Increased strength in depth should help us challenge for title, says Dereham Town boss Henman
Dereham Town boss Matt Henman believes his squad's improved strength in depth can help the Magpies challenge for the Thurlow Nunn Premier Division title this season.
Henman's charges looked set to continue their recent record of top-end finishes last season after a blistering start to the campaign. However, a miserable run during the winter saw Dereham fall away and eventually end in a disappointing 10th position.
The Aldiss Park supremo quickly set about addressing the reason behind the slump, namely a host of injuries and suspensions, and has added bodies to his squad - a decision he insists can only benefit the club come Saturday's big kick-off.
Henman said: 'We've got a few new signings and we already have a lot more character in the camp than we had last season.
'That comes with having lads that are a little bit older and a bit more experienced. It should stand us in good stead during the tough times and should see us through them better.
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'The depth of the squad this season means we can handle injuries and suspensions. This time last year if players were missing we'd have been much weaker. We're definitely looking to challenge and do better than we did last season.'
Henman takes his side to Felixstowe & Walton United on Saturday for their first league game in confident mood even though he could be missing up to four players.
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Luke Hannant (hip) is touch and go while Sam Willis' fitness will be assessed after he returned from travelling around the world this week.
Jay Eastoe-Smith and Luke Tuttle will also miss the start of the campaign as they serve the first of their three-match suspensions.
But with such increased playing options at his disposal, even though Jordan Rocastle has left the club, the Dereham boss is still looking to bring three points back to Norfolk.
'We want to win the game. We went there last season in our last game and we created enough chances to win it but lost by the odd goal,' said Henman.
'We want to put that right. They've signed a couple of experienced players so they'll be stronger than they were but so are we.
'In the key areas of the pitch we didn't have the options, like for example attacking wise. We've added some really quality and depth in that area over the summer and if anyone is missing we can replace like for like in terms of quality and experience.
'We didn't score enough goals last season and we ended up relying on young players at times who weren't quite ready. It's not always possible to play excellent football so sometimes you need to be able to bully the ball into the net. We're now able to look at a Plan A and a Plan B because we can go a bit more direct if needs be.'
With Wroxham now plying their trade a step higher after gaining promotion last season, Henman thinks a number of clubs will challenge for the title.
While he hopes it will arrive at Aldiss Park next April, the Dereham chief fully expects last season's third-placed Brantham Athletic and Wisbech Town to be among the front runners this time around.
Henman said: 'Wisbech have looked strong in pre-season and have assembled a decent squad. They've done well for the past few season and Brantham are the same.
'The league will be very tough. A lot of player wealth has been spread among teams so I don't think there's going to be a Leiston or a Lowestoft who will run away with it. I think it will be a really tight top six.
'We don't want to set too many long-term goals because sometimes you don't know how to get there. We're going to break the season down into chunks. We're looking to be in and around the top four after about 20 games.
'In the middle part of the season last time round we struggled but hopefully this time around we'll have the strength in depth to keep the momentum going. Then in the last third of the season, if we're in a good position, we can make an assault.'