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STILL AWARE OF OPENING DAY TEST

8 August 2014

Boss hoping for positive result on Town return to Football League

This time last year the Town were looking forward to an opening day trip to Southport, buoyed by an unbeaten pre-season that included a 2-0 win over Aston Villa and a 7-0 victory against Arsenal’s Under-21s.

Ninety minutes and a deflected free-kick later the Hatters were licking their wounds after a 1-0 defeat on Merseyside.

“Last year we had a fantastic pre-season, scored lots of goals, beat Aston Villa and Arsenal and went to Southport and lost 1-0,” said John Still.

Fast forward through an unforgettable 12 months, that saw the Town end their Football League exile in style by clinching the Conference title by 19 points, and the Hatters head to Carlisle on Saturday hoping to avoid another opening day defeat following another promising sequence of results during pre-season this summer.

But the manager’s been in the game long enough to know that the result in the opening game isn’t always the be-all and end-all.

“I won’t forget last year because we started slowly,” explained Still. “Once the season started we didn’t score many goals. One or two players were a bit behind – our leading goalscorer included.

“I’m sensible enough to realise that it might take time and know that it doesn’t all fall into place straight away. It didn’t last season. If it does fall into place immediately then there will probably be a blip at some point in the season. Why? Because that’s just how the game is.

“But we’re fit – we know that, we’re strong – we know that, we’ll go the distance – we know that, and we’ve got ability in the group – we know that. It’s just about bringing all of those things together.”

With respect to Southport, however, the Town’s curtain raiser against Carlisle – relegated from League 1 last term – represents a much tougher challenge.

“This time last season there was two divisions between us, so it’s going to be tough,” said Still.

“But that’s what makes it so exciting, because if it was easy it wouldn’t be worth playing.

“I think Carlisle be one of the teams to challenge, but football doesn’t always go the way you want it to go.

“Whatever’s put in front of us, we’ve got to find a way to deal with. I know they’ll be a good side and know it will be a big test.”

The Town squad travel north on Friday, taking in a stop to train at Preston before heading further north and onto Brunton Park on Saturday morning.

As reported on Thursday, the Hatters have Luke Guttridge fit to travel but the Town will be without the services of Jonathan Smith, Alex Lawless, Shaun Whalley and Andy Parry.

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