St Ives Town manager Ricky Marheineke said they were fully deserving of the three points after a 1-0 win over Biggleswade Town on the opening day of the new Southern League season.
It was decided by a header 17 minutes from time from debutant striker Marc Richards with the boss happier for his players than himself.
He said: “The players don’t get any financial reward and they turn up every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, they do hours travelling and training just hoping for their rewards and I’m delighted for them.
“There has been a lot of changes and a lot of instructions for them to absorb and put into practice.
“And they have put in a shift and they thoroughly deserved the three points.”
It was perhaps no surprise that it was Richards who got the goal.
The striker has played over 500 games in the Football League for the likes of Port Vale, Northampton Town and Barnsley and his deft header, which crawled inside the far post, came after he found space at the back post.
And Marheineke said he will only get better as the season goes on.
He said: “His goalscoring record is incredible but I think the biggest thing for him is going to be adapting to non-league football.
“He’s been in full-time football for over 20 years so to drop to our level isn’t an ability thing, it’s adapting to your surroundings.
“He’ll get better game on game. He’s struggled pre-season because of his job but we knew that but we knew that.
“But we knew he just needed half a chance and we were confident that if he got it he would put it away.
“Goals change games. Apart from ball into our box from free-kicks or long throws they never looked like they were going to score.
“For us it was just about making sure we defended properly and kept them at bay.”
It was a perfect start after the frustrations of last year’s voided campaign where they were floating around the relegation places.
Now though, they will be looking up according to the boss.
He said: “We’ve got a better squad, there’s no getting away from that.
“I’m looking around our changing room today and I look at players who can compete in the top half of this league.
“That’s what we want to achieve.”