Bryan Hughes expects a fast and furious start to the Vanarama National League season against Barrow and called on his players to hit the ground running.
After the pre-season programme concluded with a friendly defeat to League Two Crewe Alexandra, Hughes admitted his frustration at the performance.
But the Wrexham manager is keen to get the Dragons firing in attacking areas, having strengthened the forward areas over the summer.
Looking ahead to the first game of the season, which takes place at the Racecourse on Saturday August 3 with a 3pm kick-off, Hughes is expecting a tough challenge.
“Barrow are a good team,” he conceded. “They came here last year and they beat us – it wasn’t the best of nights for us in the conditions but they did a job on us.
“They’ll want to come here and try and do another job on us. We’ve got to be ready for it this time, I don’t think we were last time after the defeat to Leyton Orient.
“I expect a different game. The first game of the season, that adds to it. The atmosphere will be good and hopefully we’ll get a good attendance.
“I think Barrow have recruited well as well. They’ve got Quigley, who obviously has ties here at the club, and he’ll want to come and make an impression.
“I think it will be a tight game – one of them were there’s a lot of energy and high work ethics as that’s what you get from Barrow.
“We’ve got to match that and, hopefully, on the day we can find that bit of quality to win the game.”
Wrexham’s summer has included friendly wins against Cefn Druids, AFC Telford United and Curzon Ashton, along with defeats to higher-level opposition in Fleetwood Town, Portimonense SC, Stoke City and Crewe.
And Hughes has been happy with the work and recruitment put in over the summer, which has included developing a couple of new formations and attacking systems.
“I think it’s been a really productive pre-season, from performances through to recruitment everything’s been very positive,” he said.
“Obviously we lost against Crewe and I wasn’t best pleased with the performance, but I’d rather get it out of the way now than next week – it gives us something to work on in the week. I think, overall, it’s been an enjoyable pre-season.
“I don’t want us to be predictable. A lot of teams came here in the league and got ten bodies behind the ball last season and we found it hard to break them down at times. But I just want us to be more consistent when we get into that last third of the pitch.
“We’ve got Barrow, Boreham Wood and Dover coming up and it keeps them guessing as to what system and what personnel we’re going to play. I wanted people challenging each other; we’ve got a couple of options across every position in the pitch and it keeps us hungry on the training ground.
“This season’s a new season. The vibe has been very positive around this pre-season. The recruitment lifts standards and it lifts the players. Individually and collectively we’re improving.
“Now it’s about taking that into competitive games. Come 3pm on Saturday, with all to play for and three points at stake at the start of the new season, hopefully our players will be ready.”
Hughes also delivered an injury update ahead of the new campaign, with Akil Wright having missed the last two friendlies due to a bad virus.
Rob Lainton has also missed the pre-season programme but Hughes confirmed last season’s Player of the Year is on the mend.
But the manager expects the whole squad to be called upon in the early part of the season, with eight games squashed into the first month.
“The month of August is always difficult,” Hughes said. “We’ve got three games in the first week and two long away journeys in there.
“That’s why I said it was about building a squad here. Everybody’s going to play a part – the people that aren’t involved on Saturday, that’s not to say they won’t be involved on Tuesday night.
“The National League is hard. A lot of the games come down to fine margins. I don’t want us to be a team that is just holding out for things.
“I want to hopefully, with the players we’ve got here and the experience and quality, see things out a lot easier than we did last year. That would be nice, in a blue-sky world, though I’m sure there are plenty of twists and turns to come.
“We’ve brought good attacking players into the team. JJ had a good record last season with Bromley and in training you can see his quality.
“Alongside that we’ve got Mark Harris, who is bright and energetic and causes problems for defenders; Bobby Grant has come back a different player this season – he has that bit between his teeth and has a couple of goals in pre-season.
“There’s Devonte Redmond to add to that, and Leighton McIntosh and Jason Oswell I’d add to that too. He’ll have a big part to play this season as well.
“The most important thing is we need to get them in the areas where they can score the goals and affect the game.”
Given the attacking recruitment, Hughes admitted he would like to play a more attacking – and entertaining – brand of football this season too.
But he is expecting the players to have to overcome Barrow physically on Saturday as well.
“The way I like to play the game, I want to play a brand of football where the fans can be entertained and related to me as a manager,” he added.
“I’ve seen parts of it come into our play in pre-season. I think on Saturday, it’s going to be a fast pace. Barrow will bring that to the table – that’s how they play, they’re very aggressive in their approach and we need to match that.
“Hopefully, when it settles down, we can get our passing game going. They’re not just a physical team – they can play as well and they showed that last season.
“I think it will be a tight game. They are always are the first games. I’m hoping with the backing of our crowd and the new players we’ve got – and the performance value we can produce – we can get into positions where we can make a mark on Barrow.”