Town hope to make a flying start

Town's Darren Rookes celebrates in style after his equaliser against Scarborough Athletic
Town's Darren Rookes celebrates in style after his equaliser against Scarborough Athletic

BRIDLINGTON Town kick off their league campaign at Maltby Main on Saturday, with new manager Mitch Cook insisting he is pleased with the squad he has assembled.

He also believes the Northern Counties East League Premier Division is wide open, with five or six teams capable of taking the title.

The Seasiders finished third last time, and Cook sees no reason why they can’t match or better that performance.

He said: “Looking at the league, there isn’t a Farsley this season, who everyone expected to win it last season and they did so comfortably.

“It’s a winable league. It will have its favourites, and everybody will know who they are, but what we will do is go about our business nice and quietly.

“There are some very good clubs who did well last season, and Retford United are something of an unknown quantity.

“For me, the clubs who will be up there are Parkgate, Tadcaster Albion, Scarborough Athletic and Staveley Miners Welfare. But Barton Town Old Boys and Hall Road Rangers have invested in well-established players at this level.

“However, I’m fairly happy with our squad. It is a strong squad and the difficulty will be keeping everybody happy.”

Preparations for the campaign have been hit by a disjointed pre-season which saw three friendlies cancelled at short notice.

Stocksbridge Park Steels were due to be Town’s first test, but they cancelled with 36 hours notice. Hull City also pulled out of a match last Thursday, and their replacements Scarborough Town also withdrew.

However, Tuesday’s fixture with Whitby Town did go ahead at Queensgate with the visitors winning 1-0.

Cook said: “The plan was to play a select few to save on travelling but unfortunately due to circumstances beyond our control, there were some disappointments, although hopefully Hull City will be able to rearrange their game.

“However it has given us more time to get on the training field.

“We have got, what I think, is a good squad of players who were here before me and new ones we have brought in.”

New arrivals include a clutch of additions who have followed Cook from Pickering, including his sons Nathan and Carl, full back Wayne Aziz, Ged Dalton and Josh Greening.

However, the new boss expects more changes to his squad during the first few weeks of the season.

“It is inevitable, it will happen at every club. Some players will leave when they are not making the team, but we are hoping that they give it a chance.

“However, I know from being a player that you just want to be in the starting 11,” said Cook.

He did not rule out extra players arriving and is especially keen to find a goalkeeper who can put pressure on first-choice stopper Mark Wilberforce, and step in when he is unavailable.

“Mark will be working one Saturday in every month and working nights every other week.

“He may be the best keeper in the league but he could be missing 15 or 16 games. We are looking for a back-up keeper.

“You are always looking if you can make the squad better, and it is the task of the players we have to make sure it isn’t them we are looking to replace.

“Looking at last season, I think that Gary Allanson’s problem was when he had to bring players in because his first-choice 11 were unavailable.

“Very rarely can you get your best 11 out, because of holidays, injuries and work commitments, but I have always tried to make sure that the 11 I put out is the strongest 11 I have available.

“I have said to the players there is nothing we can do if somebody is not here,” said the boss.

And that will apply for this weekend’s opener at Maltby, with influential captain Tom Fleming away on holiday.

But Cook said he will take his side to South Yorkshire confident they can get off to a winning start.

“We are going there to win the game. Without being disrespectful to Maltby, it is a winable game.”