FA VASE winners Sholing are steeling themselves for life without Lee Wort.

The Boatmen, who mark their return to the Southern League with a Division One South & West opener at Shortwood United today, have grown dependent on Wort’s goals over the years.

But the 22-year-old is currently on trial with James Beattie’s League Two charges Accrington Stanley and, even if that does not come to fruition, Sholing are not expecting him back.

“I’m not saying never, but, as far as I’m concerned, he’s not coming back to Sholing,”

said co-manager Mick Marsh.

“We’ve got plans to move on without Lee Wort.

“If he does come back (from Accrington), he’ll go to a Conference South-type team.

He needs to challenge himself at a higher level.

“Worty’s more than capable of playing higher and I support him fully in that.

“We’re in a time of change at Sholing, but it’s an exciting time.

“We’ve lost the likes of Lee Bright and Tyronne Bowers (both retired) and we’ve had to compensate for that. But one of the key things is that we’ve still got a backbone of players that have been with the club a long time.

“(Centre-back) Pete Castle’s injured after a knee operation and the opportunity is there for the likes of young Dan Miller to come of age.

I’ve no doubt whatsoever that he’s capable of taking it.”

After four successful seasons in the South & West, Sholing voluntarily dropped down to the Wessex ranks last term and pulled off a dream Sydenhams Premier/FA Vase double.

“Morale’s good, confidence is sound and the belief is there,” said Marsh. “Now we’ve got to make sure the bubble doesn’t burst too soon.

“We’re expecting a difficult game tomorrow and, unlike most promoted clubs, there will be no surprise factor with us. About 80 per cent of teams in this league will know what we’re about.”

Wort’s departure opens the door for Alex Baldacchino to make his mark up front along with young Braiden Hamilton from Brockenhurst.

Physically the Boatmen will benefit from the arrival of Nathan Lynch from AFC Portchester and the return of Dan Mason from Follands.

“We’re going to need strong centre-forwards to take on the centre-halves in this league,” said Marsh. “The challenges are greater than in the Wessex and you need that bit of variety up front.”

Centre-back Stuart Mott from Alresford and pacy forward/full-back Jude Nwachukwu from Totton & Eling have also joined the Boatmen, along with former Solent University wide man Toby Chester. Sholing’s first home game is against North Leigh on Wednesday (7.45pm)