Holleran expects Brakes to start on the front foot

Ben Mackey in action against Nuneaton

Ben Mackey in action against Nuneaton

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Leamington manager Paul Holleran was in ebullient form when looking ahead to the season-opener at home to Chesham tomorrow, saying he “couldn’t wait”.

And even allowing for the missing expletive in the middle, the sentiment is clear.

Three long months on from his side’s relegation from the Conference North, Holleran now has a chance to start righting the wrongs.

A host of new faces have been brought in, while old ones, including Jamie Hood, Tony Breeden and Ben Mackey return to the scene of past glories.

Results in pre-season have been mixed but Brakes have, in flashes, shown signs of gelling, with Holleran particularly pleased with the showing in the first hour against Nuneaton Town last Saturday.

However, he knows it will be in the league that his new-look side will ultimately be judged and he admits he could not have asked for a tougher opening, with a Tuesday night trip to St Neots following hot on the heels of Chesham.

“It’s dragged in pre-season and I’m glad to get on to the proper stuff,” said Holleran.

“On the back of what happened last season we want to be on the front foot and competing straight away.

“After losing in the play-offs it was a tough season for Chesham last year.

“But they’ve rebuilt and over the last ten years they’ve never been far away [from promotion].

“And, after losing in the play-off final, St Neots won’t be far away either.

“It will be a good gauge for us.”

After negotiating the first few weeks of pre-season injury-free, Brakes were dealt a late blow when Jamie Tank was ruled out for up to six weeks with ankle ligament damage.

Ross Oulton is also suffering the effects of a knee injury and while Holleran says he has his preferred starting line-up for tomorrow in his head, further fitness worries prevented him fielding it against Nuneaton.

“We’ve tried to do bits and pieces on the training pitch but we’ve had to shuffle things around and be a bit versatile,” the boss explained.

“We certainly don’t want any more injuries. Obviously there is going to be good strong competition within the first 14 and then we’ll have a few younger players on the fringes.

“Ben George and Jake Jones have added something and Rob Ogleby has settled in well.

“Ben Mackey is looking sharper and in spells we’ve looked good, but in spells we’ve looked sloppy and tired.

“That’s the case because some of the young players are very, very young, but it’s good experience for them.”

There was a further bolstering of the squad in the last week with Michael Williams and trialist Kieren Westwood both signing.

Former Rugby Town defender Williams has been with Brakes for the majority of pre-season, while Westwood, the players’ player of the season at Boldmere St Michaels, made a second-half appearance last Saturday after spending time on trial at Kidderminster.

“He’s only 20 years of age, he’s a local boy and we liked the look of him,” added Holleran.

“Michael has done well in patches but he has got to find that consistency.

“But both will boost the squad.

“It’s a demanding league this league and we’re conscious of the fact that it is Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday.”

But despite the competitive nature of the Southern Premier, Holleran would not have it any other way.

Tomorrow, at last, the waiting will be over.