AYR UNITED boss Mark Kerr admits the upcoming Betfred Cup games will prove a stern challenge for his squad - as they prepare for a clash with premiership side Hamilton.

The Honest Men gaffer still believes the games will act as pre-season matches for his team, as he tries to boost squad numbers ahead of the league campaign via the loan market.

While pre-season is usually about boosting fitness levels, Kerr says this year has been like no other – with injury prevention taking number one priority.

Ayr will still be hoping to progress through their group after games with Hamilton, Albion Rovers, Annan Athletic and Stranraer, but Kerr knows it will be tougher than usual.

He told the Advertiser: “The best way to describe it is different. Every game we’ve played so far, the players have been only getting 45 minutes.

“A lot of that is down to injury prevention more than anything else. The youth players, ranging from 16-18-year-olds, have been included in every match to help out so it’s been good to get them involved.

“When you look across the leagues, there’s been so many injuries being sustained, so one of my priorities has been to prevent that .

“We’re pretty much still in pre-season even although it’s officially nearly over with the Betfred Cup games approaching.

“We’ll still be using them as a method of getting match sharpness up with our squad and also integrating new players.We’ll have to rotate the team as well to make sure that some players don’t do too much.

“We’re mainly working on small details at the moment rather than the bigger picture of where we want to be in four or five weeks when we’ve got a bigger squad and the players are only playing once per week.

“They’re gelling together fine, but not being able to share a changing room means it’s a slightly longer process as the boys are still trying to get to know each other.

“The Betfred Cup will be a big challenge to go and perform and get good results to take us through just simply because of the current climate we find ourselves in.”