Pre-season performances have given Haverhill Rovers manager Ben Cowling cause for optimism ahead of the start of their league season.
Rovers begin their Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division challenge at home to last season’s third-placed outfit, Stanway Rovers on Tuesday (7.45pm) before facing Hertford at home on Saturday (3pm) in the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round.
Former Haverhill Borough manager Cowling was named the new Rovers manager on May 17 and has been rebuilding a squad that was shredded by mass departures last February and March.
Former free-scoring West Wratting striker Danny Hill has joined, as have former Haverhill Borough players Jonny Milne, Ben Bradley, Hary Halls, Charlie Turner and Ryan Geoghegan, while Ryan Weaver and Ross Elkins have both rejoined Rovers after a spell at Halstead Town, as has defender Sam Holmes after a period playing rugby.
Also joining the new-look squad is full-back Ben Burton, who was released by St Neots Town in the summer having been on loan at Rovers for the final three months of last season.
Rovers pre-season has seen them secure victories over Earls Colne (8-0), Biggleswade United (4-1) and Thurlow Nunn Division One newcomers Holland FC (3-1), with defeats against Step 3 sides AFC Sudbury (4-2) and St Neots Town (5-1), with just Saturday’s friendly away to Harwich & Parkeston to come before the tough curtain-raiser against Stanway.
So far for Cowling, the preparations have been very pleasing, as he explained: “We have scored goals. I’ve also found probably the most pleasing thing is the partnerships that are starting to form on the pitch, like Sam Holmes and Ryan Geoghegan at centre half and Danny Hill and Ryan Weaver up front.
“The understanding between the groups of players on the pitch has probably been the most pleasing thing.
“It’s things like the St Neots game where we are playing a very very good side and they are moving your defence all over the place all the time and it’s a fantastic test of your shape and your ability to withstand the pressure, games like that are fantastic preparation for us.
“The games where we were expected to go out and win we have done and we have scored goals and looked good. The games where we have been looking at our defensive shape and looking to hit teams on the break and be quicker in our play we have also been great.”
Stanway, who are expected to be one of the front runners again this season, is about as hard as it can get for an opening league fixture, but Cowling is looking forward to it.
“It’s a nice test. It’s a nice challenge, just to see where we are,” he said.
“We obviously want to get something out of the game and we will be doing everything we can to get something out of the game.
“It may take us a little while, simply because it’s a new team, until we gel but at the moment the signs are very promising.
“I’m convinced we will score goals and we will look a threat against any of the sides in our division.
“I’m excited to see how this team progresses because there are some very good players in there and some players I think can play higher.
“It’s a very good changing room. That’s very positive and a lot of the squad are very flexible in where they can play as well, which we need to have because we only carry an 18/19 man squad.”
•Haverhill Rovers A, who play in the Cambridgeshire County League NMC 4A, is still looking for a new manager.