St Albans City joint manager James Gray believes his side can hold their own this season following promotion.
The Saints earned a place in the Conference South after their play-off triumph over Chesham United last season in the Southern Premier Division but Gray is not worried about their chances of survival.
Whilst refusing to set any specific team targets for the campaign, Gray believes City can prove more than a match for their new opponents this year.
The Saints boss said: “I think we are capable of matching most teams this season and we will go into it with a lot of optimism. Deep down, managers want to compete with the best and I’m no different.
“We’re looking forward to it and can't wait to get going at home.”
Gray continued: “I think we have good competition for places. There will be a few sides that are going to be very strong, like Ebbsfleet and Bromley, but we will be looking to match them on our day.
“We don’t go into the season with the pressure we had on us last year. We got into a position where we were in the shake up for promotion and that brought its own pressure.
“It will be a year of stabalising for us but I don't think that we will be too far off and we have nothing to fear.
“We will just focus on one game at a time but I would fully expect us to turn it on this season and we’ll go into it with a great deal of excitement.”
The Saints start their Conference South campaign with a home clash against Hayes & Yeading United this weekend.
United avoided demotion, despite finishing in the relegation spots, after Hereford dropped down two divisions for failing to settle their debts.
Gray believes the sides will have contrasting emotions heading into the campaign after the way their seasons finished.
He said: “We will go into the new season with a completely different mindset to Hayes and Yeading after they were relegated and had a reprieve. It’s really important that we perform well but also that we go and get a positive result as well.”
Gray added: “We had Hayes & Yeading United watched last weekend when they were beaten by St Neots. We are hoping to set about them and get among them.
“We’re looking forward to it and can't wait to get going at home.
“I’m expecting a tough game but there are always strange results on the opening day and we just want to make sure we get off to a good start.
“We don’t want to be playing catch up. This season we’ve retained the majority of our squad and it’s important to make a good start and have a good run of form going into the FA Cup which is always an important competition for us, especially with the prize money on offer.”
The Saints are expecting to have a fully fit squad for the Clarence Park opener with John Frendo and Ben Martin both in contention after returning from late summer breaks.