By Ryan Newman
Eastbourne United manager Tobi Hutchinson believes his team are still trying to gel after incorporating his new signings into the side.
United get their Southern Combination Premier League campaign underway when they play host to Loxwood on Saturday at The Oval and Hutchinson is all too wary of the threat they pose after facing them on the final day of last season.
“We start with a tough game at home to Loxwood,” said Hutchinson. “We played them on the final game of the season last season. They’ll be a tough side: young, youthful, quick and well organised. They’re consistent year to year.
“We’ve got a few new faces and we’re still all trying to gel. It’ll be a very difficult game but we’re at home, against a side that I expect will finish in and around a similar position to ourselves. I expect us to get three points.”
Club captain Adam Davidson will once again lead the side and Hutchinson couldn’t speak highly enough of his leader.
“Davo is as fit as a fiddle and a real leader, in and out the dressing rooms, on and off the pitch.”
After losing utility player Luke Denton (pictured left) and striker Liam Baitup to rivals Eastbourne Town, United have made signings this summer in an attempt to improve on their seventh place finish from last season.
Forward Scott Taylor, formerly of Newhaven, ex Horsham YMCA winger Max Howell, former Hastings United central midfielder Kane Penn and striker Lucas Mann will all play their football at the Oval.
“After last season, we had a clear plan and I am absolutely delighted that we have been able to go out there and get exactly what we wanted.
“Scott Taylor is a proper number ten. He holds the ball up well and can bring others into play. Max Howell is an absolute speed merchant. He’ll give us some real attacking pace.
“Kane Penn spent his preseason at Hastings United so he’s played at a decent level. He’s got real quality and is going to unlock defences this season in and around the box. Lucas Mann is a real centre forward. I am certain he will score goals for us this season.”
However, Hutchinson isn’t just relying on one or two of his players to get all the goals this season and believes it will be a real team effort:
“Lucas Mann will always get goals, he’s proven. We’ve certainly got potential to get goals from around the side.
“I’m expecting goals out of Olly (Adebola Sotoyinbo), Scott Taylor, Max Howell I expect to chip in, Kane Penn, We’re a much better attacking outfit this year.”
However, despite these quality new signings Hutchinson says it is still a tall order to break into the top six.
“There are four or five teams in the league such as Horsham, Three Bridges and Eastbourne Town that have astronomical budgets when compared with ours.
“We can’t compete with them financially so we’ll be punching well above our weight if we finish in the top five or six.”
United got their season off to a winning start with a 1-2 victory in the FA Cup extra preliminary round against Little Common. United are ground sharing with Common this season at the Oval but after being drawn as the away side for the tie, United were generously gifted the use of their own home dressing room by their opponents.
United went a goal down midway through a scrappy first half. But were able to equalise on 76 minutes through new boy Kane Penn.
With time running out and the tie looking destined for a replay, the unlikely figure of Ashley Jarvis popped up to smash the winner into the roof of the net in the 92nd minute after great work by Sotoyinbo.
Hutchinson said, “It wasn’t a great game but we were well worth the win. They defended well but it’s a great morale boost to come from behind to win, especially in the Cup. It’s nice to know we’ve got that fighting spirit in us.”