The battle for a first-team shirt at Wealdstone is well and truly on – and not everyone will make the cut.
That was the word from boss Gordon Bartlett following Tuesday night’s 2-1 win over League Two Dagenham & Redbridge.
Former Tottenham starlet Michael Malcolm’s winner followed on from Luke Pigden’s stylish free-kick leveller as Bartlett’s men came from behind to beat a strong Daggers line-up in a game where 18 candidates auditioned for a spot in the Conference South curtain-raiser against Eastbourne Borough on August 9.
That number did not even include club captain Wes Parker and Bartlett stressed there could be new additions yet ahead of the big kick-off, while some of the existing faces will miss out.
He said: “We stressed before the game what we have got here is competition for places all over the park and that is exactly what we have got to get as we go into a new league.
“If we have got everyone chomping at the bit come early August then we are doing our job right. There is going to be one or two disappointed people come August 9, while others will be ecstatic because they are in the starting line-up.
“You can’t worry about budgets in pre-season. One or two players will fall by the wayside, while one or two more will become available. I’m getting phone calls every day.
“In the last 24 hours I’ve had eight people contact me, either players or agents about wanting to join and on paper those players have got decent quality, but at the present time I’m very happy with the way things are developing.”
Such an upbeat note looked unlikely when Ashley Chambers pounced on a loss of possession in midfield to fire the visitors into a fourth minute lead and Jonathan North had to tip over Alan Connell’s fizzing shot to prevent a second inside 10 minutes.
It was a start which had Bartlett fearing a hiding and said: “Dagenham looked very sharp early on.
"They have already played three games and have just got back from three days in Spain where they have been doing their fitness work and I was looking at them thinking ‘Oh my God they are going to take us to the cleaners here.”
“We’ve got Elliott Godfrey who has also just come back from Spain but he was on holiday, putting his feet up having a drink, so that’s slightly different.
“But after that first 10 minutes it was an encouraging performance with a lot of positives.”
Pigden began the fight-back with his delicious left footed free-kick on 11 minutes, a set piece won by new-boy Toby Little’s pacey, penetrating run.
On the other flank another of the new faces Joe Turner was a constant threat with his pace and it was his skinning of his marker and run to the by-line which teed up Malcolm’s classy finish for the winner 11 minutes after the break.
Turner’s former team-mate at Hampton Tom Hickey also caught the eye in the second half, while Tom Hamblin was a colossus at the heart of the Stones’ defence.
Clearly selection headaches lie ahead for Bartlett with Saturday’s friendly at old rivals Harrow Borough providing the next chance to assess his options.