PICKERING Town boss Steve Roberts has said this lockdown has been tougher than the last - and the Pikes are eager to get back to playing.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Roberts and his men head to Widnes at the earliest weekend opportunity on Saturday, December 5.

The second national lockdown - which has put all ‘non-elite’ sport on hold for four weeks - comes to an end on December 2, leaving Pickering little time to prepare for their journey to Cheshire.

However, with the Northern Premier League keen to get going again, it was felt to be the wiser decision, as the Pikes were presented with the choice of visiting Halton Stadium on either Saturday or the following Tuesday.

Though the truncated team training time is not ideal, Roberts decided travelling over the weekend would be preferable to a midweek voyage for the north/west division outfit.

In any case, difficulty training has been the story of the last month but Roberts says the players have given a good account of themselves in keeping on top of fitness.

“It’s a difficult one, more difficult than the first,” said Roberts of the lockdown.

“The season is getting up and running on the fifth of December.

“We can’t do training so the players have to follow a programme on their own, which they have done quite well. We’ve managed to do some one-on-one sessions, so we can through six players a day.

“We’re looking forward to getting back.

“Last time we were waiting on confirmation. This one, we knew we would come back.

“Players have signed but it’s proved awkward when you can’t meet people.

“Every team is in the same situation.

“For me, the first two or three games will come down to fitness levels.

“We’re ready to go to the best of our ability,” Roberts continued.

“After lockdown, we can have one session as a full group.

“We’re just looking forward to getting back to it.

“Ideally I would have liked to have two or three training sessions before we get back but we were given the option of the fifth or the eighth, which would have been a long midweek trip.

“On the Saturday, we can get the lads on a coach and have a discussion.

“We’ve dealt with it as best we can.”

Just before lockdown came into force, Roberts was able to make the addition of Nathan Keightley to the Pikes squad.

Despite not having the opportunity to train with the Pickering team before kick off, the former Ossett United man put in a 75-minute shift in the3-2 defeat to 10-man Pontefract Collieries at Mill Lane.

Attacker Keightley has plenty of non-league experience, having been a star player for Penistone Church, as well as featuring for Glasshoughton Welfare, Goole, Bridlington Town and linking up with former Sheffield United midfielder Curtis Woodhouse when he was manager at Tadcaster Albion.

Another player with a bank of experience is Jordan Deacey, who has rejoined manager Roberts at Mill Lane after the pair previously worked together at Scarborough Athletic.

The 26-year-old midfielder - who featured in the National League for AFC Telford United - joined during lockdown.

“He did okay considering he’s not been with the squad,” Roberts said of Keightley, continuing: “It’s good to get Jordan Deacey in.

“He’s worked with me before at Scarborough, where he said he didn’t show his best.

“He comes with a lot of non-league experience and will add to the quality.”

This is a period where Pickering are looking to establish themselves in the north/west division and develop their potential at Step 4. The Pikes - promoted from the Northern Counties East League ahead of the 2018/19 season - dodged relegation last season by the skin of their teeth.

But Roberts is feeling good about his new-look side. He said: “We’re coming together more and more each week but it’s frustrating trying to organise things. We’re tied by what we can do.

“I believe we’re a stronger group still. I’m optimistic for the rest of the season when we get going again.”