LUKE Cresswell is tentatively pencilled in for a return to action in March as the Barrow Raiders full-back continues to make encouraging progress in his comeback from injury.

The former Barrow Island amateur’s promising start to the 2018 Betfred Championship season was curtailed in the first half of the win at home to Sheffield Eagles on March 25 when he suffered a year-ending knee injury which required surgery.

It has been a long road back for Cresswell since then, but he has been involved in pre-season with the rest of the Raiders squad and head coach Paul Crarey is optimistic he will be available in the early part of the 2019 season.

“Luke is good and we reckon March for him,” said Crarey. “With these local kids who are coming back from serious injuries, we haven’t put any pressure on them.

“We’ve got the squad to get us through the early part of the season, so we said to him just get himself right 100 per cent.

“He’s training and we’re keeping him out of leg contact at he moment in case there are any problems, but towards the back end of January or February, he’ll start doing a bit of that.”

It has been a mostly positive pre-season for the Raiders, with the one downer being Jono Smith picking up a calf strain which has seen him restricted to doing upper-body work. However, he is expected to be able to resume full training at some point next week.

Other long-term injury victims Jarrad Stack and Shane Toal are well on the road to recovery too.

Second-row Stack is expected to be back for the first league game away to Batley Bulldogs on February 2, while winger Toal has a timeframe to return of some point between March and May.

But with new signings Stargroth Amean, Tee Ritson and Deon Cross, plus Brett Carter, able to cover out wide, Crarey will not be rushing the Scotland international back.

“Jarrad has done a lot of work on his own, which is hard because he’s just out of the brace now,” said Crarey. “He’s been doing a lot of gym-work while he’s had a his brace on and he’s just starting to get going now.

“Also, Shane is doing really well and he’s ahead of schedule. Jarrad should be back for the first league game and Shane should be back end of March, or April or May time.

“We’ve got to nurse some players through and hopefully they’ll be like new players when we need them.

“They’re going to hit the ground running when the league starts and if they’re needed then, we’ll call them into action, but there’s no rush on them because we’ve got cover in those positions.”