With the pre season games behind them another league season gets under way for Matlock Town at newly promoted Trafford on Saturday with manager Mark Atkins expecting better things from a squad containing seven new summer signings.

The Gladiators’ seventeenth spot finish last term was plainly not good enough prompting the Matlock boss to recruit with four of his signings being regulars with Conference North clubs in 2012/13.

“The lads we’ve brought in should add strength and depth to our squad, I felt we lacked physical strength last year so the likes of David Haggerty (from Buxton), Anton Foster (Boston United) and Liam Needham (FC Halifax Town) will help us plus Corey Gregory (Stalybridge Celtic)has shown he has the guile that was also perhaps not there, he’s already scored twice in pre-season. All of the new lads have settled in well and we’re certainly looking better than we did at the end of last season” said Atkins.

The other three new boys are strikers Danny Holland (Bradford Park Avenue), a prolific scorer who is back at Matlock for a second spell after a ten year break and Darryl Thomas (Belper Town), while midfielder Liam Gaughan has arrived from Baris NCEL Premier Division Armthorpe Welfare.

“I’m expecting that the new lads will drive us forward providing power and experience” Atkins continued. “Four played leading roles at Conference North sides last year and hopefully they can supplement the lads we still have from last season.”

He agreed that Matlock’s pre season campaign was “mixed”, a point emphasised by below par performances at Mickleover Sports and Eastwood Town sandwiching a fine display against Leicester City under 21’s in the last ten days.

“We’ve had both good and bad parts in games and yes we’ve been disappointing at times” he conceded. “But we’ve also shown some good qualities and our strength and when we can put the players we want out on that pitch then I think we’ll do okay. Our aims this season are to finish as high as we can in the league, there’s no point in making any predictions especially at this stage, and to do well in the cups to try and bring some money into the club.”

Atkins watched opening day hosts Trafford in friendly action a fortnight ago adding “It’ll be tough going away to a newly promoted side who’ll be up for the game and loving every minute of it. They’re a good side and know what they’re doing but if we play like we’re capable of doing, we’ll be more than a match for them.”

Matlock’s first home outing sees Stocksbridge Park Steels visit on Tuesday (7.45pm).

“Obviously we’ll be wanting to get our season off to a good start and two wins would be nice, I’m wanting us to be more aggressive in the way we play and then our quality and strength will come to the fore as we can hopefully score the goals to win the games” Atkins concluded.

Last season’s top scorer Lewis McMahon will miss the first four matches through suspension after his second red card of last season in the final home game against Worksop. Club captain James Lukic will not feature either after missing all of the warm up matches with knee trouble. The opening day line up will remain unclear until near to kick off with four more players needing fitness checks.

Meanwhile Matlock will travel to Mickleover Sports in the first round of the Doodson Sports League Cup on Tuesday November 12.\

Matlock Town Chairman Tom Wright wants to see Dalesfolk back anew look Gladiators squad this season containing no fewer than seven new signings.

While Town’s cup form was generally good last term as they reached the 2nd Round proper of the FA Trophy, beating Conference North side Stalybridge Celtic and future Conference Premier champions Mansfield Town on the way before losing to Luton Town, their league form saw them struggle to a limp seventeenth spot come last May, although they reached the Derbyshire Senior Cup Final and the semi finals of the Doodson Sports League Cup.

“We feel Mark has brought in some very good experienced players who have all expressed a desire to want to play and do well for Matlock Town Football Club. It goes without saying that we need to improve on last season’s final league position and we’d like the people of Matlock to come on down on a regular basis to watch and get behind the players” said Wright. “Admission prices remain the same as last season and season tickets represent a significant saving and great value with 23 league games at home. I know that Mark and the players plus officials at the club really appreciated the support they received last season,particularly in the big games like Mansfield, and it would be lovely to see crowds improve which helps with financing the club.”

Matlock face Stocksbridge Park Steels in their first home league game on Tuesday night before hosting Nantwich Town on Saturday week.

IAN RICHARDSON

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