Haverhill Borough are now a stronger team than their opening performance of their first season at Step 5, according to the manager, as they prepare to be reunited with old foes Saffron Walden.
The derby game was The New Croft side’s first experience in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division in August 2017, where they fell to a 2-1 loss on the road.
But Anthony Choat believes his side go in to the reverse fixture more prepared as they have matured as a team in the intervening time.
He said the club’s fate in the Premier Division still lies in their hands as they flirt with the drop zone but remain three points clear.
The Blues host the Essex side, long rumoured to be facing a ‘lateral move’ to the Essex Senior Football League at the end of the season, on Friday (8.05pm) as Borough fight a relegation battle with Hadleigh United.
Choat said his team have received significant boosts to the squad since they last faced his old club.
He said the addition of Cameron Watson and Niall Conroy, among others, had helped strengthen the team alongside a season’s worth of experience for the whole squad.
He said: “I think we are a lot stronger now.
“We lost away in the first leg but that doesn’t worry us too much as we know we didn’t play well.
“We’re actually looking at it as we owe them a performance and we owe them a game of football.
“But they are a very good side so if we don’t turn up again, we will get undone.
“There’s a good rivalry between the two teams and that adds to the occasion but they are a mid-table side, it’s not a game that’s going to necessarily make or break our season.
“So we don’t want to put too much pressure on this game and others like it.
“It’s about getting a performance from them in preparation for the big games for us, against teams around us.
“So I want to see the boys express themselves on the football pitch.
“As I’ve said before, it’s still in our hands and that helps take off the pressure. We’ve opened up that small gap over our rivals in the league and that also helps us breathe.”
He added that the team knew their first season at this level would be ‘difficult’ as they compete against teams such as Histon, who were in the Conference in 2011, the year Borough came into existence.
He said: “We’re punching above our weight and have been for some time — we probably were in the First Division, let alone now. But we’ve been doing well and fighting for our spot.
“It would be amazing for the club to achieve a second season in the league, that would be incredible.”