MARK Collier has seen plenty of encouraging signs from his Chippenham Town side after their pre-season programme went up a notch this week with the start of their summer friendlies.

The Bluebirds went head-to-head with League Two side Newport County on Tuesday as they build up their preparations for life in the National League, with the reigning Southern League champions going down to a narrow 2-1 defeat at Hardenhuish Park.

Robbie Willmott gave the Exiles a first-half lead with a curling free-kick and although Andy Sandell brought the home side level after the break, Marlon Jackson put Newport back in front with 15 minutes to go.

Sandell had also been on the scoresheet on Saturday, with his penalty cancelling out Jake Jackson’s earlier strike as Chippenham shared a 1-1 draw at near neighbours Frome Town of the Southern League.

Bluebirds boss Collier said: “The lads’ fitness levels are good, that’s the first thing I am looking at. I want to see application and doing things properly and they did that so I have no issues there.

“Obviously there is still a bit of tinkering to be done but we are in a good place at the moment.

“We have 21 players signed on, they have all had some game time and two or three have had full 90 minutes.

“We will start building up the minutes as we go through the next couple of weeks but I am pleased with the way things have gone so far.

“It was a decent game against Newport, very competitive. They brought a full side with lots of trialists so we were up against some good players and we went toe-to-toe with them.

“There were some good performances from us and a couple of the new lads that have come in – Scott Donnelly and Dean Evans – did particularly well. We are in quite a good place.”

Chippenham continue their pre-season friendly schedule away at Banbury United on Saturday before they then travel to Hallen on Tuesday night.