ANDY Preece warned Nationwide North rivals that he has a core of players "as good as any" in the league.

As Worcester City gear up for tomorrow's pre-season trip to neighbours Malvern Town, player-manager Preece is counting down the days until the start of the season.

And barring a run of injuries to his side, he remains confident that Worcester hold one of more formidable squads.

"I think we've got probably 14 or 15 players who are as good as anything in this league," said Preece.

"It's just that little bit of strength of depth that concerns me. That is probably the only worry I have. I think we've got the ability in the team, but we need that bit of luck with injuries.

"I'm confident as we can be. But if we lost Des Lyttle, Graham Hyde or Chris Smith to injury, it does make life that little bit more difficult.

"We have just got to hope things go our way. If they do, there's no reason why we can't be up there challenging."

Preece is still yet to confirm who will replace Carl Heeley as club captain for the 2005/06 campaign, although new signings Hyde and Lyttle are believed to be front-runners for the role. Both acquisitions have a stack of Football League experience between them and, although the captain decision is still to be made, Preece is pleased to have the duo's presence on the field.

Preece added: "There's been no decision on the captaincy. Until you get to the first game, you don't know whose going to start as captain.

"It's not a major issue for me. We should have 11 captains out there on the pitch when the games start.

"But you always need experience. There's going to be pressure situations and Des and Graham have seen it all before.

"They will be the eyes and ears on the pitch, making things easier for me on the bench."

Defender Smith is poised to feature at the Langland Stadium tomorrow despite picking up a slight Achilles niggle in the previous friendly defeat to Walsall.

Malvern give run-outs to their new summer signings, including former City utility man Marc Burrow, midfielder Ravi Sharma and defender Rob Hopkins