Nat Jarvis of Hungerford (9) in action against Hemel Hempstead at Newbury FC on Tuesday night
MANAGER Bobby Wilkinson has vowed that Hungerford Town will be the fittest side in the Evostik Premier Division this season.
Wilkinson watched his side lose their opening pre-season friendlies 6-1 at the hands of last season’s Conference champions Barnet on Saturday and 2-0 against Vanarama National League South Hemel Hempstead Town at Newbury FC on Tuesday night.
And he said: “The boys ran their socks off on what was a boiling day at Barnet.
“I was told as a young manager that if your team is not fit then it is your fault.
“So we have had the fittest side in the league for the last five years and we will be again this year.
“I have gone for friendlies that will test us. It is no good to us going out and winning four or five nil.
“The result on Saturday doesn’t mean anything, but we took so much out of the game.
“Week in and week out we are getting stronger, fitter and closer as a group and those things will be important as the season progresses.”
Barnet, who are back in the Football League after winning the Conference on the final day last season, put out a strong side, including John Akinde, the league’s top scorer last term.
And Akinde hit a first-half hat-trick as Barnet stormed into a 4-1 half-time lead.
Both side made several changes at the interval, but Wilkinson said: “I was so proud of my boys.
“The pitch was like Wembley, we played some good football and all in all it was a day to remember.”
Wilkinson gave 20 players a run-out against Hemel Hempstead in a match that consisted of one 45-minute period and two 30-minute halves.
Crusaders carved out several openings, but failed to take them and paid the price as Ollie Hawkins and Wilfried Gnahore struck to earn Hemel victory.
But despite the result, Wilkinson said: “It was a brilliant work-out for both sides and I am really pleased with the effort we showed.”
Hungerford are back in action on Saturday, again at Newbury’s Faraday Road ground, when they take on another National League South side, Oxford City (3pm kick off).