PICKERING Town have agreed an improved two year sponsorship deal with Flamingo Land owner Gordon Gibb, writes Ian Appleyard.

The deal, which extends a lengthy association between the two parties, has been described as 'massively important' for the club by chairman Wayne Taylor.

For the first time, the deal also now gives the Pikes access to training facilities, including a swimming pool and gymnasium, at the Kirby Misperton holiday resort.

Manager Paul Marshall and his players still have the option to use facilities at Malton College but have staged their first three pre-season training sessions of the summer at the resort.

Tonight, the Pikes - who finished runners-up in last season's Toolstation Northern Counties East League premier division - host division one neighbours Knaresborough Town at Mill Lane (7.30pm) in the club's third pre-season fixture.

On Saturday, striker Ryan Blott scored a hat-trick as the Pikes won 3-2 away at Northern Counties East League first division side Selby Town.

Two days earlier, the Pikes recorded a 3-0 victory against Poppleton United at York College courtesy of goals from Nathan Kamara, Nick Thomson, and new arrival Tyson Stubbings.

Winger Joe Danby (Scarborough Athletic) and midfielder Robert Chipps (due to non-footballing commitments) have been the only departees from the club so far this summer and manager Marshall will continue to assess the strengths and weakness of his squad over the forthcoming pre-season games.

He admits, however, that finding another striker to ease the burden on Blott is on his list of priorities.

Following tonight's home clash with Knaresborough, the Pikes will travel to Scarborough Rugby Club on Saturday afternoon to play Spennymoor Town (3pm).

They play host to Tadcaster Albion on Wednesday July 19 (7.30pm) and also have fixtures against the Scarborough and District representative side at Scarborough Rugby Club on July 26 and Sunderland RCA (away) on Saturday July 29.

The Pikes' final pre-season fixture is at home to Scarborough Athletic on Tuesday August 1 (7.30pm).

The club's first competitive game of the new season will be away at Northern League second division side Billington Town on Saturday August 5 in the extra preliminary round of the FA Cup.

The winners of that tie receive £1,500 in prize money and play Evo-Stik North side Clitheroe at home in the preliminary round where the winners collect a further £1,925.