Grice has seen at first hand the strength of local competition in the past few weeks with Wessex League Premier derby losses to Baffins, Fareham, Moneyfields and Horndean.
The cold, hard playing stats - three goals scored and 16 conceded - might not offer huge encouragement, but the reality is that US faced four well-established clubs with good facilities as well as players. There was no disgrace in losing all those games and, in the last two, Grice believes ‘we gave a good account of ourselves.’
Asked to sum up what he’s learned from those derby setbacks, he said: ‘We know we need to improve in terms of strength in depth. We need to improve our fitness - the players know that. If we can’t match teams technically, we need to be able to work harder.
‘I’ve enjoyed the (four derby) games. It’s let us see where we are and where we need to be. All the local teams are pretty strong.
‘Off the field, we have to improve what we can offer people (spectators) coming in. That’s all part of the bigger picture.
‘I want to boost our fanbase to help grow attendances. We had a few students in the other night (v Horndean) as we offered them free admission. I would like to see ‘kids go free’ games, to attract the supporters of tomorrow.
‘There’s a big difference between us and the other local clubs. Baffins seem to get stronger year by year, Fareham have got a great infrastructure, Paul Kelly’s got Portchester rocking - they’ve got a fireworks night coming up and they’ve sold 1,000 tickets. Horndean’s clubhouse is open most days …
‘I know we’re a slightly different beast, but we’ve got to look at what we can do.’
Grice was pleased with what he saw against Horndean after a tough opening period which was played out almost exclusively in the USP half. ‘We looked like rabbits caught in headlights,’ he stated. ‘But in the end we could take pride in our performance. Horndean will finish in the top three.’
Grice has signed central midfielder Florjet Vulcaj, who has been at Chichester City U23s and training with Moneyfields. He was an unused sub against Horndean but could feature in this weekend’s trip to rock bottom Hythe & Dibden.
The Watersiders have lost all 12 Wessex Premier games this season, failing to score in their last 11 league and cup games, but will be hearted by ‘only’ losing 2-0 to AFC Portchester in midweek - their least heaviest league defeat of the season.
US will again have 21-year-old Dylan Kramer in goal, after he became the club’s fifth keeper of the season against Horndean.
Ex-Deans centre half Connor Grant is also training with the club this week.