Matlock Town said “Farewell” to a second member of last season’s strike force this week but Atkins has brought in two new attacking signings.

Former Ilkeston striker Daryl Thomas, who arrived from Belper Town last summer, is moving to London through his work commitments, but Gladiators chief Mark Atkins has swooped to land Leon Osborne and Jason Stokes.

Osborne (24) began his career at Bradford City scoring just once in thirty six first team appearances before moving to Conference North Harrogate Town. Last season he was at both Buxton and Frickley Athletic in the Evo-Stik NPL.

Stokes was a popular player at Ilkeston FC who released him a third of the way through last season. A tricky winger, Stokes has impressed in the Gladiators’ opening two friendlies against Derby County and Chesterfield.

“I’d seen Leon two or three times in the last couple of years and he’s done well when he’s played against us”said Atkins. “He likes the ball to feet which should suit us and as he can play on both the wing and down the middle, he’ll offer us some versatility”.

Atkins had been wanting to sign Stokes for a while.

“I was keen on signing Jason last year when he was at Ilkeston but he wanted time out. When he became available I was only too glad to try and get him again. I like what I’ve seen from him, he can play wide, in the hole or up front and has good quality on the ball.”

It was in attack where Matlock’s big problem lay last term and Atkins has the job of boosting his attacking options more.

The games against strong Derby and Chesterfield teams which ended 1-0 and 4-1 respectively to the full time outfits saw Matlock struggle to make a significant impact on the opposing defence, missing the few good opportunities which came their way.

“It was a good pleasing performance against Derby. The lads looked fit after the summer break and we looked well organized, giving a strong Derby side a good game. The Derby management told me they were happy with the workout we gave them. we showed endeavor and commitment plus a first class work rate. There wasn’t too much going forward but we still had two or three good chances.”

His delight turned to disappointment after the Chesterfield defeat. The Spireites won at a canter and had it not been for the exploits of stand in former Derby goalkeeper Ross atkins, the scoreline might have reached embarrassing proportions for Matlock.

“We weren’t fully at thee races and defensively we allowed Chesterfield too much time and sides of their quality will punish you. Ross (Atkins) in goal did very well but we didn’t help him too much, he stopped us taking a real battering. so we were taught a bit of a lesson, training will be stepped up for we need to be stronger and fitter and pass the ball better.”

Matlock have brought forward their friendly at Retford United seven days to this Saturday (ko 3pm at Cannon Park). Next week both Sheffield Wednesday and Grimsby Town visit the Autoworld Arena on Wednesday and Friday respectively, admission prices have been set at 7 pounds for adults,4 pounds for concessions and 2 pounds for juniors under 12. The Mariners should include former Matlock goalscoring hero Ross Hannah in their line up.

The league fixtures for the coming season will be announced on Thursday but Matlock already know their opponents in the early rounds of the national cup competitions.

Stokes has an early chance to face his old team mates as the Gladiators host Ilkeston in the First Qualifying Round of the FA Cup on Saturday September 13. In the same round of the FA Trophy, Matlock travel to newly promoted Halesowen Town, who won the Evo-Stik First Division South title last term.

Ian Richardson

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