Marcus Dinanga has been challenged to force his way back into the first-team picture at Altrincham after being handed a starting berth in Tuesday night’s pre-season friendly at Trafford.

The striker’s Alty career looked to be faltering after he lost his place last season and was loaned to National League South Dartford, where he responded by gradually rediscovering his scoring touch.

But manager Phil Parkinson made it clear there was room for Dinanga in his plans for the new season after the frontrunner replaced injured skipper Jordan Hulme against Trafford and played his part in an impressive 2-0 win.

“The reason Marcus went away last season was to score a load of goals and get his mojo back, and that’s exactly what he did,” said the Alty boss, whose side travel to Douglas on Saturday for a friendly against the Isle of Man.

“He is proven in the Conference North and South, and he is more than good enough to do it at this level.

“I feel he is a real bright spark for us at the moment, coming back and looking really hungry and really lively.

“He is going to push Jordan this year, I can see it.

‘That is the challenge for him now. He has just got to go and score the goals, if he gets the opportunity. He has got to fight it out with Jordan, and, of course, Jordan is the captain and is the starting striker.

“But if he is not doing it, Marcus is a ready-made replacement to come in and do the job for us.

‘With Jordan, we were a bit worried at first, because he came back for pre-season and was fine but then started feeling his ankle a bit. But he seems to be over that now, and hopefully we will see more of him as we go through the pre-season programme.”

Alty’s pre-season friendly with Stoke City Under-23s on Tuesday, July 26 has been switched from The J.Davidson Stadium to Stoke’s training ground and will now be played behind closed doors.