Having kept 19 clean-sheets in 52 appearances during his first season at Harrogate Town, goalkeeper James Belshaw has already proved himself a safe pair of hands.
And as the club prepare to embark upon a voyage into the unknown – a first ever season playing in English football’s fifth tier – they can at least do so knowing that their last line of defence boasts both an excellent pedigree and prior National League experience.
What’s more, having played 31 times for Nuneaton in 2013/14 in the then-Skrill Premier, Belshaw says Town have “absolutely nothing to fear” and is backing them to make an impression this term.
“Obviously it’s a step up from National League North, but I think we were too good for that division last season and we proved that in the end,” the 27-year-old said.
“We have absolutely nothing to fear. Obviously, you’re up against better quality players and the pace of the game can be that bit quicker, but we play football the right way and will be a match for anyone.
“For me, there isn’t a great deal of difference in terms of the standard between the top sides in National League North and the bottom half of the National League, so we won’t be there just to make up the numbers. We’re here to compete and we want to be doing that at the right end of the table.”
Belshaw says that Town head into Saturday’s curtain-raiser with Sutton United in confident mood and just pleased to be kicking-off the campaign at the CNG Stadium.
“They’re a good team at this level, it’s going to be a tough game, but we know that if we perform to our best then we’ll get a positive result,” Belshaw added.
“It is one of the most difficult fixtures we could have had first up, but to be honest we just wanted to be at home on the opening day.
“We only lost three games on our own pitch last season, so I don’t think anyone in this division is going to look forward to coming here too much.
“We were able to out-football most sides in National League North, and, particularly at the CNG, we’ll back ourselves to cause teams problems.
“It can’t be a case of ‘weren’t we good last year’ though, it’s back to business this weekend.
“What we did last season was brilliant, winning promotion is one of my biggest achievements as a player and it was an historic moment for the club, but we have to draw a line under all that now and just look forwards.”
Belshaw acknowledges that many of their National League rivals may well view them as relative small fry this term, but says Town will be going all out to show exactly what they are capable of from the first whistle.
“Other clubs may think of us as ‘little old Harrogate’, but we want to put a marker down on Saturday,” he said.
“We want people to sit up and take notice and show exactly how good we are.”