Brackley Town boss Kevin Wilkin hopes his side can back up last season’s memorable FA Trophy success by achieving the ‘ultimate aim’ of promotion this season.
Saints begin their sixth successive season in the National League North with a trip to Bradford Park Avenue on Saturday, before Alfreton Town are the first visitors to St James Park on Tuesday next week.
Wilkin’s men agonisingly missed out on promotion to the National League in May, beaten by Harrogate Town in the play-off final.
But they swiftly put that disappointment behind them by winning the FA Trophy with a thrilling penalty shoot-out victory over Bromley at Wembley just seven days later.
Now the dust has settled and attentions are on the forthcoming season, Wilkin hopes his side can launch another promotion challenge.
”The ultimate aim is promotion,” Wilkin said.
“That’s what we want to do and be focused on first and foremost.”
“We want to be as competitive as last season and try to build on it league-wise. We know it’s not going to get any easier.
“Teams have strengthened and developed. It’s always a great test and that’s what you look forward to.”
Brackley will have to fight for promotion without the services of striker Andrew Williams, who top scored with 24 league goals last term, after he made the switch to play-off conquerors Harrogate.
While highly-rated defender Alex Gudger has also stepped up a level having signed for Solihull Moors and club stalwart forward Steve Diggin has joined neighbours Banbury United.
But Wilkin has made some signings, including new striker Greg Smith, signed from Boston United, and midfielders Connor Hall and Luke Fairlamb, both of whom joined from clubs down the non-League ladder.
Otherwise, the Saints boss has the same squad that finished third and boasted the best defensive record the previous season as well as keeping influential midfielders Shane Byrne and Jimmy Armson.
“We want players to buy into what that changing room is,” Wilkin said.
“That’s not to say every player does. People are different and we have to understand and respect that.
“Ideally, those you take fit in and the more seamless that is the better chance you have to hit the ground running.”
Despite the presence of relegated duo Chester and Guiseley in the division this year, plus the newly-promoted Ashton United, Saints are fifth favourites for the title at 14/1, behind the much-fancied Stockport County (13/2).