Lowestoft Town ready for season opener
It seems that the word is finally out in non league circles that Lowestoft Town Football Club are going places.
Appointing Craig Fleming as full-time director of football at Crown Meadow has been seen as a statement of intent by many to the extent that a leading bookmaker has made them favourites to win the Ryman League Premier Division this season.
Speaking to Fleming on the eve of their first match of the season against Lewes tomorrow (3pm kick-off) the former Norwich City man hopes the bookies have got it spot on.
'They don't get much wrong do they?' he joked. 'I hope they're right – they normally are. Obviously people see what we're doing here and it's a compliment in a way but we certainly won't be letting anything like that go to our heads.'
No Lowestoft fan needs reminding just how close the club came last season to making it three promotions on the spin but Fleming said they have come to terms with the disappointment of missing out in the play-offs.
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'The lads don't need any extra motivation after last season. It might get a mention now and again because it hurt us and that sort of thing sticks with you.
'Fortunately, we've got a great spirit amongst the lads and we've come through it.'
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Lowestoft have managed to keep the bulk of the squad together with the only notable loss being Curtis Haynes-Brown, who League One side Yeovil Town swooped for over the summer.
Chris Henderson has been brought in from Bury Town for an undisclosed fee but arguably the most important signing was managing to persuade Lubo Guentchev to remain at the club amid interest from abroad.
The winger, who signed on transfer deadline day from Hendon last season, was in superb form towards the end of the last campaign and has carried that on during the pre-season.
A fit and firing Matt Nolan would be a major asset after the striker endured endured a frustrating 12 months through elbow and achilles injuries. The former King's Lynn man is highly-rated by the management team of Fleming, Micky Chapman and Ady Gallagher and, alongside Michael Frew and Jamie Forshaw, will be expected to fire the Blues to promotion.
'We didn't score as many goals as we should have last season,' admitted Fleming. 'We created a lot of chances but we didn't put enough away – that's something that we will be looking to address.
'If we can maintain how we were defensively then we would be pretty happy.
'We had a few peaks and troughs last season but in the main we were pretty consistent and obviously we will be looking to establish that again.'
Fleming admitted that the amount of travelling involved, particularly for midweek games, can take its toll on the squad but says his men know exactly what to expect now.
'It can be hard for the lads especially because of the travelling but that's something we've had to come to terms with.
'These lads obviously have to get the time off work – it's tough for them but they know what it's about.'
Convincing wins over the likes of Leiston and Needham Market in friendlies have convinced Fleming that his charges are ready for the season opener at Lewes.
The south coast side were relegated from Conference South last season but are one of the favourites to secure an immediate return.
Fleming admitted though that pre-season has pretty much gone exactly as planned as far as the Trawlerboys are concerned.
'It has pretty much gone how we had wanted it to. The first priority to was to stay injury free and fortunately we've managed to do that.
'The results have been encouraging as well but we know that all of it is leading up to that first league game.'