Brackley Town boss Kevin Wilkin is desperate to avoid another scrap for survival this season as he aims to consolidate his side in the National League North in what will be his first full season in charge.
Wilkin took the reins from Jon Brady last September with Saints facing another season-long battle against the drop.
But, in almost identical fashion to the previous year, they survived by the skin of their teeth thanks to a 1-0 victory on the final day.
This time around, Wilkin is hoping for a smoother ride.
“We need to find our feet as early as we can and just make sure that we’re not going to the last game of the season looking for survival,” he said following Saturday’s impressive 4-2 friendly win over League One side Northampton Town.
“There are a lot of high profile clubs in this division this year and clubs with some real stature about them.
“Everyone starts off with high hopes but we need to be a little bit measured because it’s a group of lads which includes just five from last year who featured regularly.
“It’s almost a completely new side and there’s a lot of work to be done between now and the start of the season, but hopefully we can keep everyone fit and maintain those fitness levels that we showed on Saturday and look to build.
“We don’t want to be going to the end of the season looking over our shoulders and fighting for survival. People around the club and around the town deserve better.”
Mainstays of the side from last season Glenn Walker, David Moyo and Steve Diggin have all re-signed and will again play a key part when Brackley open their National League North campaign against tamworth on August 6, while Jack Bowen and Adam Walker joined the club last month with more new faces set to follow in the coming weeks.
Wilkin added: “The spine and the backbone of the side is there but clearly we still need to make some additions.
“We’ve got 12 on the books at the moment and there are certain areas that I need to fill.
“There were several trialists with us on Saturday who acquitted themselves well.
“We can get a measure of players in pre-season games and make more informed decisions than perhaps you would if you were training.”
It’s been a bumpy 10 months or so for Wilkin but despite a difficult campaign last year, he’s so far enjoying his time at St James Park.
“I’m loving it,” he continued. “The club has a lot of positives about it and there are a lot of good things happening in and around the place.
“People put in a lot of time and effort into the club. The first team performances and results haven’t been where we’d like them to be over the last couple of seasons but our aim is to buck that trend, make us more competitive and see how far we can take the club.”