HAVING played Otley away on Saturday, December 23, 2017, many Wharfedale fans were eagerly anticipating the visit of their derby rivals to The Avenue on the weekend before Christmas this time around.

However, when the National League Two North fixtures came out recently, there was a collective groan among Greens' supporters when they saw that the Cross Greeners were visiting on September 22.

After all, it is a blow to the coffers if nothing else, with Otley having run out of glasses, people to collect the glasses, and people to wash the glasses even before half-time in their 20-13 victory seven months ago.

But Wharfedale's director of rugby Rob Baldwin, although sympathetic about the prospect of a hit to their pockets, isn't one of those who is mourning that Otley aren't pitching up at Threshfield just before Santa's presents are opened.

"I understand the financial aspect of a local derby, I get it," admitted Baldwin.

"But I think that people get into Christmas mode sometimes with the social aspect, rather than concentrating on the rugby, and we have definitely fallen foul of that before."

Instead of facing the Cross Greeners, Wharfedale have a match at Sedgley Park – their third away match in four Saturdays in December – and Baldwin did concede: "It would have been nice to have had a home match on the weekend before Christmas."

Newcomers to Wharfedale's division this season are Fylde and Hull Ionians (demoted from National League One), Preston Grasshoppers (North Premier champions) and Peterborough Lions (North-Midlands play-off winners).

"It will be nice to welcome back Fylde, Hull Ionians and Preston Grasshoppers, who we have had some good tussles with in the past, while we know very little about Peterborough Lions – or Peterborough Tongans as some people are preferring to call them.

"You can get hung up on who has signed whom.

"For example, some team may have signed 12 players, but they might be the people who played for them last season who have just signed on again.

"I prefer us to concentrate on ourselves.

"We will be signing some players soon and we might not be the biggest team in the division, which will be very strong again, but hopefully we will be the fittest.

"That should help us win some tight matches and we hope that we will be attractive to watch and get people out of their armchairs to come and see us."

Peterborough Lions away is the Greens' first league match on September 1, but before that come three pre-season friendlies on consecutive Saturdays – Kirkby Lonsdale away on August 11, Blaydon at home on August 18 and Championship visitors Rotherham Titans on August 25.

Baldwin said: "Normally we have two friendlies and a week off but we have decided this season that we want a game on the Saturday before the season starts, and the Rotherham match has been arranged via my friendship with Joe Barker."

Last weekend, Wharfedale held their Workforce Day, a well-attended affair to spruce up The Avenue.