Nine definite new signings with one more to come, possibly two, means that manager Mark Atkins has some tough decisions to make ahead of Saturday’s league opener at Trafford.

New recruit number nine came prior to last weekend’s 1-0 victory at Sheffield FC when striker Zephaniah (Zeph) Thomas joined up, a vital signing particularly as the Gladiators lost Shaun Tuton to Buxton and Daryl Thomas moved to London through work commitments during the summer.

Thomas (24) was brought in from Scarborough Athletic and is a St Kitts and Nevis international having spent his early career at Rotherham United having also played north of the border at Cowdenbeath. A prolific spell at Sheffield where he netted nineteen goals in 29 appearances last season before he switched to Mickleover Sports alerted Atkins who was delighted to get his man.

“I’d spoken to Zeph earlier in the summer after he’d done really well at Sheffield but Scarborough offered him a fantastic deal. But things didn’t work out for him there so he got in touch and we brought him in. He’s done really well in training, he’ll work hard and he’ll be a really good addition to our squad for he’s hungry and a good finisher, that’s something I feel we definitely need.”

Atkins had earlier recruited winger Leon Osborne (Frickley Athletic) winger Jason Stokes (formerly with Ilkeston), full back Phil Roe (back at Matlock after a spell with Worksop Town), former Doncaster Rovers midfielder Josh Meade, Niall Dawkins (another midfielder from Derby County), Chesterfield youngsters Oliver Brock and Alex Hewitt plus former Barnsley Academy defender Dean Freeman.

Midfielder Jordan Snodin is expected to sign later this week and a decision will be made on another player, believed to be a striker, after training tonight (Thursday).

“Some hard decisions will have to be made before Saturday but that’s what you want, you want to have that quality which I feel we’re now getting which gives a manager decisions to make” Atkins continued.

His choices have been limited a little as both James Ashmore, who has not featured at all during pre season with a knee injury, and Roe (foot), will definitely be out of the trip to Shawe View, while full back Micky Harcourt’s knee injury will be monitored. If Harcourt is unfit, it is thought Adam Yates, who missed the Sheffield win attending a wedding, will wear the number two shirt.

David Haggerty scored the winner at Sheffield to end what Atkins says has been a “long pre season”.

“We couldn’t do much about that for we were all delighted to have Derby bringing such a strong team to us in early July. Looking at pre season as a whole there’s been some good and some not so good things, but fitness levels are good and I think we’ve got a nice strong squad. We’re hoping for a good season, some good cup runs and obviously to finish as high as we can in the league. There’s not much use in setting targets until the season is up and running.”

Ironically the first game is an action replay of last season. Daryl Thomas gave Matlock the lead at Trafford but the newly promoted home side recovered to win 2-1.

“It’ll be a difficult game at a side who finished just above us last year. They’ve a way of playing that suits them so we know we have to do our jobs right and if everyone does what is expected of them then we can go there and get a good result.”

Stamford are the first visitors to the Autoworld Arena on Tuesday night and Atkins says it is vital that his side continues their sound home form from last term when only Chorley, Stafford Rangers and Witton Albion returned home with maximum points.

” We did well at home last season and a to have a good, successful team it’s important to perform well at home and get the right results on home turf, so obviously that’s something we want to carry on from last year.”

IAN RICHARDSON

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