BILLY Crook feels Braintree Town's pre-season performances have shown that the Iron can hit the ground running in the National League this year.

Having earned promotion with their Vanarama National League South play-off success in May, the Iron head back into the the top flight of non-league football this year.

They have had a testing pre-season campaign to make sure they are properly prepared for the challenge ahead and Crook is confident that they will be well set to face FC Halifax Town at Cressing Road on August 4.

The 27-year-old midfielder said: "Playing against higher opposition is going to be tough in pre-season but it gives you things that you need - like building tempo off the ball - that we're going to come up against in the National League.

"A lot of teams in the league are full-time and it gives you confidence when you create chances against teams like that.

"We can't read too much into results that we've had in pre-season, but I think performances have been alright.

"We've had some new players coming in, but it was that way last year and we started the season well then; hopefully we can do the same now.

"I think we're where we want to be, but you'll now see over the next few friendlies that we'll get more shape to the team.

"There could be a few more come in but we're looking good.

"Losing Marc (Okoye) was tough because he was our leader and great for us in the defence last year, but we'll see him again this year when we come up against Bromley where he's gone and Brad has kept the main core of the team together.

"The players coming in around those players from last year have gelled well so I think we are where we need to be."

While he is confident that the team will be ready when the Iron host Halifax on August 4, though, Crook won't be involved himself.

He is set to start the season with a five-game ban, which was imposed after an FA hearing ruled against him after an allegation of a racist remark.

While Braintree were disappointed with the criteria used by the FA to find against their player, the ban has stayed in place, but Crook said he'd be itching to start when their sixth fixture comes around.

He added: "It's going to be tough sitting out the first few games, but I've been playing in pre-season with the same mentality as I would have had if I'd been starting the first game.

"I already know the sixth game is Barrow away and I'll be ready if Brad selects me, but I'll be around the boys before that.

"There are some tough games in that first five and they're ones I would have wanted to be a part of, but hopefully we'll have had a good start when I do come in."