COACH Craig Farrimond believes Saddleworth Rangers are better equipped than 12 months ago to mount a promotion challenge in National Conference League, division two.
After a promising start to the season, Rangers lost their way and eventually finished lower mid-table.
“We had a number of bad injuries halfway through last season, but we have a bigger squad – 40 open-age players – and hopefully not the same problems,” explained Farrimond.
“The aim is promotion, ideally automatic, but and at least to make the play offs.”
Farrimond, in his third season as coach, is looking to make their Shaw Hall Bank Road ground an intimidating place to visit.
He said: “Not many teams like to come here and play against us, something we need to capitalise on and make it a fortress.
“If we are to win promotion we need to do well at home as it is hard to pick up victories away.”
Farrimond was heartened by a gutsy display in a 22-12 loss to premier division champions Thatto Heath Crusaders in the first round of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup in January.
“There is always a good spirit and camaraderie and the players are all good friends who spend a lot of time together,” he continued.
And he is keen to get off to a good opening to the campaign, explaining: “It is important we start well, kick on and maintain momentum.”
There has been minimal changes from last season in playing personnel.
Scrum-half Pat Toft has made the short switch from Waterhead while winger Sam Ireland and hooker Sam Ogden have been promoted from the second team that plays in North West League Four.
Farrimond says the decision by stand-off Ben Whitehead to take a year out of the game is a “big loss”.
He describes the second division as being “tough and physical” adding he expects Crosfields, East Leeds and Askam to be in the mix for promotion.