PRESTWICH are scheduled to return to league action on Saturday for the first time since late November – and manager Craig Howarth is urging his players to hit the ground running.

The Lancashire Amateur League Premier Division champions travel to second-bottom Old Blackburnians on the quest to rein in league leaders Old Boltonians and achieve unprecedented back-to-back titles.

The Heys Road outfit switched their focus in December to the cup, making it to the semi-finals of the Lancashire Amateur Shield for the first time in the club’s history.

They will take on league rivals Tottington United on January 21 for a place in the final, but before then Howarth is eager to return to their league quest.

“When we went to the league prize-giving ceremony at the end of last season we were told that no team had ever retained the top title in the LAL’s history,” he said.

“That was quite a challenge and one that every member of the team was excited to fulfil.”

A combination of the club’s cup run, and a succession of matches postponed due to bad weather, has left Prestiwch 17 points behind the LAL Premier’s current pacesetters Old Boltonians.

But with seven games in hand, and the Old Bolts losing form at a crucial stage of the season, Howarth remains convinced his side can cut the gap.

“Luckily, we are a naturally fit side, with boys like Anthony Roberts and Michael Kirkley playing every minute of every match, so the lack of games shouldn’t be a problem,” he said.

“I have no doubt the boys will hit the ground running.

“With Old Bolts dropping points recently, our destiny is in our own hands for pretty much the first time since the opening day of the season.

“My concern is that we entertain Old Bolts next weekend, just a few days before our cup semi-final.

“Obviously, our aim is to win both games, but we know it won’t be easy.”