Belper Town’s management team has a selection headache approaching the first game of the 2019/20 football season.
A clutch of new signings this summer has served to increase competition for places, as well as raise standards around the Nailers squad.
Performance levels on the pitch have further added to the thoughts of the club’s coaching staff ahead of the season opener on 17th August.
Assistant manager Mick Norbury has been pleased with the players’ efforts from day one of reporting back for pre-season training.
He said: “We’ve had 24/25 players down for every training session and every game.
“The difference from last year is that everyone is pushing for a start.
“We’ve got two players, maybe three in some positions, who are as good as each other.
“It’s a headache but a nice headache.
And added: “The lads who have come in have quickly bought into working hard and it’s looking good.
“With two weeks to go, we haven’t made our minds up yet on who will be starting the first game.
“We’ve got two pre-season games left and it’s up in the air as to who is going to play.”
Belper comfortably beat Thorne Colliery in their first pre-season outing and gave a good account of themselves against Portadown FC and Mickleover Sports.
They faced higher-league opposition again on Tuesday night in Basford United.
“We were beaten by Portadown but we felt we were the better side and they started three weeks before us,” said Norbury.
“If we had started back when they did then I think we would have been that bit sharper - we were the better side.
“Anyone at the Mickleover game would have thought ‘who was the higher-league side?’
“Their keeper pulled three or four great saves off and we played well again. Basford is another big test.”
The introduction of fresh faces has brought with it a fresh dose of optimism for the BetVictor NPL South-East season ahead.
Norbury said: “The lads are up for it. We want to go one further than last year.
“We missed out [on the play-offs] last year, we weren’t good enough, this year we are.
“The lads are on a high, everyone’s playing for a place, and there are places to play for.
“We’ve got three or four key players who will play but other than that it’s an unknown.
“We’ve got four or five quality midfielders this year but there are only three places.
“They’re all pushing each other and working hard to get that place on the 17th August.
“We’re looking sharp, we’re looking fit, we’re strong and that’s where we want to be.
“Whoever plays at Market Drayton will have deserved it.”
While Norbury was clear in his and the rest of the management team’s expectations for the season.
“Play-offs are a minimum,” he said. “Anything less than that will be a disappointing season for us. The lads feel the same way.”