Garry Haylock insisted Nevin Saroya remains a key player for Hayes & Yeading United despite dropping the skipper and changing the team's formation.
Saroya, pictured left, was on the bench as United eased past Worcester City 3-0 having switched from the three-man defence they have employed for the last 12 months, to a 4-4-2 system. Matt Ruby, a 6ft 2ins signing from Woking, took Saroya's place with Neil Martin, who finally arrived on a month's loan from Exeter, at left-back.
They could not have hoped for a better start as they maintained a rare clean sheet to underpin United's first win of the season, yet Haylock was keen to defend his 27-year-old captain.
"I don't like this mentality of 'drop-ping Nev and everything is good'," said Haylock. "He missed six games last year and we lost five of them and that's not coincidence.
"We came out of Solihull and lost two centre halves and then Neil Martin's arrival was delayed so we lost three in one day.
"Nev had to come in and he was not 100 per cent fit.
"He's had some problems pre-season with a couple of injures and I think he got a little bit exposed in the first two games.
"The way we were playing we were relying on Nev to cover everybody else and he had this problem and was not as sharp as he should have been."
However, Saroya faces a battle to get back in the team, especially when Ruby hardly put a foot wrong, while the clean sheet pleased the manager more than anything else.
"I had Matt at Walton & Hersham but when he became available I didn't think he was technically good enough," admitted Haylock. "But, one, we've changed the system and two, in the last two years he's obviously progressed as a player and he's a lot better on the ball than I remember.
"Coming out with a clean sheet was exactly what we looked for and if we had got a 0-0 I would have been quite happy.
"Last year we tried to play football and at times we did that very, very well, but we conceded goals.
"We must have been quite good to watch because we scored a lot of goals and conceded a lot, but you don't win leagues by conceding goals.
"I was extremely annoyed after the Bath game.
"I thought we were shocking so I took the decision with Tony O'Driscoll and Gareth Hall to change it.
"The rewards when 3-5-2 is done well are much higher and we destroyed some teams last year, but we're not about trying to entertain, we're about trying to win football games.
"At the moment it suits us but having played 3-5-2 everybody knows their roles so I would not rule out a return to that down the line."
United aim to build on the Worcester win at home to Bishop's Stortford on Saturday before travelling to Hampton & Richmond on Bank Holiday Monday.
Steve Perkins and Peter Collins may come into contention if they recover from injury but Toby Little and Leon Solomon are definitely out.