MIDDLEWICH Town started training this week but the Mid Cheshire League side may have lost a striker to the team they succeeded as champions.
And they also fear an unexpected raid on their young stars.
Barnton are believed to have signed David Dale, who made his name with the Townfield Lane club originally.
Dale has been asked to join Barnton's UEFA Regions Cup trip to Slovenia in September - although he can join the venture and remain a Middlewich player.
Barnton are representatives of the MCL and have also asked about the in-demand Les Miranda (seeabove), another Seddon Street striker, joining their squad.
Middlewich manager Terry Murphy said: 'David is a good player but I have to look at our record: he didn't play for us from February onwards and we didn't lose.
'If he wants to go to Barnton, it is up to them. They have also asked about Les going with them and I have told them to ask him. It is supposed to be a representative side after all.'
What may turn out a thorny pre-season problem is that Neil Bithell, who assisted Steve Moore with the Reserves, has taken up a coaching post with Congleton Town.
'I can see Congleton coming back for two or three of the reserves.
'Personally, I think they would do the right thing by having a season in our first team in the Mid Cheshire League.
'They may see if they can better themselves right away and that is up to them.
'We would not want to lose them but we would not stand in their way. We would love our lads to improve themselves when the time was right for them.' The only firm recruit Middlewich have so far is Craig Stevens, a midfielder based in the town who has joined from Knutsford.
Goalkeeper Barry Crellin, to return after another spell at Winsford, has encountered work commitments and Murphy is happy to re-sign Paul Simpson. He was on loan from Northwich Vics Reserves last season but will be a permanent fixture.
'Steve and I have both invited players down for trials and there are reserves ready to make the step up. We don't want too many signings and I'm looking for them to be local,' added Murphy.