ON the face of it AFC Totton drew the short straw when they were handed back-to-back away games to kick off the Southern One South & West campaign.

But being sent to Clevedon Town tomorrow and Wantage Town on Tuesday has proved a blessing in disguise for the Stags.

With pitch preparations lagging behind due to a broken water pump at the Testwood Stadium, they have an extra week to get the surface ready for the first home fixture against Yate Town tomorrow week.

“The pump broke and we had to order a new one from Italy which arrived this week,” explained chairman Andy Straker. “I was up at the ground at 7.30am on Wednesday to let the people in to fix it.

“It’s lost us some money because we’ve had to cancel pre-season friendlies, but now the new pump’s here it’s all about getting the pitch ready for the first home game which, luckily enough, isn’t until next Saturday.

“Typically the day the pump arrived it started raining! But it’s no good moaning about it, it can’t be helped.

“The pitch is looking better already and we’ll pound it with water ready for the first home game.”

Losing friendlies against Slough, AFC Bournemouth’s development squad and Dorchester not only cost Totton money through the turnstiles, but it denied the players valuable match practice.

But Straker insisted: “The players are fine, the management are happy and Saturday can’t come quickly enough for them.

“They’ve been training hard and it’s all systems go.”

Totton have made a handful of summer squad additions – striker Craig Feeney from Blackfield & Langley, full-back Jamie Blackburn from Brockenhurst, midfielder Jamie Bulpitt from Eastleigh and ex-Spitfires and Bashley forward Joe Maxwell.

One less familiar name is American Kyle O’Brien, introduced to the Stags by fellow midfielder Liam Gilbert who attended college in the USA.

“There won’t be many better central midfield pairings than Liam and Kyle in this division,” ventured Straker.

“Everyone at Totton knows what a good player Liam is and I think people will be surprised by how good Kyle is when they see him.

“Apart from Luke Roberts, who’s been down at Poole, we’ve kept last season’s squad and I’d like to think we can keep our relationship going with AFC Bournemouth who have loaned us some great young players from their development squad in the past.

“We offered Luke a contract and he didn’t give us the full reasons why he wanted to go. But he’s at university down Bournemouth way, so Poole is closer to home, and I think he wants to play at Premier level rather than Division One.

“It’s a shame to see him go, but we’re strong enough squad-wise and we’re looking forward to seeing what we’re like in a competitive game.”