The Matlock Town fans picked David Haggerty as their Matlock Mercury sponsored player of the year, a decision endorsed by boss Mark Atkins.

A packed Autoworld Arena applauded Haggerty as he walked to the stage to be presented with his award by retiring Gladiators physio Micky Cunningham.

The six foot central defender, formerly with Rotherham United, Halifax, Eastwood Town and Ilkeston, mobbed twenty miles down the A6 from neighbors Buxton during the summer after falling out of favour at the Silverlands. As the season unfolded, it looked to be very much a case of Buxton’s loss and Matlock’s gain, as Haggerty proved to be rock solid at the heart of a Matlock defence that was proving difficult to breach.

Sadly in his 40th game and just a week after opening his scoring account for the Gladiators in a 3-1 win at Ilkeston, Haggerty suffered a severe facial injury in a surprise home defeat to Stafford Rangers on March 15 to bring his season to a premature conclusion.

But Matlock fans had clearly seen enough and it was very much a landslide victory for Haggerty over fellow contenders Jon Kennedy, Danny Holland, Micky Harcourt and Adam Yates.

Paying tribute to Haggerty Atkins said “he’s had a great first season.He’s been very consistent, a tower of strength and one of the main reasons why we’ve had such a great defensive record this season. Since his injury he’s been badly missed, his injury coming at a crucial stage of the season when we were in with a reasonable shout of the play offs. One of the biggest compliments I can pay him is that in effect he’s come in for James Lukic which was always going to be a big ask, but really with David being in there, we haven’t really missed James and that’s something I never thought would happen.”

Atkins recognized the difficulty in moving from Matlock’s fiercest rivals last term adding “in many ways he came here with a point to prove having not got in Buxton’s side for the last couple of months of the season. He came to us pre season, looked fantastic in training and all throughout the year his standards never dropped.”

Haggerty is already preparing for the 2014/15 campaign.

“When he was hurt he wasn’t able to eat so he’s running and building himself up for next season, he knows he’s got to replace the body weight he lost, so he’s been building up his fitness. I know he can’t wait for next season to start” Atkins continued.

Goalkeeper Jon Kennedy received a watch from sponsor C J Sellors after being voted as players player of the year while defender Oscar Radford took the young player award. The Steven Greenhough Goalscorer of the Year Award was won by Danny Holland, back with the Gladiators after a ten year absence, his nineteen league and cup strikes being sufficient to come out on top.

Club person of the year turned out to be the threesome of John Maddocks, Alan Alesbrook and Bob Lake, who spend endless hours at the ground during the week carrying out maintenance jobs.

The reserves and under 19′ teams’ presentations also took place.

Reserves manager Matt Norton nominated Jack Griffiths for the manager’s top player with the players voting for Marco Taafe.

The under 19’s had their league championship trophy on show and their awards went to James Rogers (Managers Player), Sam Lavelle (Players Player), Alex Bradshaw who at 16, broke into the first team squad, (top scorer) and Dec Jenkins was awarded the most impactive player trophy.

At the end of the awards Micky Cunningham received special recognition from Chief Executive Keith Brown and Atkins, and was presented with a shirt signed by the first team squad, a framed photograph of him with the players and a painted portrait.

Boss Mark Atkins told the Autoworld Lounge audience at Friday’s Presentation Evening “You’ve got a great football club here.”

Thanking the many volunteers behind the scenes for their work during the season, he said “Everyone’s behind each other here, there’s a really good spirit about the place. The players have been great at home but so have the fans who’ve given us terrific backing, this is a two way thing. A lot of people work very hard at this football club and they deserve success, I feel the club’s set up to move forward so we must now make that next step and try to get promoted into Conference North.”

While the constitution of the Evo-Stik NPL has not yet been finalized for next season, Matlock will have a long trek to Workington, relegated from Conference North, but this is counter balanced by another local derby following Belper Town’s First Division South play off final victory over Mickleover Sports last weekend. The Nailers won by the only goal of the game and join champions Halesowen Town in the top tier.

Curzon Ashton were comfortable winners of the First Division North, while the play off winners from that division were Ramsbottom United who finished fifth in the table. They had to earn promotion the hard way though, winning a tough semi final against Darlinton 2-0 at Bishop Auckland in front of nearly 2000 fans, before needing extra time to edge out Bamber Bridge in another away tie last Saturday by winning 3-2.

“Belper will be a good game for us, another local derby and another Derbyshire club. Curzon have made great strides in the last couple of seasons and are a good side as Halesowen are while Ramsbottom have done very well to get out of a hard league, so all in all it should be a competitive division again next season” said Atkins.

AFC Fylde emerged as play off winners in the Premier Division. After a midweek 3-1 home win against Worksop Town, they took on Ashton United, again at Kellamergh Park. Ashton had scored a late goal in normal time to equalize against FC United of Manchester and then hit a 120th minute winner to reach the final. They led last weekend at half time before Fylde levelled with twenty minutes left. With the score at 1-1 even an extra thirty minutes could not separate the sides, but it was Fylde who sneaked through after a penalty shoot out.

Frickley Athletic are hoping for a reprieve from relegation after finishing fourth bottom and are anxiously awaiting news of their fast from the Football Association. Vauxhall Motors from Conference North have opted for West Cheshire League football next term, thus offering the Yorkshire side a lifeline.

Ian Richardson

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