PICKERING Town boss Steve Roberts has hit out at the Northern Premier League’s handling of restart dates.

The league had been on pause since the second national lockdown came into force last month, and extended the break to fixtures up to and including Saturday, December 19, unless tiered guidance changed.

And on Tuesday (December 15), following the December 10 announcement confirming the return of spectators to grounds in Tier 3 areas, the NPL said that teams could take up their previously postponed league fixtures if both sides were in agreement.

Roberts, though, feels this is too short notice, and leaves sides at Steps 3 and 4 with the unrealistic challenge of preparing sides who have not played for more than a month for competitive fixtures.

Instead of travelling to Dunston at the weekend - as they were scheduled to do at the start of the season - Pickering have pencilled in a behind-closed-doors friendly at a Northern Premier League side for December 19.

The Pikes are continuing to prepare for the visit of Marske United to Mill Lane on Boxing Day.

And Roberts hopes the extra week’s preparation, combined with match experience, will see Pickering ready for their return to action after a what will have been a 52-day hiatus from competitive action.

“We can potentially play Tuesday 22 but I don’t want to do that,” Roberts explained. “I want a friendly and a few more training sessions to be ready on the 26th.

“I think the handling from the league has been pretty poor. We’re told things at the last minute all the way through it.

“If you look at the Counties League, they made an announcement the day after the announcement of fans being allowed.

“Our league has dragged their heels and (on Tuesday) they made the announcement.

“It’s just unrealistic for clubs at our level to be organised for that.

“The (friendly opposition’s) manager said the same as me, that we need a friendly and training sessions to be ready to go.

“I know it’s difficult but they have handled it pretty badly, in my opinion.”