DARREN Byfield says he feels no pressure to replicate last season’s record-breaking campaign for Alvechurch – but that will be the target.
Byfield takes charge for the first competitive game on Saturday when the Church, who finished fourth last season under Ian Long, face a tricky test away to Royston Town in the BetVictor Southern Premier Central.
Then on Tuesday they welcome Barwell to Lye Meadow for the first home game.
The manager, who joined from Walsall Wood, says he is more than happy with the squad he has assembled – keeping hold of Stourbridge target Josh Ezeweleand bringing in former Oxford United keeper Niall Clayton this week – and he has seen positive signs in a pre-season campaign which ended with an exciting 3-3 draw at home to Evesham United on Saturday.
But the real action starts on Saturday against a Royston side which finished tenth last season.
“I’ve been around the game long enough as a player and though I’m only starting my managerial career, it’s the same concept when you look at a new season,” said former Aston Villa and Walsall striker Byfield. “It’s all about the first game.
“I’ve been with teams who have won every pre-season game and then had a poor start. And I’ve been in teams that have lost every game and then had a great start.
“It’s all about preparing, and getting the players ready.
“I’m more than happy with the squad but we’ll know more after Saturday and Tuesday.”
Alvechurch made their debut in the modern Step Three last season but proved to be one of the surprise packages. With the bulk of that team followed Long to Stourbridge, and Josh March stepped up to Leamington, this is another new start.
Byfield says the confidence from chairman Richard Thorndike to instill his own rebuilding ideas has already created a positive environment.
“If you’d ask anyone at Alvechurch before last season started, they would have said staying in the league was the target,” said Byfield.
“It was a fantastic season and we want to build on what has been achieved. We’re realistic as well.
“The only approach is to simply take it one game at a game and see where that takes you.”
Alvechurch have shown in pre-season they won’t be lacking in attacking flair, and Byfield has added to his options by bringing in Kevin Monteiro, who also played for him at Redditch.
Monteiro sparkled at times against Evesham, with the width provided by Ben Usher-Shipway and John Atherton also a threat.
The Church opened the scoring through an own goal on 20 minutes when midfielder Joe O’Neill overhit a back pass past keeper Reece Francis.
Within 90 seconds, an Atherton pull-back fell to Ryan Nesbitt and he shimmied one way and another to create room to drill a low shot past Francis.
Evesham were back in the game just past the half-hour mark when Brad Maslen-Jones headed a Lee Chilton corner back across goal and Ryan Paddock finished from close-range and Jordan Sangha fired home unerringly past keeper Lloyd Ransome for an equaliser a minute before half-time.
Evesham sub Dave Reynolds had time to turn and unleash a well-placed shot into the corner to give the Robins the lead ten minutes from time.
Four minutes later, it was 3-3 when Church sub Danico Johnson knocked a free-kick sideways to Taylor Morrison who smacked another excellent strike into the net from 25 yards.