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Histon manager Lance Key eager for team to build upon positive second half of previous season

Histon manager Lance Key is not shying away from the weight of expectation that will be on his and the players’ shoulders this season.

The Stutes get their 2023/24 United Counties Football League Premier Division South campaign under way on Saturday (July 29) away at Aylestone Park before they play host to March Town United at Bridge Road on Tuesday (August 1).

Key’s men head into the new season on the back of a strong finish to the previous term, one in which they recovered from a slow start to lose just three of their final 16 fixtures to finish sixth.

Histon manager Lance Key. Picture: Keith Heppell
Histon manager Lance Key. Picture: Keith Heppell

And with the introduction of play-offs at Step 5 for the teams that finish between second and fifth place, Key is well aware that plenty of eyes will be on his team.

He said: “We know that we’re under pressure as a management team and a group of players, especially with the play-offs coming in.

“Finishing in the top five has to be the ultimate gameplan and why not? We finished sixth last season after all.

“If we had started the season the way we finished it then we’d have been right in amongst the teams at the top.

“With the start, everyone could see we were coming off the back of relegation and a really tough season in the Northern Premier League.

“Confidence was low and it took us a little while to find our feet.

“But once we got a couple of wins confidence grew and all of a sudden we had that ability to win games that we perhaps shouldn’t have done and we’d come out of games with something to show for it despite being under pressure.

“We learned to be a team, we learned to dig results out and our end to the season showed that. We made some great strides but they will not count for much if we can’t continue them this season.”

While nothing is won or lost in August, teams can certainly give themselves a mountain to climb by getting off to a slow start.

Histon’s opening fixtures are tough on paper as they visit an Aylestone Park side that were crowned Division One champions last season, scoring 153 goals from only 40 fixtures in the process. March are notoriously tough opposition and then they head to Step 4 outfit Ipswich Wanderers in the FA Cup.

Yet Key believes that it will set his team up nicely if they can pick up some positive results.

“It’s far from the easiest of starts,” he added. “Aylestone Park will have plenty of momentum and confidence after their fantastic season and March is a derby game that is never easy.

“Then we go to an Ipswich side that won the Thurlow Nunn League last season. We know how tough that is to do so it couldn’t be a much harder start.

“But if we can get off to a reasonable start with four or six points and progress in the FA Cup then that will give us the sort of momentum we missed at the start of last season.”

And Histon will go into those encounters with Rob Ruddy, who last week returned to the club after spells with Mildenhall Town, Newmarket Town and Godmanchester Rovers.

Speaking about the centre-back who helped the club to win the Eastern Counties League title in 2018/19, Key said: “Rob will bring us a huge amount of experience to our backline, a committed defender who will most certainly bring another edge to our side.

“Rob has obviously won the Eastern Counties League with us and we hope that he will again bring us that never say die attitude which will rub off on others.

“He is a true leader and someone we are delighted to welcome back to help with our push this season for the play-offs.

“We conceded too many goals last season and gave up too many chances, but with Max (York) here for a full season and now Rob returning, that will make us a harder side to beat.”

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