Badshot Lea co-manager Gavin Smith hailed his side’s “important win” as the Baggies got their campaign up and running with a 4-2 victory at Saltdean United in the extra preliminary round of the FA Cup on Saturday afternoon.
It has been a busy summer at Westfield Lane, with nine players – Nick Medcraft, George Hedley, Danilo Cadete, Tane Caubo, George Frise, Mac Ford, Adam New, Kane Fitzgerald and Harvey Griffiths – retained from the squad which won promotion to Step 4 for the first time in the club’s 116-year history last season after finishing second in the Combined Counties Premier Division South.
Smith has added 11 players to that group – Harry Cawdron, Kojo Kyei, Rock Moses, Denny Roberts, Callum Wiltshire, Robbie Branagan, Billy Oram, Joao Jardim, Baback Dehgani, Reece Robins and Stephen Sylla – and the Baggies’ co-manager felt it was vital his new-look squad started the season on a winning note.
“It was an important win,” he said.
“We want to get the new players settled in so it was important to start well.
“We had only four lads from last year starting the game – we gave first competitive starts to seven of the new lads.
“We were stuck in traffic and got to the ground late, so I did start to worry things were conspiring against us and it might be one of those days.
“We’re a Step 4 side now and it was set up for an upset with us travelling to a Step 5 side, but we deservedly won the game.”
New recruit Sylla opened the scoring at Saltdean in the 16th minute when he cut in and curled his finish into the top corner of the net.
Alfie Edmeads soon equalised for the home side on 20 minutes, but Fitzgerald’s calmly-converted penalty gave the Baggies a 2-1 lead at half-time.
Saltdean equalised early in the second half, but Oram restored the Baggies’ lead in the 68th minute with a superb strike into the top corner from 25 yards out on his competitive debut for the club.
“Stephen is a very good finisher so we thought it would be a good game for him to start, and it was great that he got the first goal,” said Smith.
“Billy took his goal really well and the last goal from Kane came from some lovely football.”
Badshot Lea’s reward for their victory is a home tie against Lancing in the preliminary round of the FA Cup on Saturday, August 19 (3pm).
Attention now turns to the league – and the Baggies begin life in the Isthmian League South Central Division with a home game against South Park at Westfield Lane on Saturday (3pm).
Smith is expecting a tough test on the opening day of the league campaign, but is looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead.
“South Park have established themselves in the league and we’re expecting a tough game,” he said.
“All the summer work on the ground is done now, the pitch is looking very good and we’re looking forward to it.”
Despite playing at Step 4 for the first time this season and losing a number of players from last season’s promotion-winning squad, Smith is happy with how his new squad is shaping up and is hoping to make a mark at the new level.
“We’re looking at targeting a mid-table finish,” he said.
“Last season we had lost a lot of players before the season – but a lot ended up coming back and we ended up getting promoted.
“I’m not going to be stupid and set a target of finishing in the play-offs – there are probably ten teams in the league targeting the play-offs.
“We’ve just been promoted but there’s no reason why we can’t finish mid-table.
“We should give everyone in this league a good game and look to compete in every game.
“We want to give it a right go and play our football.”