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Hythe Town start their Isthmian League South East season against East Grinstead

Hythe Town boss Steve Watt hopes his team will be more ruthless in attack as he looks to build on a strong finish to last season.

The Cannons gatecrashed the Isthmian South East play-offs following a six-game winning streak at the end of last season, beating Ramsgate on penalties in the semis before losing 1-0 to Whitehawk in the final.

Hythe Town manager Steve Watt ready for a new season in Isthmian South East Picture: Ian Scammell
Hythe Town manager Steve Watt ready for a new season in Isthmian South East Picture: Ian Scammell

Watt had built the team from scratch a year ago but has kept the core of his squad together this summer, bringing in some attacking additions to help improve their fortunes infront of goal.

He said: “We needed to address a couple of areas, which we have done. I felt we needed more goals.

“The defensive record was the best in the league last year, that side of it is good, we lost a couple from that area but we feel confident that we will be difficult to beat again.

“We just didn’t have enough goals in the team last year so we’ve brought in the likes of Jake Embery and Brad Schaffer who are goal threats, it was an area on the pitch I wanted to concentrate on and we’ve done that this summer.

“We are in a better position than we were this time last year, last year there was only one player from the squad the year before, we put together a new team. Now we have a team that knows each other, they know me and it’s now about hitting the ground running.”

Watt quit as Hythe boss back in May, weeks after their play-off final, believing he had effectively been forced out by new board members. But their subsequent resignation led to the manager being reinstated that same weekend, ensuring disruption was only minimal.

He said: “It got resolved quickly, which was the important thing, if it dragged on longer who knows? I might not have come back, a few players may have left. During that 24-hour window, where it all hit the fan a bit, there was potential for boys to move on.”

Hythe’s pre-season ended with a 1-1 draw at Hastings United last Tuesday and the manager gave his players one final weekend off before the season begins at home to East Grinstead on Saturday.

They will be playing the same team away from home next Saturday in the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round.

Watt said: “It is weird how things work out, a strange way to start the season, but they are a good side, they beat us at their place last year, fully deserved to beat us that night and we beat them at ours, in the return.

“It will be two tough games but whatever the result is one week will mean nothing the following week, two completely separate games.

“Our full focus is to try and get three points on Saturday and then go down there the following week, but we certainly won’t look beyond the first game.”

With a small squad, keeping players fit was key to Hythe’s success last season. It will be the same this time around.

Watt said: “I’ve never been a fan of pre-season, when you work with such a small squad, because of budget restraints, every game is just a risk of injury.

“Pre-season for me is about getting through unscathed, which it looks like we’ve done, then bedding new players into the group and working on a few things in those games.

“We are not blessed with 18-20 players, we are working with 15-16, it is really important to get that side of it correct, it is a big factor of why we did well last year, we had no injuries really, someone missed one or two maximum. We had the same core playing most weeks.”

Bettering last season’s efforts will be the aim.

“It is going to be tougher this year,” Watt said. “That’s not because last year wasn’t tough, it was probably the toughest I had known the league, but there is a lot more money being invested in the league which obviously brings in better players, but as we proved last year, you don’t need a bottomless pit to do well in this league.

“You obviously have to have the rub of the green, which we did certainly towards the second half, but you have to put a team together that plays together and gels together, so we are confident we have that.

“What will be will be, if we don’t finish in the play-offs I will not say it’s been a failure but I will be disappointed, because that is what I want minimum.”

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