Daisy Hill begin their programme of pre-season games this weekend when they travel to face fellow North West Counties League side Wythenshawe Amateurs on Saturday.

It’s the start of a busy warm-up schedule that sees Daisy play six games in four weeks, in the run up to the start of the league season on Saturday, July 30.

For manager Leighton Mills, it’s the culmination of weeks of preparation as he starts his second season in charge at New Sirs, and he is looking to build on the lessons learned from last season’s campaign.

“I’ve spent time looking back, reflecting on what we could have done differently”, said Mills.

“It was always a building-block season, and a stepping-stone in the right direction to get us where we need to be and want to be.

“The club finished with a plus goal difference, we got over 50 points, and finished eighth in the league, just seven points off the play-offs.

“Anyone who watched us all season will know that seven points is nothing, when you look at some of the points we chucked away at times.

“But it’s all ifs and buts, and we will learn from that.”

Although the core of last season’s squad have been retained, Mills has also been busy recruiting, and is looking at running with a slightly smaller group this time around.

“Last year I think the squad we had was too big,” he added.

“There was too much chopping and changing, you can’t keep everyone happy, so the plan is to have around a 19-20 man squad this season.

“The players we have on board for this coming season all played in about 90 per cent of their teams’ games last season, whether it was here with us, or new signings we’ve brought in from other clubs.

“That is key, because when you look at how we performed from mid-January when we finally had a settled squad, it wasn’t a fluke how our results picked up.

“We’ve brought in six new players, and we have also got seven or eight trialists in, so I need to give them game time before I make a decision on them. I can’t make a judgement just watching them training.

“But at the same time, the lads who I know will be with us this coming season also need games too, so the first three games will be a case of mixing and matching.”

The opponents Daisy will face in the coming weeks have been carefully chosen to fit in with the pre-season training programme, and boss Mills was keen to ensure games were arranged to provide a good test right from the start.

“We start against Wythenshawe Amateurs on Saturday who had a good season last year, so we know that’s going to be a tough game,” said Mills.

“Then we play Avro the following Saturday and then a local game away to CMB, who also had a good season in the West Lancashire League.

“So we have planned we have those three games to ease us in, and during that time decisions will be made on the make up of the squad, and who will stay and who will go. By July 15, we will probably have the squad that will be starting the season.

“From there we end the pre-season programme with three games, playing Ashton United, Wythenshawe Town and Radcliffe, all of them teams from leagues above us, and we won’t having any trialists in for those games.

“They are all going to be good tests for us but I am not bothered about results. I am not a manager who puts a lot on having a good run of pre-season results.

“As long as we have a good shape, good intensity, and creating chances, we can work on fine tuning little details. That’s what pre-season games are about”.

With the first match of the pre-season schedule approaching on Saturday, Mills admits he is looking forward to seeing his new-look squad in action.

“The last four to six weeks have been really busy, I haven’t stopped, and the phone hasn’t stopped, so now it’s a case of getting back to action and getting the lads moving in the right direction.

“We’re looking forward to the first game at Wythenshawe Amateurs, and we will probably travel with a squad of 18 and it will be mixed, with both first teamers and trialists.

“We’ll go from there after Saturday, but for now it’s a learning curve, with lads getting used to each other.

“Everything is going well so far, the lads have been absolutely class in training, and I can’t wait to get back into a dugout again on Saturday.”