AFC Rushden & Diamonds are all set for the big kick-off in the BetVictor Southern League Premier Division Central at Barwell this weekend.
And boss Andy Peaks expects the division to be even tougher than it was for Diamonds’ debut campaign at Step 3 last season.
Diamonds were pushing for a play-off place for a large part of the season before falling away towards the end, although they eventually finished a creditable ninth after their promotion in the previous campaign.
Now Peaks is keen to ensure there isn’t a case of ‘second season syndrome’ for his team.
But he expects his players to face a stern test on the opening day as they make the short trip up to Leicestershire.
“I think it’s a tough opening day for us but, having said that, I think it will be tough for everyone every week in this league this season,” the Diamonds boss said.
“I think that if you look at the teams and the news over the summer, this is going to be a stronger league than last time.
“This time last year, we had the momentum after coming up and then we got off to a good start, which raised the expectations higher than they should have been.
“They always say that when you come up it’s the second season which is the hardest so I do expect it to be tough.
“The first target for me is always to make sure we have enough points to stay up and that’s not being negative, it’s just being realistic.
“We will look to get points on the board and see where it takes us. We were pushing for the play-offs for a while last time and we will, of course, be looking to do better this season because I am always trying to take things forward.
“But the first day can always be a bit hit and miss, it’s a big day for a lot of people and it’s always about who handles it best.
“We know a bit about Barwell and I know their management team quite well. I am sure they will be a decent team and it will be a tough early test for us.”