Annagh United manager Dean Smith turned back the clock for motivation on Saturday as his players took the first steps towards a fresh future.
The final whistle of last season’s successful promotion campaign signalled a countdown towards a first appearance in the Irish League’s second tier.
The summer preparations added to the sense of occasion ahead of Saturday’s derby visit to Tandragee Road by Armagh City for that key competitive debut in Championship One.
However, Smith and his coaching team worked hard to ease any extra pressure on the squad and highlighted past positives against Armagh as cause for optimism irrespective of Annagh’s lack of experience.
“You could sense a few nerves before kick-off and, to be honest, it was the same for us on the coaching team,” said Smith. “We wanted to stress how one result was never going to decide anything for the season ahead but it is obviously a massive boost to have a win on the board.
“As a club, it is a case of moving into the unknown this season but we discussed previous wins against Armagh and decided to focus on that rather than the occasion.
“To get a win made it the perfect start and, more importantly, the players came off the pitch in the knowledge they can compete at this level.
“If the wait had gone on for a first win then the pressure would build and build each game.
“Now we have that monkey off our back and can visit Institute with confidence, although that is a different test again for everyone.”
Smith will review the treatment table before selecting his panel for the Institute trip.
“Bryan Pentland is struggling with hamstring trouble and Marc Robinson remains out with a rib injury,” said Smith. “Paul Stretton should be okay after his thigh problem and we hope to have Jordan Campbell back but with Andy Smith and Francis McCann still out.
“However, this season is about using our squad and Ryan Coulter’s impressive appearance off the bench proves the strength-in-depth.”
ANNAGH UNITED: Ciaran Fox, Raymond Harpur, Stephen Acheson, Richard Allen, Scott Rae, Bryan Pentland, Philip Craig, Steven Park, Peter Mallon, Chris McElroy, Paul Stretton. Subs: Matthew Brown, Jaime Gardiner, Ryan Coulter.