Manager Kevin Wilson says his Ilkeston FC squad is raring to go as the new Evo-Stik Premier Division campaign gets underway this weekend.
The Robins travel to face Whitby Town in Saturday’s opening fixture before newly-promoted Stamford visit the New Manor Ground next Monday night.
And with a largely positive pre-season schedule having ended with a 5-0 win at Coalville Town last weekend, Wilson says he and his players are desperate to get started.
“To be honest I think the lads have been ready to go for the last fortnight or so,” he said.
“They’ve trained hard, performed well in most of the pre-season games and are really up for the challenge ahead.
“It’s a tough start with a long journey and an overnight stay but everyone is really excited about getting underway.”
Wilson says a key priority this year is to start well, with the beginning of the last campaign yielding just one win in the first seven league games.
He said: “Our start last year was down to not converting enough chances and some silly individual errors, though we were of course learning the new division too.
“It cost us dearly in the long run and I’m really keen for a better start this time around.
“We’re starting our third year in a good place, with things on and off the pitch at the club getting more professional by the day and a good line of young players coming through the system.
“If we fulfil the potential we’ve shown over the last few months I see no reason why we can’t do very well this year, not only in the league which is the priority but also in the cup competitions too.”
Wilson will be without key defender Joe Maguire for the first three matches of the campaign following his sending off on the last day of the season against Marine who, ironically, will be the Robins’ opponents in the final match of his suspension.
With that in mind the Robins boss still hopes to recruit extra cover in the defensive positions, particularly with summer signing Sam Craven having now returned to Eastwood Town.
He said: “I’m hoping to conclude a couple of deals by the weekend as I think we’re still short of cover at the back.
“Things didn’t quite work out for Sam and I think he wanted more football than I may have been able to give him, but the two players I expect to sign will help us out.
“I’ve also struggled to get hold of Dan Partridge since he finished his studies so he isn’t an option either, but other than at the back I have a team in my mind for Whitby, though Matt Richards still hasn’t signed Evo-Stik forms so we’ll have to see if that changes by the weekend.”
Wilson also confirmed he has not ruled out signing other players who featured as pre-season trialists, but that injuries and fitness issues need to be addressed first.
He added: “Evan Garnett has a knee problem and both Mitch Hanson and Medi Abalimba need to prove their fitness, but if they can do that then I see no reason why we can’t bring them in on non-contract terms initially.
“However, we are blessed with some really talented academy players who have come in and done really well so there is certainly no major concern over squad depth at the moment, which is obviously very pleasing”