THE 1874 COLUMN - By Matt Waters

SQUAD depth and versatility were one of the key reasons we saw 1874 flourish last season.

Whether it is the different dimensions that our wingers offer like Harry Cain’s pace and skill or Lee Knight’s drive to get into the box, or even our defensive reshuffle, it is clear that was one of the factors for the performances in our promotion challenge.

At the beginning of last season, we suffered key injuries to Jack Pritchard and Ryan Mitchell, and with Ryan Jackson, Joe Woolley, Jack Irlam and Kyle Riley already out through injury and illness, it shows that our squad depth was key to reaching the position we did.

To play the remainder of the season with only one defender playing in his recognised position shows how strong the character is within our squad. Even on some occasions we saw midfielder James Ormrod fill in at centre back, putting in several solid performances.

One of the key differences in the last season was our tenacity to ‘play to the whistle’ and never settle for just a point in games.

Our away performance at Skelmersdale saw the pace and trickery of attacking duo Callam Gardner and Harry prove too much for the home defence. We defied the odds with two goals in the final five minutes to secure all three points.

And next season it will be no different. With effectively five new signings from the players who were unavailable last term, this will strengthen us again as we push for promotion.

Having two centre-backs back in the squad bolsters our defence after unfortunately not having one available all season.

However, despite the injuries, we still finished the season with the best defence in the league thanks to the resilient efforts of Mike Koral, Mark Jones, Lee Jackson and Matty Russell, as well as the former North West Counties League winner Tony Aghayere between the sticks.

We will see the long-awaited return to full fitness of Jackson and Woolley, who played a small role towards the end of last season.

Their returns were greatly anticipated as they had both worked incredibly hard to return to fitness from such long-term injuries.

Both players offer something different and with Jackson’s ability to get past his man and cross a ball being second to none at this level, it will be great to see him feature in a green shirt once again.

Midfielder Irlam will also make a return.

His ability to break up play and play the ball out wide to our wingers will be another huge asset in our promotion push. Striker Kyle Riley will also start his comeback after being side-lined through illness and every 74 fan is rooting for him in his recovery!