NOBODY has been in better pre-season form than Wisbech Town on the local scene – but Holbeach United boss John Chand will use tonight’s friendly clash to run the rule over two potential new faces.
Midfield duo Ryan O’Loughlin and Josh Barker will be in the squad for the trip to the Elgoods Fenland Stadium (7.45pm), as the Tigers bid to end the Fenmen’s impressive unbeaten friendly streak.
Left sider O’Loughlin, who spent most of last season with South Holland rivals Spalding United, is a player Chand has long admired, while Barker is a former Lincoln City trainee.
But the on-trial duo will have to be on top of their game to impress against a Wisbech side that have soundly beaten King’s Lynn Town (4-1), Spalding (3-0), March Town (8-1) and Peterborough Northern Star (4-0).
Chand considers Wisbech supremo Steve Appleby, himself a former Tiger, as one of his closest friends in football – and he concedes his charges will have to be on top form to get anything from their first pre-season date in nine days.
“They’ve been slaughtering everyone,” admitted Chand. “Nobody around here has done better than them so far.
“Apps has done a great job there and looks to have a side capable of doing really well this season.
“We’ve not really touched a football since the Eynesbury game last week. I felt we were a bit behind fitness-wise, but the lads put in a real shift in training on Tuesday and we’re looking stronger.
“We’ll look to give Ryan and Josh a game, but it’s not the kind of match you want to throw too many trialists or youngsters in – we don’t want to get a hammering.”
As well as handing O’Loughlin and Barker trials, Chand has moved to secure the services of combative midfielder Derwayne Stupple.
The ex-Newport Pagnell bruiser made his mark at Carter’s Park with a number of physical displays at the back end of last season, particularly when Wes Lewis was out injured.
Another of last season’s side, midfield playmaker Paul Goodhand, has been offered a return for another year – but Chand is unsure if he’ll ink terms having spent pre-season with Louth Town.
“Goody could be the missing link for us,” added Chand. “We all know what he’s capable of and he’s had an offer from us. “He does travel a long way to play for us though, so maybe he’ll prefer to stay with Louth. It’s his call.”
After facing Wisbech, the Tigers were due to face a Boston United XI at Carter’s Park on Saturday.
That fixture has now been cancelled, with Chand’s charges instead making the trip to UCL Division One side Harrowby United (3pm).