SAUCHIE boss Fraser Duncan has said the next two weeks will be "critical" as his side continue their preparations for the upcoming season.

Duncan's team have not played a competitive match since last year and are currently in a run of pre-season friendlies.

However, with many of the players not playing for almost six months, injuries are taking their toll as they get back to playing football.

Furthermore, with Covid-19 regulations, pre-season hasn't been as smooth as he would have hoped.

Duncan told Advertiser Sport: "With track and trace and injuries galore, it feels like it's so interrupted. We're struggling to keep guys at training, they're picking up injuries and they're coming back and then they've got track and trace. It's been really difficult but we're plodding away.

"The first couple of weeks were fine. We've had games but we're toiling to get that routine of training twice a week and then a game on a Saturday."

However, the performances in this pre-season have impressed Duncan, especially the nine-goal thriller earlier this month.

"We'll not play a better team than Darvel this year, they're one of the best I've seen at Beechwood. Our boys competed really well and we were in a position to go and beat them, we caused them a lot of problems and I'm delighted with that.

"The other pre-season games, you'll be lucky if we had five or six first-team players on the pitch. We've mostly been playing the under 20s, a lot of development players have been coming through and digging us out."

One gleaming positive of the pre-season friendlies has been the return of the club's loyal supporters.

Duncan said: "It's been good to get the fans back in, it's been great to see them at the ground, we just want to clear these injuries up and focus on the start of the season."

The club are looking to recruit a new goalkeeper in the coming weeks, and Duncan's pleased with the players already in the door.

"Scott Davidson's been excellent," the gaffer said. "And Conor Kelly too, they've came in and gelled with the squad and done really well so I'm really delighted with them.

"I know Conor can score goals, every time Conor's been at Beechwood he's scored goals for us. He got himself a move away from Beechwood because of the goals he scored and that's the reason we brought him back, he's got a chance to come back and score more goals for us. He's already started that, scoring three goals in pre-season so we just need that to keep that going."

With a squad of 22 players, 14 are currently injured, leaving Duncan with eight first-team players.

He continued: "We've had a chat with the lads, the next two or three weeks is critical for us, it's critical because we need to gauge exactly where these injuries are and ensure come the first game of the season we've got the strongest squad available.

"I think if we keep our strongest squad on the pitch, with the squad we've got, we'll not be too far away this year. I'm confident of that, it's obviously a difficult league, but with the performances from last season and the performance against Darvel, if we can match that, we'll be close enough."