Ashford manager Tommy Warrilow won’t be rushing to judge how he thinks they’ll fare this season.
The Nuts & Bolts have lost strikers Luke Burdon and Gary Lockyer and are light on attacking options. However, versatile forward Stephen Okoh and full-back Jamal Ossai - brother of Tariq Ossai - have signed for the club after successful trials.
Warrilow’s team have had injuries, too, but he hopes to welcome some of his sidelined troops back for Saturday’s Isthmian South East opener at Burgess Hill.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day. We have lost a lot of players from last year, we have lost a lot of goals, and we have got to replace that,” admitted Warrilow, after they ended pre-season with a 4-2 defeat at Folkestone on Sunday.
“We are not a million miles away but we know the areas we have got to strengthen.
"If those players are not around at the moment, we have just got to get on with it.
“It’s my sword I fall on but I can’t do anything about people not being here. I can’t not let people go on holiday - these are non-league footballers - the timing is ridiculous because they’ve all gone and we have got three injuries.
“Once they’re back, I’m pretty sure we will be a lot stronger and I’m looking to bring in some people.
"I’m not going to judge it even after the first, second or third game. So what?
“You have to get on with it, not get carried away, and wait until Christmas time or January.
"We want to be up there, obviously, but I’m positive going into it.”
Ashford do have options in goal, though, where Jordan Carey and Jacob Russell are vying for the No.1 jersey.
Warrilow said: “I told Jordan it’s a horrible decision that I have got to make but I have got to make a decision.
"That’s what you want, I want that all around the pitch.
“There was no Friendy [Liam Friend], Charlie Dickens, no Brad [Bradley Simms] and Tariq. If I get them all available and fit, I’m happy with the defensive side of it.
“Midfield has still been a little bit of a struggle and, up front, we have lost our firepower.
“So, from the outside, it doesn’t look good but, sometimes, that’s not a good time to play people.”
On centre-back Friend’s injury, Warrilow added: “He has done his ankle. He should be all right.
“Browny [Alex Brown] is the one who has done his ankle badly, and he’ll need to get that scanned, which is a shame.”
But those injuries have allowed Ashford to try different players in more unorthodox positions - including winger Adem Ramadan at left-back as he impressed at Folkestone.
Warrilow said: “Rams is a clever player.
"He’s not a left-back but I wouldn’t hesitate putting him in there, to be honest.
“He was up and down, got a good goal, and our full-backs are always encouraged to get on.”
Ramadan netted while midfielder Olumide Oluwatimilehin struck at Cheriton Road, too.
Warrilow reflected: “I’m pleased. Obviously, I’m not pleased that we lost but I don’t think the boys deserved the 4-2 scoreline, if I’m being honest.
“They played against a very strong team. I’m not banging on about it again but we do have eight players missing so I can’t ask for much more than they did on Sunday.
“We had a few players in to look at again - some trialists - and one of them I like.
"Overall, I was quite pleased.”
Warrilow and his coaching staff have been busy preparing to visit Burgess Hill and host Sevenoaks at Homelands on Tuesday, four days before they face Southern Counties East Premier Division Sutton Athletic in the FA Cup.
He said: “They [Burgess Hill] have strengthened, they are organised and Alex O’Brien (assistant) along with Terry Sedge (goalkeeping coach) went to watch them play on Saturday.
“I went to watch Sutton Athletic.
"So we are doing our bit to get organised and we have done hardly any shape or set-pieces.
"We will do that Tuesday and Thursday so we will be more organised.”