Alex Pike believes his Gosport Borough side can cause a surprise in their first-ever Conference South season.
The Privett Park boss insists his troops shouldn’t be written off ahead of their showpiece opener against Dover Athletic tomorrow (3pm).
Dover lost out on promotion last season after their play-off final defeat to Salisbury.
Their visit to Borough promises to be a baptism of fire for the division’s new boys.
But Pike is adamant his side will be no pushovers for anyone.
‘We don’t mind being underdogs,’ said the boss.
‘Over the last few seasons we have got used to people scoffing at our ambitions.
‘It takes the pressure off when other people don’t expect you to achieve much.
‘Other people may be surprised if we do well but not me because I believe we have got a good team here.
‘We know that this is a tough league but we won’t be daunted by it and are looking forward to the season.
‘Football can be so unpredictable and that is why we all love it so much.’
Borough’s rise from the Wessex League to the sixth tier of the English football pyramid has been remarkable, with successive promotions in the past two seasons via the play-offs.
And last term Pike’s team showed they should never be underestimated, earning the right to go up after a poor start to their campaign.
In the early stages they were regarded as relegation candidates, rather than a team capable of promotion.
Pike refused to press the panic button, though.
And Borough improved dramatically to force their way into the end-of-season play-offs.
They defeated favourites Stourbridge in the semi-finals before going on to hold their nerve and beat Hemel Hempstead in their own backyard in a dramatic penalty shoot-out to clinch promotion.
‘I would like us to make a better start this season,’ said Pike.
‘Last season I kept faith in the players I had brought in and that paid off in the end.
‘We have a good amount of experience in our team, with 10 of our players having played before at Conference South level and above.
‘They have shown they can keep their nerve in the most difficult of circumstances, so they won’t panic. We know that this league will present us with a step up in both the physical and technical aspects of the game.
‘If we make mistakes we will be punished because the finishing tends to be sharper.
‘Conference South can be unforgiving in that respect.’
Borough have had a good pre-season but the only minor concern for Pike has been just one clean sheet.
The manager is hoping a few lessons have been learned and they will get it right at the start.
Borough’s plans have been disrupted by hamstring injuries to Andy Forbes and Adam Wilde, who will both miss the opening game.
‘We have been getting some good crowds in,’ added the manager.
‘And it would be great if the local supporters can come and get behind us again for this important game.’