Hillians recovered from a nervous start to give manager Ian Chapman just the start he wanted to the new season.
They played some attractive football in the sun to see off a Merstham side who could pose a few problems to the major contenders this season.
Hillians had to do it the hard way after falling behind only eight minutes into the new campaign. A superbly delivered inswinging corner by Liam Harwood posed problems at the far post for new keeper Richard Martin and finally it was visiting skipper Lee Newman who prospered.
Martin has signed on as short term cover for the injured Alan Mansfield, who suffered an ankle injury in a pre-season friendly. Martin, the brother of local striker Peter, has had spells with Brighton and Yeovil, and in between had the distinction of being offered a one-year contract by former England manager Sven Gorran Eriksson at Manchest City.
To be fair, the hosts had had the first real chance when Danny Curd failed to make much contact with Paul Armstrong’s cross after some great work by Pat Harding.
But they were slow into their stride and it was a while before they started to find their feet, stringing together some delightful moves.
It was a good ball by Harding that released Curd down the right on 22 minutes but there seemed no real danger until the hard working striker hit the ball first time over helpless keeper Brannon Daly.
Five minutes later a quality move ended with Scott Kirkwood putting over a free header from Curd’s cross.
Hillians were desperately unlucky on 32 minutes when another slick move led to Harding putting left back Sam Fisk through and he took the chance superby, only to have the effort ruled out by a flag for offside. It must have been mighty close.
Merstham were forced to make two changes before half time and were rocked four minutes before minutes before half time when Fisk again drove on purposefully and this time found Paul Armstrong, who celebrated his debut with a crisply struck goal.
After the break Hill’s lack of pace at the back was exposed on several occasions by Aaron Rhule but they coped pretty well and a third goal on 58 minutes certainly helped.
Skipper Darren Budd was brought down just inside the box by sub Jack Hope and Harding thumped home the resulting penalty.
Apart from Rhule’s pace and the nous of former Lewes striker Lee Newman, it was fairly comfortable for Hillians until the last 15 minutes and a goal by visiting sub Greg Andrews made it a particularly nervous last five minutes.
It was a rare lapse by influential skipper Darren Budd that presented the half chance but Hill were worth their opening day win, with the promise of even better to come.