ACCRINGTON Stanley boss John Coleman has stressed that every three points is vital this year - and a home win is a must in Saturday's Conference opener against Canvey Island.
Just nine points separated second place Hereford from 10th placed Stanley last season and the manager was left ruing silly mistakes which cost his side vital points in their promotion hunt. And now he is keen to point out that a win in the early stages of the campaign is as crucial as one near the end.
"We saw teams celebrating three points towards the end of last season as it took them into a play-off place," said the boss. "But those three points are just the same as the three points at the start of the season so we should be celebrating them just as much. The lads have got to celebrate every win and if we get that mentality straight away we won't be far off."
The Reds chief is pleased that the Interlink will host the opening game of the campaign and is hoping the fans will turn up in their numbers to help Stanley to victory.
"I am pleased we are at home as it is important we get off to a good start. Anyone away from home on the first day is difficult as there is that novelty value of not playing for a while and they are up for the game.
"But we have played some lovely football in the last two games against Wigan and Stalybridge and we hope the fans will respond to that.
"I just can't wait for the season to start now. The butterflies will starting creeping in today but I have a confidence in my squad. I am delighted with the fitness levels and I hope this season we don't under-achieve. I think we did last year and I certainly think we have got the players here who are capable of performing at this level."
Hereford are the bookies' tip for the top but Coleman knows it is wide open - and he expects Accrington to be there.
"It could be anyone of the top ten last year who took part in such a thrilling finish. Hereford should be up there, and Stevenage but I don't think anyone will run away with it like Barnet did last year. I thought we were one of the best five teams in the league last year - it is my opinion and I have not altered it"
And Coleman has been boosted by a rush of late signings which has given his squad some strength in depth. He has added defender Michael Welch, a former Republic of Ireland youth international, who has chalked up more than 100 appearances for Macclesfield.
"He is a big strong lad and has got a lot of experience in the league and I think he will do well," said Coleman of the 23-year-old who will rival Mike Flynn, Robbie Williams and Andy Tretton in the heart of the defence.
And Welch could make his Conference bow at some stage on Saturday as Stanley's first summer signing Andy Tretton had a scan on his injured knee this week and the club are waiting for the results.
Meanwhile, teenage Danny Ventre, from Chester, has also signed while Coleman was confident that former Blackpool striker Andy Magnan and another ex-Seasider, wing back Leam Richardson, will sign in time for Saturday's clash.
These are added to Matt O'Neill and keeper Stuart Jones who signed over the summer. There was, however, no place for ex-Crewe star Rodney Jack who was on trial at the Interlink.
"We wanted to sign Andy (Magnan) earlier but there was a problem with his registration from Hyde but we hope to get clearance for Saturday. We are, though, still looking for a striker and may explore a few loan options so watch this space," he added.
Last season, the Reds won four of their opening five games to catapult them up into a play-off place and they only dropped off towards the end of the campaign.
Coleman knows his side will be expected to pick up three points against part-timers Canvey, who have ex-Red Stuart Bimson in their side and against another part-time club, Altrincham, on Tuesday who have former Stanley strikers Lutel James and Gary Williams on their books. And it is also Ian Craney's old club.
"Altrincham will be a difficult game and I would have preferred to have that later on in the season when the novelty value of playing in a new league has worn off, as we have seen, in the last couple of years, teams promoted initially do well," said the boss. "Both Stuart and Lutel did well for me but now they are just other players and we have to deal with it.
"The main thing for me is to get off to a good start - and get the consistency which ultimately cost us last season."