EXETER get the new season started with an away game at Heathcoat.

There’s been a lot going on at the County Ground over the winter, notably the competition and opening of the club’s new £800,000 pavilion.

There is also the arrival of former Somerset fast bowler Alfonso Thomas as player-coach. The former IPL star is bound to shake a few opposing batters up this season and may just give Exeter the consistency they need in the bowling department.

Ben Green, the England U19 star of the future, was Exeter’s leading wicket taker with 18 victims in the seven games he played last season. George Greenway was one wicket behind.

Those aren’t the sorts of stats that title challenges are made of which is where Thomas fits in. If he doesn’t take wickets, his colleagues will.

Exeter expect to see less of Green this year due to A-levels and his commitments with Somerset and England.

Exeter would like to have a top-of-the-range team to match the facilities – or at least one that is competitive for longer than half a season.

Exeter reached the halfway stage in 2015 with just 76 points in the locker and one off the bottom of the table.

After the turnaround the city side won five in nine, took 137 points from 180 available and finished a respectable sixth, nearly 50 points away from trouble.

They had a better side in the second half of the season – and virtually a totally different one at times.

Exeter used 29 players in the Premier Division last season. Champions Torquay and runners-up Sidmouth both used 20, which shows the benefits of a settled side.

There are some handy acquisitions from next-door-neighbours Exeter University, such as off-spinner Joe Rimmer and opening bowler Tom Pedal, who took three for 19 in 10 overs against Devon Lions last month.

The return of Aussie batter Blake Reed for a second stint at the County Ground is another stabilising factor.

He chiselled out 752 runs at an average of 50-plus when he was last over here in 2013.

Only three batsmen made 300 or more runs last season, and one of those was Somerset staffer Alex Barrow.

Little things can make a big difference. Marginal gains they call it in sports psychobabble. Exeter may just have made two or three which will turn them from also rans into contenders.