LEE Sinnott insists his Altrincham players are relishing the 'wonderful opportunity' of proving themselves in an increasingly competitive Conference Premier this coming season.

With Bristol Rovers the latest to drop out of League Two, the Conference has never provided a sterner test for part-time clubs such as Alty, who booked their return to the national division with a memorable play-off win over Guiseley.

The fixture list confirms as much, with Alty launching their campaign at Aldershot on Saturday, August 9, and following up with home games against Lincoln City on Tuesday, August 12, and Bristol Rovers on Saturday, August 16.

It sets the tone for a programme packed with familiar Football League names, but Sinnott is adamant a squad bolstered by new signings Dave Parton, Sean Williams and Ryan Crowther will not be fazed by the challenge.

He said: "Bristol Rovers for our first home Saturday game is ideal, a really attractive fixture that we could probably only have envisaged in the FA Cup a few years ago.

"There are five or six more that fit into the same category, and it is a measure of how non-League football has changed in recent times.

"In the Conference North, the name of Altrincham was one of the biggest around, but we now find ourselves in a situation where there are ex-League clubs everywhere you look.

"That means the pressure is off us, and we can just concentrate on doing what we do well. The men in white coats would cart me away if I said we were going for the title, but equally it would be a defeatist mentality to say we are targeting fifth from bottom as a great season.

"We are going to roll the dice and see where we go. It is a wonderful opportunity for the players, an exciting challenge we are all looking forward to. I'm pleased with the players we have brought in, and work is continuing behind the scenes on that front, because there could be room for one more midfielder and a centre-forward."

August fixtures - 9th Aldershot (a), 12th Lincoln (h), 16th Bristol Rovers (h), 23rd Southport (a), 25th Gateshead (h), 30th Nuneaton (a).