PROMOTION remains the target for Wealdstone boss Gordon Bartlett on the eve of the new Ryman league campaign.
However, he warned his new-look side may have to do it the hard way by playing catch up.
Stones have undergone something of a regeneration over the summer after losing stalwarts like Lee Chappell, Chris O’Leary, Alex Dyer and Richard Jolly in the aftermath of a second successive play-off semi-final exit.
And while new signings like Jerome Okimo appear to be stepping up to the challenge, Bartlett feels fans need to be prepared for a further bedding in period before they see the best of the class of 2013-14.
He said: “We want to be up there challenging, but the fact of the matter is you are not necessarily going to hit the ground running when you make so many changes.
“We have got to learn the qualities of players and things about the balance of the side. We are in reasonable shape but I would not say with 100 per cent certainty at this stage we have got this right.
“There is going to be a little bit of tweaking over the next few weeks as there has got to be.”
Bartlett had been due to make decisions over the likes of former Premiership star Glen Little and centre-back Josh Hill, newly arrived down south from Worksop in Monday night’s friendly with Hemel Hempstead until heavy rain left the pitch waterlogged forcing the game to be postponed.
Consequently he was prepared to admit Saturday’s visit to newly promoted Maidstone and their 4G pitch would not have been top of his list for a season curtain-raiser.
He said: “I would not have picked Maidstone as my ideal start away from home in front of 2,500 people against a side on the back of a bit of momentum after winning the league last year with a 4G pitch and us having lost six players so needing a little bit of time to bed in.
“However, the bottom line is we are going there and we will give it a good crack and what a great result it will be if we can go and nick something there.”
The league’s most experienced boss knows to get a result his side will have to break their pre-season habit of conceding sloppy goals to individual errors and get back to the scrooge-like defending on which the last two promotion pushes have been built.
He added: “My biggest disappointment at the moment is we think Christmas has come early and the last three games we have gifted goals away.
“There were two against Hayes & Yeading and then the other night at Uxbridge we gifted three, then another three against Chelsea – all individual errors.
“We have to nip that habit in the bud very quickly.”
Stones were due to wrap up their pre-season campaign last night (Wednesday) against AFC Hayes.
Meanwhile, Hendon, who rounded off their pre-season with a 2-0 defeat to a Chelsea XI on Tuesday night start their Ryman Premier campaign at league new boys Thamesmead Town.