Five games before the end of August will show whether Spalding United’s squad are strong enough for another promotion challenge, says boss Chris Rawlinson.
The Tulips kick off the new Evo-Stik South campaign on Saturday at Stocksbridge Park Steels who were knocked out by Spalding after extra-time in last season’s play-off semi-final.
The first home game on Tuesday against Corby Town is followed by the Emirates FA Cup derby date at Wisbech Town.
Spalding face Newcastle Town and Cleethorpes Town over the bank holiday weekend – providing a chance for Rawlinson to reflect over the strength of his line-up.
Rawlinson said: “It’s a tough start to the season.
“At this stage, I don’t quite know where we are at – just because we haven’t been able to pick from a full-strength squad in pre-season.
We have to find a way to get back to last season’s form. We don’t want a hangover from losing the play-off final.Chris Rawlinson
“There is no pressure but we’ll have a look at the squad after five games which takes us to Bank Holiday Monday.
“At that time, we’ll know whether we are anywhere near where we need to be at or miles off.
“These fixtures are a good test and they will show if we need to improve.
“It’s a tougher start than we had last season and you need 10 games to settle down.
“We can take pride over what we achieved in claiming third place last season after a wonderful start.
“We have to prove again that we are a good side.
“People have got to stop worrying about what they might think has gone wrong for us in pre-season.
“We have to find a way to get back to last season’s form. We don’t want a hangover from losing the play-off final.
“We’ve only changed a few players and there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t be one of the promotion contenders again.
“At times last season, our budget was over-stretched – but we were successful.
“This year, we’ll need to work within our means and make sure Spalding United are sustainable for the future.”
LAST SEASON’S MEETINGS
FIRST DIVISION SOUTH
November 19, 2016
Spalding United 2 (Wells, Hamilton) Stocksbridge Park Steels 3
April 1, 2017
Stocksbridge Park Steels 2 Spalding United 0
April 25, 2017
Spalding United 3 (Varley pen, Beeson, Lockie) Stocksbridge Park Steels 2 (aet)