NEW Holker Old Boys boss Brian Dawson is hoping his side can continue their good progress by upsetting the strongest team in their division.

Dawson’s men take on pacesetters Whitchurch Alport in the North West Counties League’s Reusch First Division Cup at Rakesmoor Lane tomorrow looking to book a place in the semi-finals.

To achieve that, the Stags will have to overcome a team who have won an impressive 15 of their 22 league games. But Dawson is in optimistic mood, having been impressed with how his squad has developed since he took over the reins less than a month ago.

After watching an under-strength Holker side beaten 4-1 by Chadderton in his first game in charge, Dawson has seen his team draw with 2-2 with a strong Widnes outfit, and then defeat Litherland 1-0, and the response from the players has delighted the one-time Barrow AFC striker.

“The first game against Chadderton was always going to be a tough game in terms of the personnel we had available,” said Dawson.

“I think we had eight first-teamers missing. Potentially the game could have been called off (because of the weather), but it was a perfect opportunity for me to have a look at some of the lads who I wouldn’t normally get a chance to have a look at.

“We started the game really well. We went 1-0 up but then we had a lad sent off after 20 minutes (Dave Swarbrick) and it went a little bit pear-shaped after that.

“We got some lads back and got a draw against a high-flying Widnes side, who I think have won nine out of 10 recently, and they will be knocking on the door this year.

“We had another lad sent off in that game (Gareth Smith) and it was a good result, although we could have easily got the three points.

“Going into last Saturday’s game, what we were concerned about was how many goals the team had conceded in recent matches. In reverse order it was something like conceded two, conceded four, conceded five, conceded six and so on – and that was something that needed addressing.

“So what we did we was have a little tweak with our formation, with the objective of keeping a clean sheet and we managed to do that against a side who were in the top five.

“The lads have been great. They have been very responsive to what we want them to considering they have a new coach and a new style of play. We have been asking them to do things they probably haven’t had to do before and the signs are good because we have gone from a loss to a draw to a win.”

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s cup tie, the 38-year-old Millom-based boss said: “It’s going to be another tough one against Whitchurch who are top of the league. And it doesn’t get any easier the week after when we play City of Liverpool who are second.

“When we lost to Chadderton we knew we had four or five really tough fixtures on the stick end, so it was a case of we needed to get a win because we didn’t want it to be a case of four games, five games, six games, until we started to see some results.

“It’s an opportunity for them to reach a semi-final and I can’t recall the last time Holker actually won anything. It’s a carrot dangled in front of them to reach a semi and potentially go on. It’s the league cup, so all the stronger teams are still in it, but we are going to have a go.

“I’m really impressed with the quality in the squad. Scott (Redhead, Dawson’s predecessor in the role) obviously did a good job with them to assemble that squad. I’m quite happy with how it has gone so far.

“It will be nice when we get back to full-strength. But there are some good lads in the reserves and I have no hesitation in throwing them on. I’m a big believer in ‘if you’re good enough, you’re old enough’. That’s how I got involved in semi-professional football. It’s someone hadn’t have been given me the chance I would not have got that experience.

“People have got to realise it’s not a closed shop because ultimately if they don’t give them a chance they will go looking elsewhere for first-team football.”

Dawson – who will have a strong squad available tomorrow aside from suspended duo Swarbrick and Smith – has been indebted to experienced Old Boys coaches Glyn Dixon and Sean Mellen, who were the interim managers before Dawson arrived and following Redhead’s departure to Gretna as assistant boss.

“They have been invaluable to me with their knowledge of the squad,” said Dawson.

“They have been really helpful and they will continue to be a big part of it.”