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City boss Brown admits Northern Premier League’s decision has made pre-season challenging

Lancaster City boss Phil Brown. Picture: Tony North
Lancaster City boss Phil Brown. Picture: Tony North

Lancaster City boss Phil Brown admits the Northern Premier League’s decision to kick off later than everybody else has made pre-season challenging.

The Dolly Blues do not get their league campaign underway in the NPL Premier Division until a week on Saturday when they travel to Matlock Town.

That is a significant contrast to all the other leagues – the Football League, National League, North West Counties and West Lancashire Leagues all got started last Saturday.

Even the Premier League gets underway this weekend.

“Usually we are a week behind everybody else but this year we are going to be two weeks behind,” said Brown.

“To be fair we have lost a few games this season – we only play 42 not 46 like last year.

“It is a bit of strange one being two weeks behind everybody else.

“It can sometimes get to a stage towards the end of the season where you playing Saturday-Tuesday-Thursday.

“It’s been hard for our pre-season preparations.

“Realistically, you want to be playing games right up until the start of the season, but when everybody else has already started their league campaign, you’re a bit limited in terms of who you can play.

“You can only really play teams from the division below – the NPL First Division North.

“You’re not going to be playing teams who are in your division.

“I know people say we should try to get more games played earlier in the season.

“To be fair, I think we are playing every midweek right up until October. In the Premier Division, you have a little bit more travelling to do so the more games you can get on a Saturday rather than Tuesday, the better.”

City went without a game last weekend after their scheduled fixture against a Fleetwood Development side was cancelled and tomorrow night they conclude their pre-season campaign with a fixture against Ramsbottom United, which will take place at Fulwood Amateurs Lightfoot Lane home.

“We were due to play Fleetwood last weekend but with them starting their league season and their youth team also starting their season, it left them a bit stretched,” Brown said.

“So we didn’t have a game, we just trained instead which was fine.

“We have just over a week to go until the start of the new season.

“We are starting to get that nervousness and excitement which you get when a new season is just around the corner.”

Brown has been pleased with the way pre-season has gone.

They have picked up four wins out of five so far – the only blot on the copybook was the 5-0 defeat to National League outfit Barrow.

“We started off well at Northwich Victoria,” Brown said. “Then it was same again against Skelmersdale and Fulwood Amateurs.

“Three wins and more importantly, there were good signs in our play.

“I missed our last two games against Barrow and Padiham with me being away.

“We lost 5-0 at Barrow, but from the reports I have had, we did okay.

“As daft as it sounds, it was five mistakes and five goals.

“The first 30 minutes we were more than in the game and had a couple of opportunities to go in front.

“But Barrow are a very good team and it showed that they won their first league game pretty comprehensively.

“It was always going to be tough especially at their place.

“Then we played Padiham and to come away with a 2-0 win was pleasing especially as were without quite a few players who would be in and around the starting XI for the first league game.

“But it was not about the result, it was more about the performance and we were okay.

“So we’ve played five game and there’s been five good performances.”

Brown is still hopeful of adding a couple of players to his squad to provide more strength in depth.

He is also set to elevate three players into the first-team squad, who have all come through the academy.

Ryan McLean, Tom Preston and Oliver Muir have all impressed during pre-season.

“All three have done well and deserve an opportunity,” said Brown.