Bamber Bridge boss Neil Crowe has backed ex-Preston captain Paul McKenna to have a huge impact on his team’s season.
The former North End stalwart did not get his new non-league career off to the best of starts on Tuesday evening as Brig suffered their first defeat since the opening day of the season.
Jack Sherratt’s penalty seven minutes from time consigned Crowe’s men to a 1-0 defeat at Northwich Victoria.
The result saw the Vics move into third position in the NPL First Division North as Brig dropped from second to fourth.
Crowe admits his team were below par on Tuesday but was buoyed by the performance of McKenna, who is line to feature again tomorrow for the trip to leaders Salford City.
The 36-year-old veteran midfielder – who has also enjoyed spells with Nottingham Forest and Hull City during his career – made his first competitive start since a loan stint at Fleetwood Town in the early part of last year.
He was released by Tigers boss Steve Bruce last summer and has been without a club until Crowe swooped for his signature late last week.
“Paul played the full game on Tuesday,” Crowe said.
“He did okay. He hadn’t played for 18 months so it’s going to take time.
“He said afterwards that after about 70 minutes he was starting to feel it a bit and it will probably be a week or two before he gets up to speed.
“But he will be working hard on his fitness and he said he enjoyed it.
“He got on the ball a lot more than he thought he would do. As a team, we can play a lot better than we did on Tuesday night. But when we do click, Paul is going to be a very good player for us.”
In spite of McKenna’s debut, Crowe cut a frustrated figure against Vics, who were reduced to 10 men towards the end of the first half after Matt Mahoney was caught by a stray elbow.
The home side hardly had a shot on target after that until Sherratt fired his spot-kick straight down the centre of the goal to collect all three points.
There was some dispute surrounding the penalty, with the visitors claiming the offence happened outside the penalty area
“Our lads thought the foul was outside the box. Whether it was or not, I don’t know,” Crowe said.
“The ref give it and that’s the way it goes sometimes...some you get, some you don’t. But we were poor for some reason – it was a lethargic performance.”
Tomorrow’s opponents Salford have recently been taken over by a consortium which includes former Manchester United stars Gary and Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt.
They own a 50% stake in the club, with the rest of the shares owned by billionaire Singapore businessman Peter Lim.
The Ammies have dropped just two points from eight league games so far this season, although they were beaten 1-0 in the FA Cup on Tuesday by Ashton United.
“It’s a completely different set-up – a completely new team – at Salford,” said Crowe.
“There’s some money there now and they have got some quality players.
“We were disappointed to lose on Tuesday because if we had have won, we would have gone two points behind them in the table. But we seem to raise our game against the better sides and we definitely won’t be overawed by going there.”
Brig are set to be without Mahoney, who has a hip injury, while Dan Hill is set to replace the unavailbe Danny Lee in the squad.