JOHN Coleman is relishing the "thrill of the battle" as Accrington Stanley end a six-month wait for a competitive game.

Like the rest of League One and League Two, other than those who finished in the play-offs, the Reds have been starved of first team football since March.

But they return to action tonight as the 2020/21 season kicks off with a Carabao Cup clash away to Burton Albion, followed swiftly by Tuesday night's visit of Leeds United's Under 21s in the EFL Trophy, then their League One opener at home to Peterborough United the following Saturday.

And Coleman cannot wait to return to the dug-out.

"I'm really looking forward to the game," said the Stanley boss.

"It's the thrill of the battle now and we're looking forward to it."

"You can start to see a pattern and a shape emerging with the players in training.

"We're focusing on playing football now, which myself and the rest of the coaching staff love - preparing for games, watching the opposition and planning strategies to counter what they can do."

Coleman admitted that coronavirus restrictions and games being played behind closed doors had added complications to how they scout the opposition.

But the Stanley boss has always preferred to concentrate on his own side and that focus takes on even greater significance now.

"Even when you look at friendlies, it's difficult to gauge," he said, speaking to the club's official website.

"You can get an idea of the shape that they play and the patterns that they play, but you know it's very difficult to gauge from watching the opposition play friendlies.

"We know what we've got to do, we're focusing very much on ourselves at this moment in time."

Plans are afoot for fans to return to EFL games, with Stanley themselves earmarking the visit of Oxford United as a pilot event for 770 fans before a reduced capacity of 1,535 is allowed through the turnstiles.

But for now games will be played behind closed doors, and that is another factor Coleman and his players will have to contend with.

"It'll be strange playing a game of football that means something, when there's something at stake but no fans," said the Stanley boss.

"It'll be the first time I've ever encountered it, maybe a part from when I went to Gretna when there was only about 22 and a dog there, when I was at Ashton.

"I can't wait for our fans to come back and we've made some exciting signings that'll get them off their seats I hope, and things are looking promising for us. They're looking on the up."

Stanley have made six new signings so far, and Coleman has not finished his recruitment drive yet.

"We'll hopefully get a couple more, but I'm pleased with the additions we've made," he said.

"You have to be mindful that we are running two separate squads, we're running a 23s squad and a first team squad, they can interchange and should interchange.

"If we can get the 23's squad up to nine or 10 and the first team squad to 20 or 21, I think we'll achieve what we want to achieve."