell tomorrow.
Following their promotion via the play-offs last season, many will see Pike’s side as one of the main candidates for an immediate return to the first division.
But the Boro boss isn’t even comtemplating relegation or simply surviving for the season ahead.
Instead, he believes his charges can continue their forward momentum and take the division by storm.
‘It is not a question of us just wanting to survive,’ said Pike.
‘The club is looking forward to the challenge and is ready to make the step up.
‘We believe we can go on and compete at Conference South level and want to be challenging at the top of this league. There is no reason why it can’t be done.
‘The chairman (Mark Hook) has backed us and it is up to us to do it on the pitch.
‘We have shown our ambition by bringing in a number of experienced players who have played at a higher level.
‘That experience is vital and we are hoping it will have a positive influence on the players from last year’s squad.
‘We want to keep the momentum from last season’s play-off win that earned us promotion.’
Pike’s hopes of continuing where Gosport left off last season have been boosted by the arrival of six new players over the summer – including Sammy Igoe and Chris Holland, from Hawks.
Holland didn’t have the happiest of times at Westleigh Park last season but has proved in the past at Eastleigh and Bath City that he is a quality player.
Meanwhile, midfielder Igoe’s creativity and ability to deliver pin-point balls into the area will also help bring the best out of Borough’s strike force.
Other newcomers include goalkeeper Aaron Gofton, Pat Cox, James Coutts, Luke King, Danny Smith and Jamie Brown.
Pike admitted pre-season hasn’t been great as his new-look side gels but expects his players to display a greater edge on their return to competitive games – despite their tough start.
‘Barwell have signed up to seven players with Conference South experience,’ said Pike.
‘They are one of the favourites for the play-offs and as such we must view them as one of our closest rivals.
‘In our pre-season games we have switched off mentally at times. It is important now that we gel as a side.’
Gosport Borough: Ashmore, Gofton, Jones G, Molyneux, Cox, Holland, Cook, Poate, Coutts, Igoe, King, Smith, Brown, Martin, Wylde, Kirby, Bennett, Norton, Wooden, Humble