Manager Gary Forrest looking forward to "a good test" this season as West Auckland Town FC host Dunston UTS in Northern League opener
By Stuart Laundy - Senior Reporter
WEST Auckland Town FC manager Gary Forrest believes consistency is the key to success in the 2018-19 campaign, which kicks off tomorrow (Saturday) with a home game against Dunston UTS.
His side goes into the game on the back of an unbeaten pre-season campaign which he describes as “pleasing”.
“We played seven, won all seven and only conceded one goal,” said Mr Forrest.
“We worked hard on not conceded goals and overall, I am happy with the pre-season we have had.”
He said games against opponents ranging from Scottish side Tranent Juniors to evening fixtures at Crook and Tow Law were designed to test different aspects of the squad – from physical opponents on the pitch to making a long trip after work to prepare for a 7.30pm kick-off.
And after last season's overhaul of the squad, just three players have been added ahead of this campaign – defender Tom Price from Seaham Red Star, ex-Darlington midfielder Tom Portas and ex-Whitby Town captain Steven Snaith.
“As I said all along, last season was a transitional season and a building season and during the course of the season were were never going to get everyone we wanted,” said Mr Forrest.
“There were lads under contract and I don't believe in signing someone for the sake of it.
“It was a stepping stone last year and if we could finish in the top six, that would be great.”
As it turned out, West were fifth, a point behind Sunderland RCA and two adrift of third placed Shildon.
Mr Forrest said that while strengthening of the squad had begun in the second half of last season, there were still gaps that needed filling, hence the three summer signings.
“We fixed the goalkeeper, we needed a leader on the pitch so we brought in Lewis Dodds,” he explained.
“During pre-season we knew exactly what positions needed fixing. We identified who were the best players available and were very fortunate to sign all three.”
He said he has also been working on instilling the belief in the squad that they can be successful.
“There was a lack of belief last year. We need to have that belief.
“The quality of players is there, we have strengthened areas where we had weaknesses. We have the best keeper, centre midfield and centre forward and I genuinely believe Tom Price will be the best centre half in the league.
“It is going to be a good test this year – something to look forward to.”
Not that Mr Forrest believes success is going to come easy.
The Northern league has a different look to it this season, with 19 teams in the top flight.
Last season's top two, Marske United and Morpeth Town moved up to the Evo Stick East league, Team Northumbria and Jarrow Roofing folded, while Washington and Billingham Synthonia were relegated.
Promoted from division two were Blyth AFC, Hebburn Town and Wickham.
“The Northern League is always tough,” said Mr Forrest.
“Hebburn have overhauled their squad and brought in some big name players; Blyth have a big budget.
“It is always tough – always has been, always will be. It's about who is the most consistent.
“Last season we were inconsistent, but with mitigating factors, particularly in the first half of the season.
“League titles are not won in pre-season, but I could not be more happy than where we are.”
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