AFC EMLEY go into tonight’s annual pre-season clash with Huddersfield Town (7.30) with manager Darren Hepworth looking to hone his squad.

The Northern Counties East League Division I outfit have had more than 50 players at training at the Welfare Ground and Hepworth is looking forward to piecing together a group to challenge for promotion to the league’s top flight.

“Our pre-season so far has been extremely good with more than 50 different players working hard to impress and force their way into the reckoning for both our senior teams,” said Hepworth.

“The pleasing thing for me is that the overall quality has been really high and supporters will see a number of new faces complementing the talent we already have here when we face Town.

“We have only really lost two out of the squad that finished last season which, in terms of continuity, is a great place to start.”

It is Emley’s first Welfare Ground outing of the pre-season after starting with a 3-0 win at Eccleshill United and then drawing 2-2 at Tadcaster Albion.

They follow tonight’s match with an away friendly at Brighouse Town on Saturday before three more home games against Frickley (Tuesday), Stocksbridge Park Steels (Friday, July 29) and Staveley (Tuesday, August 2) before the NCEL programme starts with a trip to Worksop Parramore on Saturday, August 6.

Hepworth believes the programme gives his players the perfect chance to stake their claim for a place come the start of the campaign.

“We have a packed pre-season schedule and I have opted for a really challenging set of games,” said Hepworth.

“We pit ourselves against a couple of Evostik clubs, and against Town tonight of course.

“I feel that we have the ability to test ourselves against so-called ‘better’ teams and we will be better equipped having done that for when the serious stuff starts on the August 6.”

And Hepworth already feels there is every reason for Emley to enjoy a successful season.

“I believe that we can achieve the highest position in the league since we reformed – that’s not to say we aren’t aiming to go up,” said Hepworth.

“A run in the FA Cup and the Vase would be great from both the experience and the financial perspective. It’s also about time we landed some silverware – that is definitely something I have my eye on.”