The signing Matlock boss Mark Atkins was desperate to make materialised last Thursday night when 27 years old midfielder Liam Needham moved from Conference Premier new boys FC Halifax Town.

Needham, who started out at Sheffield Wednesday and has also been with Notts County, Gainsborough Trinity and Guiseley, made 31 appearances for the Shaymen last term scoring five goals and is Atkins’ seventh new recruit of the summer.

“Liam’s a massive signing for us” said Atkins who believes Matlock were found wanting in the middle of the park last season.

“You only have to look at his performances both at Ossett Albion on Saturday and against Derby on Tuesday to see he will prove to be a valuable addition to the squad. He’s fit, keeps the ball well, breaks things up and runs the midfield area. He’s a leader that’s something we’ve lacked.”

Atkins is happy with his deals so far but would ideally like to do a bit more business.

“I’m still looking to strengthen in a couple of areas and have people in mind but whether we can get them depends on a number of issues including the budget” he continued. “I think we’ve got a good mix now and there’s certainly a bit more energy in there now. I’m satisfied with the way things are going but you never know who might become available. Everyone will get a chance to show me what they can do in the next couple of matches before we use the last two pre season games to get in the groove for the first league match of the season.”

Atkins admitted he was disappointed not to have returned home from Ossett Albion with more than a 2-2 draw but equally he was heartened by what he saw against Derby, in spite of the Rams’ 3-0 victory.

“Ossett was a game we should have won quite easily but we gave a couple of silly goals away and let them have chances to score more but it was good to see that we’d learned from that by the time we played Derby. On Tuesday I was encouraged by our performance when we were excellent,particularly in the first half when we closed them down well and restricted them to a couple of long shots well saved by Jon Kennedy. We looked dangerous when we attacked and kept the ball well. Half time saw us lose our momentum, Derby saw more of the ball in the second half and they passed it better. It was never a 3-0 game though.”

Now Matlock head for Clipstone on Saturday and Mickleover Sports on Tuesday before taking on Leicester City under 21’s next Thursday (7.30 pm) and visiting Eastwood for their final warm up game on Saturday week.

Micky Harcourt and Adam Yates will be available again on Tuesday after holidays but Lee Featherstone and striker Dave Edge continue to be ruled out with calf and ankle injuries respectively.

Both Atkins and Chairman Tom Wright praised Derby who sent a strong side to Matlock.

“We’ve a good relationship with Derby and it was nice of them to send a good side and our lads will have enjoyed and learned from playing against good strikers such as Nathan Tyson and Theo Robinson” said Atkins. “I speak regularly with Nigel (Clough) and his staff at Derby who have been very helpful to us and we’ve talked again tonight.”

Wright mirrored those sentiments adding “It was good to meet Derby’s Chief Executive Sam Rush who I know enjoyed his night at Matlock and it was great that Derby fielded a side with some very well known players so that local people could see them in action and also see how well our players performed. I’d like to thank Sam, Nigel Clough and all those involved with Derby County for a great night’s football and we hope it’s something that will continue for many years to come.”

The Gladiators’ newly formed under 18 team beat Marine 8-3 in an entertaining goal feast at the Reynolds Stadium on Sunday. A Jenkins hat-trick,braces from Bradshaw and Brewin plus a Featherstone strike made up the tally.

“It was a great display of passing football and clearly these lads are on the right path forward” said a delighted manager Steve Wooliscroft. “I was very pleased and proud of our display and it was good to see club officials there watching getting a glimpse of future talent.”

IAN RICHARDSON

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