GEORGE Johnston hopes the dressing down given to Wanderers’ squad after Saturday’s friendly at FC United can prove a good thing in the long run.

There was no hiding Ian Evatt’s disappointment as his side stumbled to a 1-1 draw against the Northern Premier League men at the Broadhurst Stadium, snatching a share of the spoils thanks to Johnston’s late header.

The former Liverpool and Feyenoord defender admitted that standards had slipped on the day but would rather see kinks ironed out in pre-season than face the same sort of ear-bashing next month when the real business in League One commences.

“We can’t possibly turn up on August 7 and play like that,” Johnston said. “So maybe it is a kick up the backside for us to push harder in this next three weeks for that opening day?”

Johnston will be vying for a centre-back spot alongside the likes of Ricardo Santos, Alex Baptiste, Will Aimson and Adam Senior, which add an extra touch of competitiveness to the next three friendlies, which start against Preston at Leyland on Tuesday night.

Johnston believes places in Ian Evatt’s starting line-up are up for grabs with the right level of performance.

“It’s exciting and that’s what you need, push each other on every day in training,” he said. “It’s really good competition and that’s what will make the team compete at the top end of the table.

“I suppose only performances on the pitch will decide if you are in the team or not, so I can only keep my head down and work hard, see what happens.” Evatt has vowed to make his team one of the fittest in the division, and so it has been a physically demanding first few weeks on the training ground for Johnston, and the other new arrivals this summer.

The centre-half has a good idea what will be needed in League One, having played the second half of last season on loan at Wigan Athletic. And he feels this year’s line up of teams is stronger than ever before.

“It’s nice to get to know the lads, they have really taken me in since I came to the club,” he said. “Training has been tough but we need it because the team is competing at the higher level this season.

“It is a very competitive league. There are some big teams which came down from the Championship and a few more who feel they can get promoted this year – and we are one of them.

“The league was tough last season, especially in the position Wigan were in, but I think it will be even tougher this season. Teams have recruited well over the summer and they have had decent pre-seasons like ourselves, so it will be a hard league.

“We hit the ground running hard on the first day of training and we haven’t stopped since.”