Good news from the Matlock Town camp ahead of their opening pre-season fixture at Teversal on Saturday is that goalkeeper Jon Kennedy is fit and well after a serious injury kept him out of the final month of last season including the Derbyshire Senior Cup Final.

Kennedy sustained a serious hand injury at work on the eve of the 2-1 home win against AFC Fylde in early April raising doubts as to whether the former Sunderland,Accrington,Witton Albion and Worksop stopper would be able to continue his playing career.

But a determined Kennedy has reported back ready for the new season and earned praise from assistant boss Nick Buxton who deputized for him in the majority of the Gladiators’ late season matches.

“Kendo has comeback and looks fit and good and although his fingers are a little numb he’s looking forward to the season and has shown great resilience and determination to recover from what was a terrible injury.”

Buxton has been in charge of affairs while manager Mark Atkins has been on holiday and says preparations for the new campaign are going well.

“Training has gone really well, attendance has been good and everyone’s worked really hard” Buxton continued. “We’re trying to sort deals out with a number of our targets who’ve been training and Danny Holland has looked really sharp so I think we’re stronger than this time last year.”

Trialists will be given an opportunity to impress on Saturday but Buxton says Matlock should still field a strong looking line up.

A further addition to Town’s pre season programme sees Conference Premier neighbours Alfreton Town visit the Reynolds Stadium next Friday (7.30pm) with the scheduled game for that night at Staveley MW being altered to the following afternoon, Saturday 20 July.

Meanwhile Matlock should be strong favourites to make progress in the FA Cup as in the first qualifying round on September 14 they will visit one of Basford United,Holwell Sports, Quorn or Holbrook Sports. The Gladiators have home advantage in the first qualifying round of the FA Trophy on October 19 when Evo-Stik Southern League Hinckley United come to town.

The Knitters finished well adrift at the bottom of the Conference North last season and it offers Mark Atkins’ men the chance to avenge a 3-1 home defeat in the second qualifying round of the FA Cup in 2011/12.

Ian Richardson

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