Hayes & Yeading United boss Phil Babb is hoping for a quieter season in 2014-15 after being put through the wringer in his first 12 months of management.
United were relegated from the Conference South after a controversial Dover penalty in the final moments of the season condemned them to the drop.
An appeal against their demotion was lodged and knocked back before the demise of troubled Hereford handed them a reprieve after all.
It meant Hayes & Yeading experienced the full gamut of emotions in Babb’s debut season at the helm, something he hopes to avoid in the forthcoming campaign.
“It’s going to be a big season for us,” Babb said.
“We need to improve the squad and improve ourselves as coaches and hopefully, when the bad weather inevitably comes in, we’ll be better equipped to deal with a slump like we had last season. We don’t want a repeat of last season – that’s the message really.
“There were games we should have won and it was only one point that sent us down in the end. We need to learn from the mistakes.
“The chairman doesn’t want to go through that roller-coaster again. I like to take heart from what Marcus Gayle has done at Staines. They struggled in their first season and then really kicked on in the second and managed a top 10 finish. Year two is very important and if we can get the right personnel in then we can have a right go at it.
“The manner of the relegation, with the debatable refereeing decision, was hard to take. Ultimately we shouldn’t have been in that position anyway because I think the squad we had was good enough to have gotten out of that situation long before the final two games of the season.
“I suppose that there was bittersweet justice done there. I still feel we would have won a second appeal, but thankfully we didn’t need to go down that route. It’s a second bite at the cherry, which we’ll gladly take and learn the lessons from last season.”
Hayes & Yeading opened their pre-season campaign with a 1-1 draw with Fleet Town on Saturday, fielding a side made up of a mixture of trialists and last season’s squad.
Some notable new faces included former Leyton Orient starlet De’Reece Vanderhyde and midfielder Phil Appiah, who was at Tonbridge last season, while Matty Harriott has also returned after Welling cancelled his contract.
They continue their preparations at Camberley tomorrow night (Thursday).
Aaron Fetherston, Matt Marques, Shariff Wilson and Nat Mensah scored for United’s new-look U18s in a 4-3 win over Dagenham & Redbridge at the weekend, although Jack Thomson-Wheeler was the star.
Fellow Conference South side Wealdstone, who entertain a Watford XI this evening (Wednesday), continued their pre-season preparations with a 4-0 win at Harrow Borough on Saturday where Mark Bentley, Michael Malcolm, Luke Pigden and former Hayes & Yeading striker Tom Collins were on target.
AFC Hayes, Uxbridge, and Northwood have now discovered who they will be playing at the start of the new Southern League Division One Central season.
AFC Hayes will host Hanwell Town, Tony Choules’ Reds travel to Daventry Town and Northwood are at Leighton Town.
Uxbridge won 4-1 at Penn & Tylers Green, Ricardo Faux-James and Charlie Crane got two late goals to seal a 2-0 win for AFC Hayes at Haringey and Northwood won by the same scoreline at Harefield United in Saturday’s friendlies.