PAUL Crarey believes Barrow Raiders’ three pre-season games provide the perfect balance to help them prepare for the 2019 Betfred Championship campaign.

The Raiders kick off those matches at home to Oldham this Sunday, followed by Whitehaven visiting on January 20 and a clash with Super League champions Wigan Warriors at the end of the month.

League One sides Oldham and Whitehaven will both pose a physical challenge, with Crarey wanting to go into the following week’s Law Cup clash with Rochdale Hornets on the back of a good result and the clash with Haven having the added spice of being a Cumbrian derby.

Gary Charlton’s side are likely to have some familiar faces in ex-Raiders Matty While and Ruairi McGoff, plus former Askam amateurs Sam Dowsett and Tom Wilkinson, playing at Craven Park too.

What side Wigan put out on January 26 may depend on whether head coach Adrian Lam wants to give any of his frontline players a rest ahead of their season-opener away to St Helens five days later.

But Barrow boss Crarey expects them to be a tough test whoever plays and is pleased with the calibre of opponents they have lined up.

“We’ve got a balanced pre-season because Whitehaven and Oldham are always a test, and there’s not a lot of difference between the bottom-end Championship sides and the top-end League One sides,” said Crarey.

“They’ll give us an absolute test and they’ll come here with a purpose, and Oldham have got the Law Cup the week after which is massive for Oldham, so their build-up is strong as well.

“I know Gary Charlton has worked really hard with Whitehaven and I speak to him a lot. He’s a big friend of mine and he’s got them really fit, and he’s going to have a young, fit, vibrant side this year.

“Then the big test is Wigan and if they bring half a side, it will be a big test for us because they’re Super League champions, so we’re looking forward to that.”

The Raiders are aiming to kick on in 2019 after surviving their first year back in the Championship and Crarey is well aware of differences between the second tier and League One his team had to adapt to.

“League One is more physical than the Championship, but the Championship is quicker and Super League is quicker again,” said Crarey.

“Everyone thinks quicker, defends quicker, attacks quicker and the play-the-balls are faster. League One is very physical.

“But when you go up to the Championship, you realise how quick it is.”