BRANTHAM Athletic manager Michael Brothers believes his side's tough start to the season will provide a revealing yardstick.

The Imps kick-off their Thurlow Nunn League campaign with a home match against Mildenhall Town - relegated from step four last term - on Saturday.

They then travel to much-fancied Stowmarket Town on Tuesday night.

Both premier division fixtures will provide an early test of Brantham's mettle.

However, Brothers is up for the challenge and ready to pit his players against some of the best in the division.

"It's good to start with two challenging games, to see where we're at," he said.

"It's going to be a great gauge against sides that will hope to be there or thereabouts at the end.

"We're raring to go and if we could get positive results, it would set us up nicely.

"We've got aspirations of our own and a top-five finish has to be our goal.

"That's a realistic aim and I wouldn't be here if I didn't think that was possible.

"It's definitely going to be a tough and very competitive league but I believe we can do well.

"We've got a nice blend of youth and experience and a squad of players who are hungry to prove themselves and be successful.

"There will be ups and downs along the way but my aspirations are always high."

Brantham finished their pre-season campaign with an impressive 4-2 victory at BetVictor Isthmian League premier division side Brightlingsea Regent on Friday.

Sam Gunn scored twice and he was joined on the scoresheet by Jack Madley and Regan Pelling.

"I was away at the weekend but have heard lots of positive things," added Brothers.

"It means we're going into the new season feeling confident and excited, with some fresh faces and young, hungry players who are keen to learn.

"Availability is good during the first month and we're hoping to hit the ground running, although we realise we could barely have a tougher start.

"The new signings have settled in well and, as a group, the boys are buying into what we're trying to do.

"That's been reflected in pre-season, when our results have been good and we've played some entertaining football."

Brantham will be without Luke Avenell for the Mildenhall and Stowmarket matches.

The goalkeeper broke his hand at work.

Luke Barnard is also a doubt after picking up a knock at Brightlingsea.