With three promotion places to play for in the Hallmark Security Premier Division, boss Matt Barnes believes his new look Barnoldswick Town side have a strong chance of securing one of them.
The former Maine Road manager, who was appointed as Danny Craig’s successor alongside assistant Hugh Devlin in May last year, has certainly been active in the market over the summer, shopping around in a bid to strengthen his squad.
Luke Gibson (Burscough), Ric Seear (Squires Gate), Ash Brierley (Nelson), Joe Noblet (Charnock Richard), Kasom Shah (Accrington Stanley), Alex Ralph (Charnock Richard), Chris Turner (Longridge Town) and Niall Sultan (Silsden) have all been drafted in while former Burnley midfielder Ethan Kershaw has returned for a second season.
“We’ve had a busy summer, but it needed to happen,” said Barnes. “It needed freshening up and we needed the extra bodies that will help us compete.
“We struggled massively with numbers and we couldn’t deal with injuries. It was something we had to address.
“The squad is miles stronger. The lads that we’ve brought in are all experienced and should give us a bit of an edge. We’ve really stepped it up this year so we want to do everything right.
“We’re all done on that front now, we’re not actively looking to add again, but if anything came up we’d have a look.”
Town, who lost forward Jack Coop and left back Jake McEneaney last month, have also retained Andrew Hill, Harry Thompson, Ryan Livesey, Marc Young, James Crorken, Lewis Morgan, Josh Eastwood, Sean Cookson and Tom Goodall.
“We want to finish in the top three, but everybody in the league wants to do that and go up,” Barnes said.
“We aren’t the only team who have strengthened well over the summer. It’s a really competitive league which will be tough to get out of.
“The new structure opens the league up now. It gives it a bit of an edge and it gives us something to play for.
“We want to set high standards from the start. I believe we can get promotion with the players that we’ve brought in.”
One of Town’s new signings made an immediate impression in the first pre-season game of their schedule.
Seear, who had spells in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One North West with Colne and Kendal Town, netted a hat-trick in the 4-3 defeat to Chadderton.
Barnes said: “We chopped and changed the team several times and we tried players in different positions.
“Ric Searr played 90 minutes and scored a hat-trick, but most of the new lads came on at half-time. Ric seems to have settled in really quickly.
“We didn’t set the world alight, but we didn’t expect to. It was a typical pre-season game and we just wanted to get minutes in to the players’ legs and find a few things out about them.
“After the next couple of friendlies we’ll drop the squad to about 18/20 for the remainder of pre-season and start working on the tactical side of things and implementing a style of play.”