New Sutton United boss Ernie Howe has targeted an escape from the Blue Square South bottom three by Christmas and believes his players have the determination to do it.

The 54-year-old former Basingstoke Town boss was appointed to succeed departed manager Ian Hazel this week and spent Saturday running the rule over his squad.

Howe, who takes over the reigns from Hazel's assistant Stuart Massey after four winless matches as caretaker, helped former Kingstonian boss Ian McDonald overhaul a 15-point deficit to save Farnborough Town from relegation last season.

United are propping up the rest of the division with one win in 13 league games - seven points from safety - with second-placed Lewes on the horizon this weekend.

But Howe thinks it won't take wholesale changes to pull off a similar rescue act at Gander Green Lane this season - particularly as there is plenty of games remaining.

"It was a fantastic achievement to save Farnborough and full credit must go to the players," he said.

"It was purely down to their attitude and a great team spirit to continue playing for a club that had stopped paying them.

"I know what this league is like. It is physical and tough, but there is not a lot of difference between the four teams at the top and the four teams at the bottom.

"I watched the game against Thurrock and I couldn't fault the players for their determination to put things right. I'm a big believer in giving people the chance to prove their worth. Confidence is a massive thing in football.

"I've got to get the club out of this that is my number one goal. I want to be pushing out of the bottom three by Christmas. That is a tall order, but once you get the first three points it gets a bit easier."

Howe, a former professional with QPR and Fulham, is still owed money by the Tony Theo regime that took Farnborough into liquidation at the end of last season and admits it was one of the worst experiences of his football career.

But after a five month break from the game - which has included helping son and Carshalton Athletic goalkeeper Aaron with his football career - he is looking forward to a fresh start.

"It will make a change to go training on a Thursday and I won't have to debate with the players whether we are going to train or not because we haven't been paid," he added.

"I haven't got a big budget, but I'm used to working with that because we couldn't sign anyone at Farnborough.

"I'm not a massive wheeler dealer and I won't be making wholesale changes. All the good players are already tied up on contracts now anyway.

"It is about getting the best out of what you can afford to pay for. I'm told we need a striker so that may be something I'll be looking at."