IVYBRIDGE coach Lewis Paterson wants his players to keep striving and aiming for success as they begin their third season at level five.
They finished eighth in their first campaign in National Three South West, which is now known as the South West Premier, before improving that to sixth last term.
But the Bridgers were disappointed not to finish in the top three after filling that position for most of last year.
“Personally I’d love to get promoted.
“And the way the club is going, the way the depth is increasing and the way the junior section is going, I certainly believe we are a top four side.
“I have played a lot of levels and I think the talent we have here is National Two standard, but they just need to believe in themselves really.
“Hopefully, we finish top four, but I think we should aim for top one or two.
“If you aim for the top then, hopefully, you will get somewhere near it.
“If we just say we want to be a good side and win the Devon derbies then the players would just settle.
“For players and a side to get better you have to have a goal. If you go for the top then at least the players will become better rugby players. They will take losses harder and enjoy wins more.
“But we just have to take it week by week.”
Their top four credentials will be tested this weekend when they travel to last season’s runners-up Dings Crusaders.
The Bristol Combination side, who are coached by former Plymouth star Luke Arscott, missed out on promotion to National Two by losing in the play-offs.
They narrowly beat Ivybridge 23-17 in the penultimate match of last season, which secured them runners-up spot and cost the Bridgers a top four finish.
“We have got Dings on Saturday, which is going to be a big test,” said Paterson. “It is not just any old first league game, it’s against last year’s runners-up.
“But you never know what side Dings will have. The season before last they were fighting relegation but last year they finished second.
“It is going to be difficult, but we definitely want to win the first game and make a statement.”
He added: “We had a good, hectic cram of rugby in pre-season, but it was definitely worth it and we managed to see a lot of players and look at them in different positions.
“We have picked a good squad for Saturday with three newbies in – Robin Luscombe starting and Sean Disney and Owen Garner on the bench. They have all really impressed. It’s good to give them an opportunity.
“We also bring back Sam Kingscott, Pete Abraham and George Wilson. It is nice to see them back.
“We have some injuries and some unavailabilities, but at the same time others have earned their spot.”
The one position Ivybridge’s depth is tested this week is at open-side flanker where Alex Hall, Seb Slade and Callum Oldfield are all injured.
Jordan Anderton, who is better known as a centre, did have a run-out there against Plymouth Albion on Monday evening but he is unavailable this weekend.
Ivybridge used the game against Albion to have a look at some squad players and people in different positions.
“I think a lot of people probably thought we would play our full strength side against Albion,” said Paterson. “But we did that against Taunton (four days earlier) and it was important to give other boys a taste of playing good opposition.
“Some boys might not feature a lot but they got a run out against Plymouth Albion at Plymouth Albion. Boys are here to play rugby and enjoy it and what better experience than to play against Albion.
“It was an opportunity for us to see them play against good opposition and under pressure.
“They did really well and there was a lot of boys that proved they are not just at the club to make up numbers.”
He added: “Aiden Taylor was so unlucky not to feature this weekend, same with Luke Martell, he’s been outstanding in pre-season. We have gone more tactical against Dings rather than necessarily who’s the best player.
“We have not got a second team this weekend so we are taking some travelling reserves. Wes Vermigle, Luke Martell, Aiden Taylor and Harry Lakeman are going to come up with us. We do consider them first team players.”
After Dings, Ivybridge host Exmouth, travel to Lydney and then host Newbury.
It is not the easiest of opening weeks, but Paterson said: “I don’t really look at fixtures but someone said we had a tough month, but considering how well we did last year – 20 of weeks in the top three – I think other teams will be seeing us and thinking they’ve got a tough game. We just have to perform.”