AS starts to a season go, they do not come much tougher than Warrington Town’s.

If a trip to ambitious Basford United for the opening game of their Pitching In Northern Premier League Premier Division season on Saturday, kick off 3pm, Monday’s FA Cup draw was not particularly kind either.

Perennial promotion rivals South Shields visit Cantilever Park for a first qualifying round tie on Tuesday, kick off 7.45pm, to complete an opening pair of fixtures that will test Town to the maximum.

> Warrington Town add three more signings on eve of new season

Skipper Mark Roberts, however, senses an opportunity.

“It’s an interesting start because it’s two games against teams that did really well last season,” he told the Guardian.

“Hopefully, we can start positively and kick on from there.

“I’m very optimistic. It’s always an exciting time of year when you’re getting close to that opening fixture, especially with what’s gone on this year.

“It feels like forever since we last played a competitive game.”

Indeed, once Saturday comes around, 193 days will have passed since Town last stepped out competitively – a 3-2 win over Matlock Town that ended up being their last game of a 2019-20 season that was curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Warrington Guardian:

Roberts scored during Town's last competitive game – the win over Matlock in March. Picture by John Hopkins

Covid-19 still looms large in the background – fans are allowed into fixtures but with strict limits on attendance.

Either way, Roberts is certainly glad to have football back as he starts his third season at the club.

The centre-half’s special connection with the club and town is no secret – he lives just over a mile away from Cantilever Park – and for him, there is a job to finish.

“Hopefully for me, it’s third time lucky,” he said having gone close to promotion twice with Paul Carden’s side.

“Everyone deals with the frustrations in different ways but for us, we’ve just got to look forward.

“It’s a different group this year but there’s plenty still here who have shared the experiences of the past couple of years.

“We’ve also got some fresh impetus and people who can offer different things and I’m sure they will want to buy into the winning mentality we’ve built up over the past two seasons.”

Much of the fresh impetus Roberts refers to is in his own position, with Carden making a point of adding more depth in defence.

With Dave Raven having moved on, the 36-year-old has lost his regular partner but the likes of Evan Gumbs, Callum Grogan and Matt Regan have been brought in.

Warrington Guardian:

Matt Regan is among Yellows' expanded defensive options this season. Picture by John Hopkins

Competition for places is high and it has even the skipper sweating to keep his shirt.

“This is my 21st pre-season and competition for places is what its all about,” he said.

“You’re trying to find your own fitness and form but you’re also trying to fight for your shirt.

“Cards has brought some experienced and hungry players in and we’ve got a real good balance from front to back at the moment.”

“I’m sure he’ll look to try and strengthen other areas over the course of the season.

“It’s a great set of lads and that’s certainly important. I’m enjoying it more than ever.”