The sigh of relief could be heard all over the town – Alton have chalked up their first win of the season.
The Brewers needed penalties to do it, as they were held to a 1-1 draw at British Airways in the first round of the Cherry Red Records Premier Challenge Cup.
BA hit the bar with their first spot kick, they missed the target with their second and young keeper Lewis Mees saved the third – and as Alton despatched all three of theirs, they were through.
After a tricky start to the season with no league wins yet to their name and exits in the FA Vase and FA Cup, the victory was welcome.
Manager Kevin Adair said: “It’s a big relief all round – although I have to say the lads have not been playing like a side short of confidence.
“When we played Knaphill on Saturday, when we went 1-0 up we looked a bit nervous and as if we might concede – and we lost 2-1.
“But against British Airways we looked very confident.
“I have to pay tribute to the players because throughout our tricky start they have never let their heads drop, they have continued to work hard and the dressing room has always been a good place.
“It feels like a fresh start for us now. We are starting to get players back who have been injured – we have had so many out that the side has basically picked itself week in and week out, and that’s never healthy.
“There’s nothing better than having competition for places and players looking over their shoulders.
“I’m starting to have a choice for positions and we hope to sign a player this week, another next week and we have another to hope to get in. That will make the squad stronger and add to the competition.
“I don’t like making excuses but our injury list has been quite obscene so far – I’ve had to play five different right-backs in seven games, have five different central defensive pairings and four central midfield pairings.
“One of the tough jobs being a manager is telling players they are not playing, so not having a choice has made my job easier in one way. But I’m looking forward to having some competition again.
“I’m relieved for the club, the players and the fans that we have our first win, and we can build on that.
“We now have our fixtures for the season – all the clubs had them only until this month – so we can start going to games and looking at some of our future opponents, so we know what we are facing.
“That’s how we operated in the Wessex League and we can start going back to a structure and a set-up that worked for us.
“To me, it feels as if we are about to start on a bit of a rebuild. We lost some players to other clubs at the start of the season, and we now know who is staying from last year, who we can bring in, and take a look at other players we might be interested in.
“We have to keep improving and looking forward – standing still is going backwards in this game.”
Alton are back in league action tomorrow (Saturday) when they travel to Croydon in the Combined Counties Premier South.
“We never wanted to moan about being moved to the Combined Counties, but it has taken time to adjust,” said Adair.
“But with the players we have available we now have a bit of strength in depth – and we’ll see where that takes us.”