The 2-0 win over Salford City at the weekend proved another step forward for manager Paul Carden ahead of the new season, which starts on September 19.
Skipper Mark Roberts was rested, with the armband handed to striker Josh Amis, who scored a confidence-boosting two goals.
No Roberts also meant a re-shuffle at the back, with Matt Regan, Callum Grogan and Evan Gumbs played in a back-three, with Tom Warren and a trialist at wing-back; a system that Carden has hinted about trying off the back of his summer recruitment.
He said: “With the personnel we’ve got, it’s an option. It’s nice to have that option, as we didn’t have it last season. There’s a good balance there with Callum, who is vocal and organised, and Evan and Reegs who are comfortable going in to the full-back areas.
“Reegs has played a lot on the left of a back three, so we know we’ve got good options even without Robbo.
“It was good to see Josh get a couple of goals and good to see Tom (Warren) performing at a level we know he can. He’s been feeling a bit of pressure with him being a young lad, he just needs to relax and play his football which he did in first half, I thought he was excellent.”
Both of Amis’ goals came in the first half, and he could have had a hat-trick, if he had put away an early chance. Fellow striker Jordan Buckley came on as a second half substitute but was withdrawn, suffering with a niggle that was attributed to work commitments the previous day.
Amis also scored in the win at Irlam, as he looks to stake a claim for a starting place in the league opener at Basford United, after an injury hit 2019/20 campaign.
Carden added: “The thing with Josh is you know he will always get chances. For someone his size and with his pace, you’re not moving him if he’s in the box, if he gets a run on you, you’re not getting back once he gets his arm across.
“He’s got to be tidier with his finishing. He missed one in the first few minutes that he should have scored. He got the one off the cross and the second he done well for, but he should do well.
“He’s a good player. His physical attributes are very good, we’ve just got to keep him fit. He’s got to do more away from training to keep weight off. He’s lost about 15/18lbs since last season, so that will only make him better. He’ll still have his strengths but he won’t be carrying as much weight to go through his joints, which I believe has caused his injury issues over the past few seasons.”
With just two pre-season outings to go, Carden is still utilising trialists in his side, although has handed a contract to experienced Football League midfielder Michael Rose, whose signing was announced after the game on Saturday.
Pre-season has seen two goalkeepers feature as trialists, but Carden hasn’t ruled out adding other players before the opening.
“I still think we need to bring some in. The goalkeeper situation has got to be sorted. I’m not too panicked by it. We’ve whittled it down a bit now. We’ve got one now who’s stayed, the other one has gone. It’s up to him now to keep the shirt.
“I have been offered a couple that I’ll give answers to next week.
“You should never be content with what you’ve got. There’s always room for improvement, and over the next week or so, you’ll see a fall out from some clubs, including league clubs, and we’ll see who’s available.”