ACCRINGTON Stanley midfielder Will Hatfield is relishing the chance to take on East Lancashire’s big guns starting with tonight’s visit of Blackburn Rovers.
Hatfield netted twice in the Reds win over Nelson last weekend and is looking forward to taking on Gary Bowyer’s Championship side before Premier League new boys Burnley visit the Store First Stadium on Saturday.
Tonight’s game will see Stanley boss James Beattie come up against the side he once played for having overseen wins over non-league pair New Mills and Nelson so far this summer.
And Hatfield said the Reds squad are now ready to step up preparations for the League Two campaign which begins with a trip to Southend on August 9.
“The first two games have been good for us but we all know that this is a big step up now,” said Hatfield.
“I think we’ve done well in both games so far but we’ve got tough opposition now.
“I think it’s only going to benefit us for the game against Southend and we’re really looking forward to them.
“I’m sure there will be a great crowd on for the two games and as players we look forward to these kind of games.
“It’s a big occasion, big crowds and we’re putting ourselves up against better opposition.
“We’re looking forward to the games and hopefully I can keep scoring goals.”
Hatfield’s boss Beattie, the former England international striker who grew up supporting Rovers and went on to make five appearances for the club at the start of his career, is also relishing the chance to pit his wits against Gary Bowyer’s side.
The Reds boss said: “Everybody is looking forward to Blackburn coming – and so am I being a Blackburn lad and having had my first season ticket with them when I was seven.
“It’s a bit of a surreal situation for me to be managing Accrington Stanley and having Blackburn Rovers come down for a pre-season game. It’s a massive game on all fronts for the club.
“The main thing is for the players to get a lot of fitness work out of the game, against tough opposition, and of course for them to come through unscathed.
“But the financial side of it is huge and hopefully there will be a few on and it will be a good night all round.”
Supporters can pay on the gate tonight. Entry costs £15 for adults, £10 for over 65s and students, and £5 for under 17s.