CLUB captain Matt Hughes expects a tough start as Kirkby Lonsdale look to claim victory in the North One West curtain raiser away at Vale of Lune.

After rounding off their pre-season with a narrow win over Keighley at the weekend, skipper Hughes insists his team are ready for the opening fixture and believes a replication, or improvement, on last year’s fifth-placed finish is more than within the capablities of his Underley Park side.

“Everyone is really looking forward to it,” he said. “We have a good hard start and a local derby which is good for both teams as it means you have to come out firing from the off.

“I’m not daft in thinking we are going to get promoted but we know we are a good side. North West One is always a tough league.

“We found out last year pretty much anyone can beat anyone which is made worse by Penrith coming down and Eccles and Bolton coming up but we know we are a hard side to beat at home - we just need to sort out our away form.”

The 24-21 victory over Keighley was preceded by defeats to Scarborough and Bridlington and win over North Ribblesdale - and the second-row powerhouse believes his side have prepared well in pre-season.

“I am very happy with pre-season,” he said. “We have the same coaches as last season and they have been brilliant. Fitness has been good and all the lads have worked well. We have a few back from university and the first team squad numbers have been good.”

Kirkby included two Colts in the side that beat Keighley as Alex Hallam took his place on the left wing while there was a particularly impressive first team debut in defence and attack from Harry Ralston at full back.

It was the Yorkshire side who opened the scoring with an unconverted try but Kirkby hit back when scrum half Ben Walker knicked the ball from Keighley just inside their half and ran it in under the posts.

Kirkby extended their lead when flanker Stuart Storey also scored by the posts to make the score 5-14 before Keighley narrowed the gap on the stroke of half time with a penalty.

Keighley scored early in the second half but didn’t convert before edging into the lead with a penalty.

An unconverted try extended the lead to 21-14 but Kirkby centre Tom Pickthall reduced the deficit before Dave Barton’s storming solo effort took him over the line. His conversion attempt skimmed outside the right post but it was enough to round off Kirkby’s pre-season with a win.