Paul Crarey is expecting a 'brutal' Challenge Cup game when his Barrow Raiders side travel to the Vestacare Stadium to face Oldham in the first round of the competition.

The Raiders head coach admitted that it will be a tough opening tie for his team – who could face either Swinton Lions or Newcastle Thunder in the next round if they are able to progress.

Crarey said: “It is always very physical when you play Oldham, they’ve won so many games like that.

"We have got to be prepared to slug it out.

“We will expect the game to be brutal.

"They have got good players like Dan Abram and Lewis Charnock. They have got the strikes, but so have we.

"It will be different with no crowds – it will be a different entity that we are not used to, but we’re just so looking forward to playing again.

“We don’t look any further than any game that’s right in front of us.

"The players know me and we will only focus on Oldham; we won’t be focusing on Swinton or Newcastle.”

However, the Raiders side are likely to go into the Oldham game, which will be played on March 21, without playing any pre-season friendlies.

With the league season set to start just under two months after their first round game, the Raiders will be hoping to instead stage friendlies before the league opener.

Crarey’s team will kick off their 2021 League One season in the same way they finished last year’s campaign – with a fixture against Coventry Bears.

A week later, the Raiders will play their first league game of the season at Craven Park when they will host Keighley Cougars.

Crarey is now excited to begin the season after a long wait to return to the field due to the coronavirus pandemic and the Government's restrictions to stop the spread.

He said “We’re just looking forward to getting going really. We are going for it this season.

"The table might go on points per game so it’s important that we do our best in every game. It’s going to be a really tough league to get out of – it took us three years last time to get out – and we want to get promoted as quick as we can, but we want to be ready for every game and that’s up to the players.

"They’ve got to be ready to perform every week. What we do have is a good squad, which puts everybody under pressure, so if they don’t perform or need a break, it keeps it fresh and everyone on their toes.”