The last 12 months have been full of ups and downs for Newmarket Town, but manager Kevin Grainger is confident that 2017 will provide much more positive consistency.
With upcoming ground renovation works in mind, budget cuts were made during the second half of last season, resulting in a run of form that saw the Jockeys lose 13 of their final 18 games.
Grainger’s men finished just four points above the bottom three, but the gloom was soon lifted after a summer of improvements at the club’s Cricket Field Road base — the most notable of which was the installation of a 3G pitch.
Big pre-season signings were made and while keeping clean sheets has been an issue at times, Newmarket appear to be on the up, ending 2016 in fifth on 42 points — three more than they collected in the entirety of 2015/16.
And with two cup competitions still to play for, Grainger is looking forward to a bright future at The Ridgeons Stadium.
“It was tough, but looking back I am glad we made the decision (to make the cut backs),” he said.
“We just about managed to stay up even though it was not always pretty.
“But that is all behind us now and we have got some very good players in to go with our fantastic facilities.
“Now we have got a more regular defence in place, results are picking up and we are playing some good stuff.
“In terms of chances created, I doubt any teams make more than we do each game.
“It is a good place to be at the moment and if we can finish in the top four or five, we would have to be happy with that.
“Things have changed so much after the last 12 months and now the challenge is to keep up that progression.”
Fresh from having a break over Christmas, Newmarket return to action on Monday when Hadleigh United will be their visitors (3pm).
One win in their last six has seen Hadleigh slip to 16th in the table, but Grainger has warned his players they must not take the Brettsiders lightly.
“We will need to show the right attitude, hunger and plenty of fight,” he added.
“Teams see how good our pitch is and that gives them a boost. If you cannot play decent football on that, you will not be able to play it anywhere.
“It means we need to start fast and not let the opposition get used to the surface.”
Captain Adam Dalby (knee) remains sidelined for the encounter, while midfielder Scott Paterson (knee) will have to undergo a fitness test ahead of kick-off to determine if he can be included in the squad.