FLEETWOOD Town supporters could see all eight new signings step onto the Highbury turf for the first time in tonight’s eagerly-awaited friendly with Preston North End (7.30pm kick-off).
Peter Till, the former York midfielder who missed Saturday’s opening warm-up game against Partick Thistle with a hamstring twinge, is expected to feature tonight, as is last season’s top scorer Magno Vieira, having sat out the Scotland game following a knock to the foot.
But don’t expect to see the wholesale changes made by manager Micky Mellon in the 1-1 draw at Grangemouth, where every fit squad member go a run and no-one played longer than an hour.
Mellon said: “We never looked on the Partick game as any type of contest. It was a run-out at the end of a hard week. The game went extremely well, and we showed great fitness levels against a side whose season starts at the end of next week.
“We need to step things up in the Preston game and give some players more match time. But we don’t need to look at everyone - there are a lot of games (nine friendlies in all) which we can use to get players up to the next level.”
The “hard week” Mellon referred to was Town’s training camp at Stirling University, which the manager considered a great success: “We know it is going to be a tough season and we have to be prepared physically and mentally. Everyone had the right attitude to getting the work done and it was a terrific week.”
Two players whose wait for their first pre-season action is set to continue are club captain Steve McNulty (shinsplints) and midfielder Antony Barry, who has been advised to take a week off to nurse a groin problem.
Others who won’t be involved tonight are Jamie Milligan and Nathan Pond, both feeling their way back after summer surgery.
One player looking foward to his Highbury bow this evening is midfielder Keith Briggs.
The former Kidderminster star said :”The Preston game will be a good test and I can’t wait to play on that Highbury pitch. We need to use the game as a stepping stone and will hopefully be urged on by a good crowd.”
The intensity of the fitness work has hardly eased up this week, with an 11-mile run around Scorton fells followed by training at Town’s Fylde RFC base, but Briggs isn’t complaining.
“‘I’ve had a few pre-seasons and this is right up there! It’s been very hard and the legs are a bit tired, but it’s all in the bank now and that is what is necessary to get us towards match fitness for that opening game at Grimsby.
“‘We are taking on board the messages from the coaches and the benefits will hopefully be seen as the season unfolds.”
And he agrees that the week in Scotland wasn’t only beneficial from a fitness standpoint.
‘It was a basic student accommodation with no luxuries, but that was a good thing because it meant that if you did not mingle you did not do anything! It brought all the lads together.
“ We all know it’s not going to be easy to get into the side and there will be competition for every place. Hopefully, the new lads can add that bit of quality which will give us the edge and take us to promotion.”
Preston started their friendly programme with matches against Chorley and Bamber Bridge over the weekend,
Admission tonight is £8 with £4 concessions.