AFTER a two-month long build up, where at times it was uncertain if competitive football would resume, the North West Counties League season finally gets under way on Saturday when Prestwich Heys make the short trip to Daisy Hill.

Manager Matt Barnes will be looking for his side to hit the ground running against the Bolton side. While the pre-season has been a mixed bag results wise for Heys, Barnes has shuffled his pack and tried out different systems throughout the build-up in order to make his side adaptable to meet opponents' different playing styles and changing match situations.

Heys have played one competitive fixture so far, at Penistone in the FA Vase, a fortnight ago, where after drawing 2-2, they went out on penalties.

However, for large periods of the game against the Sheffield outfit, who play one division higher in the Northern Counties League Premier Division, Heys were the better team.

It is that level of the performance Barnes will be looking for his team to produce on a regular basis as they seek a top four spot, that would ensure promotion to the Premier Division.

When the season was curtailed, in March, Heys sat seventh in the table, still looking to sneak into a top four that, at the time, included Lower Breck, AFC Liverpool, Emley and Shelley.

The two Merseyside teams look likely to among the pacesetters again but Emley have moved to the Northern Counties League while Shelley resigned from the league last week due to financial issues to open matters up.

While newcomers Bury AFC are also expected to challenge and there is invariably a surprise package in the mix, Heys will be more than hopeful of being up there come May.

Saturday’s opponents Daisy Hill were 11th last season but beat Heys twice.

They won 4-0 at Adie Moran Park in October and then, in the return fixture in December, came from two goals down to win 3-2 in what proved to be Jon Lyons' last game as Heys boss as he handed the reins to Barnes the next day.

Since then the player personnel has changed and this is very much Barnes’ side and he will be looking for his players to mark Saturday’s new start with a victory ahead of a busy opening month to the season which will see Heys play seven league games.

The first home game is next Tuesday, when Ashton Town are the visitors to Adie Moran Park (7.45pm).

The Wigan side are among those fancied to challenge and made headlines last month when they announced the signing of former Crystal Palace and Wigan Athletic defender, Emmerson Boyce.

In their last pre-season friendly at Squires Gate, Heys lost 1-0. In a tight game a 50th minute Josh Westwood strike proved the difference.