CONFIDENCE is high at Malpas on the eve of their Cheshire League Division Two opener at Barnton on Saturday.

Compared to 12 months ago when they endured a difficult summer, the Wrexham Road outfit are fighting fit and raring to go after a positive pre-season in which up to 30 players have trained twice a week.

Friendly wins over the likes of Blacon Youth Club have lifted spirits further, but the biggest boost has been the fact that almost of all the squad which enjoyed a impressive end to last season have remained at the club.

Teenager Dan Lloyd, who has signed for Airbus UK Broughton, and stalwart Richard Desmond, who has decided to take some time out of the game, are the only key departures.

Richard O’Keefe, Steve Weaver and Richard Hamner have returned from long-term lay-offs while Roy Cardus is a few weeks away from a return to fitness.

Malpas co-manager Lea Edge, who is still looking to add to the squad, said: “We are aiming to finish in the top half, with a good start key to pushing on an seeing where it takes us.

“The league will be stronger again, but we have a lot of quality.”

TARPORLEY VICTORIA will once again provide the local interest in Division One.

Vics, who have beaten the likes of Chester Nomads and Holyhead Hotspur in pre-season, kick off their campaign at Pilkington on Saturday.