BRADFORD (Park Avenue) boss Mark Bower admits today’s National League North opener at Kettering Town is a bit of a voyage into the unknown.

Town have an almost completely new-look squad, and Avenue’s attempts to do some digging have proved tricky.

Bower said: “They’ve had a big turnover of players and reduced the average age of their squad significantly.

“We’ve tried to do our research but there’s been a lot of trialists and shirt numbers which don’t correspond with the teamsheet.

“It makes it difficult, not knowing who’s who, but we’ve done the best we can, and we know how they like to play and the conditions on their pitch.

“The main thing is doing our jobs though, getting the basics right, working hard, getting to second balls and passing it well, as that will give us a chance of winning.”

Avenue do have a small squad going into today’s opener, and not everyone is going to make it either.

Bower confessed: “We lost Jake Hibbs in the warm-up before our last pre-season game against Scarborough Athletic, and Lucas (Odunston) got injured during the match, so it’s unlikely they’ll be fit for Kettering.

“Nicky Clee broke his toe recently, and he’d had one training session in four weeks before Scarborough. The plan was to have him play the final 20 or 30 minutes, but we didn’t have much choice other than to play him the whole game.

“He’s a great option for us later in the game at Kettering but it’s unlikely he’ll start.

“Tully (Ryan Toulson) is still going to be out for another two or three weeks with a knee issue but Mark Ross should be fine to play after a bout of illness.

“Matty Downing still has a one-game suspension from last season too.”

It might sound like Avenue have no players left, but Bower is still confident he can put a side out that can get all three points.

And reinforcements have arrived in the past fortnight, in full-back Odunston, striker Luke Rawson and keeper Johnny Saltmer.

Asked if we can expect more signings from Avenue soon, Bower said: “We’ve had a couple of lads training with us, so they might be ready to play in a few weeks.

“We’re always looking, but it can be difficult at this stage of the season.

“Last season, we waited a bit and were able to bring in the likes of Harry Boyes (on loan from Sheffield United).

“When league clubs are involved, often it’s a case of waiting to see whether parent clubs will give those players playing time first.”

Summing up pre-season, which ended last Friday with a disappointing 3-0 defeat to Scarborough, Bower said: “It was a mixed bag and it was difficult with injuries and players missing out through Covid or work.

“It’s a small squad, but we were also conscious of not picking up unnecessary injuries.

“The changes we made late on against Hyde and Altrincham probably cost us both of those games for example.

“I never really enjoy pre-season so I’m just glad to get started with the league now.”