DAVE Clarke is looking for Askam’s squad to step up to the plate when they start the defence of the Barton Townley Cup at home to Millom tomorrow (kick-off 2.30pm).

Both teams go into battle minus several top-liners, with the Villagers starting again after losing at least eight players from last season.

Of those, he Spedding brothers, Jake and Tom, have returned to Ulverston along with Liam Saunders and Sam Shepherd. Meanwhile, Adam Jackson is on his way to Barrow Island and BARLA Lions international Mark Tyson heads up the coast to Egremont.

Tom Wilkinson and Sam Dowsett have taken the opportunity to join the professional ranks with Whitehaven and no newcomers have joined, but Askam head coach Clarke is not fazed by the challenge.

“It is a big blow to lose so many players, but it gives other the opportunity to step up to the plate,” said Clarke.

“It is going to be a challenging season (in National Conference League Division Two), but the lads have told me they are up for it, starting tomorrow.

“As a coach, I am pleased to hear those words and we still have experienced lads with us, and their knowhow will rub off on them.

“And it will be a case of staying focused; Millom have a head-start with two cup games behind them, but we are up for it”

Skipper Tom Hopkins is a player who leads from the front, while in the backs the Villagers have good players in Kristian Tyson and Russ Bolton along with Stu High.

The Woolybacks have their own problems ahead of the trip to Fallowfield Park too, with Jonathan Hodgson, Luke Brady, Midge Dixon, Tyler Lancaster, Hanley Dawson and Charlie Emslie all unavailable.

Ethan Kelly is missing for the next month too while he trials with Whitehaven and Noah Robinson is ruled out after suffering a concussion in last Saturday’s Challenge Cup defeat at home to Siddal.

But in contention for Millom are Astin Mossop, who has returned from a spell with Wigan Warriors’ youth set-up, Gillan Sykes, Connor Terrill Joe Moyes Ethan Bickerdyke,Kyle Evans, Hanley Thompson ,Connor Mitchell and Kian McPherson.

Player-coach Tom Sibley, who also returns after missing the cup tie with Siddal following the birth of his second child, said: “It is going to be a tough one with so many out but it will gives those coming in the chance to push for a regular first team spot.

“Askam will provide a tough test for us and we put the Siddall defeat behind us, they were far too fast for us on the day.”