Boss Nixon backing striker McLellan to find the net for Ards
For Ards it's been a summer of evolution rather than revolution. Boss Colin Nixon kept the majority of last season's squad, bringing in six new faces in striker Michael McLellan, winger Jonny Frazer (both Linfield), midfielder Scott Davidson, goalkeeper Samuel Johnston (both Harland & Wolff Welders), centre-back Dave Elebert and utility man Nathan Hanley.
And Nixon believes former Preston North End man McLellan could be a force to be reckoned with this season.
The forward was a goalscoring revelation with Harland & Wolff Welders in the Championship, but he has failed to recreate that form in the Danske Bank Premiership during his stints with Portadown, Ballymena United and Linfield.
Nixon said: "We've scored an awful lot of goals in pre-season which has been very pleasing.
"Michael McLellan has been in great form. We've had to work very hard with him on his fitness, and although there is still room for improvement, he has come along way since the first day of pre-season training.
"He is a natural goalscorer and I expect him to be a thorn in the side of defences this season.
"We also have three or four other strikers who are capable of scoring in the Premiership, so we have no shortage of options in that department."
Glentoran legend Nixon believes Saturday's opponents Cliftonville will challenge for this season's title.
Ards, who finished in a respectable eighth spot last term, will travel to Solitude to face a reinvigorated Cliftonville. It will be Barry Gray's first game as manager, while it was also marked the return of star striker Joe Gormley.
Nixon said: "It's a big day for us, but it's also a big day for Cliftonville as it's Barry's first competitive game, and after a frustrating year last season, I think the Reds will feel they have something to prove."
Ards will be captained by former Coleraine man Gareth Tommons, following the release of skipper Emmet Friars.
The Red & Blues will start the season without left-back Michael Ruddy. The penalty expert broke his toe in an accident, which means he's unlikely to play a game this side of October.