WHITEHAVEN skipper Marc Shackley says they are ready to ‘dig in’ and try and make the League One play-offs this season.

Shackley was talking at this week’s Championship and League One launch day with the hope Haven can go one better than last year and make the play-offs, having narrowly missed out on being in the post-season promotion shake-up.

Former player Gary Charlton is now the man in charge after player-head coach Carl Forster departed for Championship side Rochdale Hornets and he has placed his faith in several promising amateur players from Cumbria, who have joined the established squad members.

Shackley said he is impressed with how the newcomers have adapted to the professional game in pre-season and believes the strong Cumbrian backbone to the side has generated plenty of interest around the town.

He said: “We were disappointed we missed out on points difference last year, but we’ve recruited well in the off-season and we’re ready to dig in for this year.

“Pre-season has been really good this year and Gary has brought quite a lot of locals. There’s been quite a lot of emphasis on locals this year and we want to see how they go.

“There’s a good feeling about it and a lot more talk around the town, so there is a good buzz at the moment, and hopefully the fans will come in and we can get some big crowds this year.”

The slimmed-down 11-team League One is expected to be the most even it has been for many years, with plenty of teams harbouring hopes of clinching one of the two promotion places on offer.

Two warm-up defeats to county rivals have not dampened enthusiasm for the season ahead at Haven. Sunday’s 24-8 defeat at Barrow followed a 24-6 loss to Workington Town a week earlier.

Assistant coach Jonty Gorley said that he had been pleased with the improved form over the seven days between the two matches.

“There were a number of areas which weren’t right against Town but which went a lot better at Barrow. We asked for effort and enthusiasm from the players at Craven Park and we certainly got it.

“What was disappointing was how we gave the tries away and that’s something we will have to be working on in the next few training sessions before the Newcastle game,” said Gorley.

Whitehaven welcome Newcastle Thunder to the Recreation Ground on February 10.