THREE days into the new season and Eastleigh manager Richard Hill is still staggered at what a tough set of cards his side have been dealt in August.

They drew 0-0 on an unfamiliar 3G pitch at Bromley on Saturday and, starting with tomorrow's home game against Sutton United (Tuesday,7.45pm), will have come face to face with nearly all the National League big-hitters come the end of the month.

“I still can’t believe our first eight games,” said Hill.

“We’ve got all the ones you’d expect to be there or thereabouts in the play-off positions come the end of the season – and we’re playing them early in the season when their squads are healthy.

“You can’t get into the play-offs in the first eight games, but you can do your chances a lot of harm (if you don’t get points on the board).

“We did alright at Bromley on Saturday, but I still think that if we’d been a bit more clinical, decisive and patient, we could have come away with the three points.”

Sutton became the first National League side side to register a win this season when they beat Leyton Orient 2-0 in the televised early kick-off at Gander Green Lane in front of a 3,198 crowd.

And Hill fully expects the Us – managed by ex-Spitfires Paul Doswell and Ian Baird – to be right up there in the play-off picture come April.

“Sutton have recruited very well, added to the players they’ve retained. You’ve got to give them credit for that,” said Hill.

“They had a good win on Saturday and they’ve got a group of players who know the league very well.

“It’s not going to be an easy game.”

As always, Sutton have a strong ex-Eastleigh flavour laced through their squad.

Midfielder Jamie Collins put them ahead against Orient from the penalty spot and the decisive second goal was scored by Dean Beckwith from Ross Lafayette’s assist.

Frontman Lafayette did hot hit the heights as a Spitfire, but Hill, who signed him towards the end of his first stint as Eastleigh boss, said: “I still maintain he should have done better here.

“Sutton have also got Dan Spence, who was a popular player here, and don’t forget that not only are these lads good players, they’re also good, decent people which is why I signed them.

“All of them are going to want to come back and do their best tonight.”

Eastleigh have another testing home match awaiting them on Saturday against Dagenham & Redbridge – 2-1 opening-day victors over Barrow.

After that the August fixtures come thick and fast against Woking (away, 15th), Tranmere Rovers (home, 19th), Leyton Orient (away, 26th) and Aldershot Town (home, 28th).

September begins with another huge test away to Daryl McMahon’s newly-promoted Ebbsfleet United.