KRISTIAN ROGERS looks set to win his duel with rival David Walsh for the goalkeeper's shirt when Wrexham kick off the new second division campaign against Oldham Athletic at the Racecourse tomorrow.
The 20-year-old Chester-born youngster made the most of an illtimed ankle injury which denied Walsh a trip to the Isle of Man to put in four impressive performances as the Red Dragons recorded an unprecedented fourth tournament success, and Rogers believes he is now ready to make his mark.
More than a few eyebrows were raised this time 12 months ago when Wrexham boss Brian Flynn preferred the rookie ahead of the vastly more experienced Kevin Dearden and the youngster endured fluctuating fortunes in an opening spell of five matches before giving way for the remainder of the season to the club's No 1.
This time round, however, Rogers is in pole position and yesterday he said he had learned plenty from what happened last August.
"Although I felt I did reasonably well I made mistakes that cost us goals and ultimately the game so it was the right decision to drop me.
"But you have to react in a positive way to setbacks and I believe I have learned valuable lessons from that experience and can go on from that.
"I remember that I put on a good performance in my debut against Colchester the previous season and that's the sort of standard I have to be looking to achieve on a consistent basis.
"Despite what happened last season, I feel I am now better equipped to handle football at this level.
"I know what's expected from me for second division football and I've been working to make sure that I'm up to it.''
Rogers revealed that a summer spent studying videos of Liverpool's Sander Westerveld and Manchester United's Fabien Barthez in action had played a major part in his preparation for the new season.
"I needed to improve my dead ball kicking from the ground and I watched their techniques," he said.
"I now feel far more confident and I know it's simply a question of relaxing when I have the ball at my feet.
"I know there will be pressure on me if I'm selected to play against Oldham because everyone has high expectations for the season, but that's part and parcel of the game at this level.
"Mistakes are bound to be made but once they have happened they are gone and it's how you get on with the game that's important. I think that's another lesson I've learned from last year."
Wrexham go into the new campaign with what is virtually a brand new defensive unit, with new full-backs in David Warren and Shaun Holmes and Trinidad international central defender, Dennis Lawrence, lining up alongside veteran skipper, Brian Carey.
But the bedding-in process, which began in the Isle of Man, has given Rogers plenty of optimism. "It's important for us all in the back five to build up a rapport and we seem to be doing that quite well," he said. "We all get on well together off the field as well as on it and our communication is good. Dennis, in particular, is very vocal and he organises well.
"The five of us have to function as a unit within the team and, having had a few games together, it seems to be building well.
"We all know what to expect from each other and what we are going to do when we have the ball.
"But the immediate priority is to be selected for the Oldham game, because I know David is also keen to get the nod. I'm just working hard in training and hope that it will be me that gets the call."