PAUL Crarey has seen an extra spring in the step of his Barrow Raiders squad now they can see the first pre-season game on the horizon.

After over two months of hard work preparing for the 2019 Betfred Championship season, the Raiders players have their first hit-out of the year this Sunday when Oldham visit Craven Park.

It has been a long time coming for the squad, who returned to training in November, and head coach Crarey has noticed a change in the group ahead of that match.

“It’s a bit like caged tiger syndrome,” said Crarey. “We’ve done a lot of contact, a lot of training and now we’ve got Christmas out of the way, everyone goes into a different mode now.

“I spoke to Deon Cross at training and he said he can’t wait. He’s ticking off the days before he plays, so that’s the way the lads are starting to think.

“Pre-season is quite long and arduous, and sometimes monotonous in terms of the strength and conditioning stuff.

“But once you start getting the ball out more and running sets, the lads have little spring in their step knowing the games are coming.”

League One Oldham have become regular pre-season opponents for Barrow and are likely to feature new recruits Richie Hawkyard, Scott Law, Emerson Whittel, Anthony Bowman, Jamie Greenwood, Ben Calland and Aaron Jones-Bishop in what Crarey sees as the perfect pre-season opener.

“We’re getting ready for it, we’re ready to play and Oldham is always tough,” said Crarey. “That’s why we get them because I rate Scott Naylor as a coach.

“His team is very mentally prepared, very tough and hard to beat, and they have a massive pack who will be a big test for our middle.

“It gives everybody a little bit of a grounding when you get into the rigours of pre-season and playing, so we’re just ready.”

Meanwhile, the Raiders are now taking coach bookings for the first game of the Championship season away to Batley Bulldogs on Sunday, February 3. The cost is £15 per seat and the bus leaves Walney Promenade at 10am.

To book a place, contact the Rugby Shop on Scott Street on 01229 824454. Bookings will only be taken with full payment.