Matlock boss Mark Atkins used last Thursday’s internal trial game at the Reynolds Stadium to run the rule over potential new recruits, and ended up with seven more players signing on the dotted line.
With the new Evo-Stik Northern Premier Division’s big kick off now just over two weeks away, Atkins says he does not want to be left struggling to name a full squad, as he was on some occasions last season.
The most noteable “newcomer” is Ben Algar, back home after a spell in New York.
Matlock officials are now completing the necessary paperwork relating to international clearance for the former Chesterfield winger.
Striker Lee Whittington, who was a scorer against Matlock in the past for the likes of Hednesford Town, Hucknall Town, and last season Retford United, is joined by full back Will Kendall, recently released by Sheffield Wednesday.
And Ben Hunter, who had a rather longer spell than Algar playing in the United States, is another recruit who played the final 28 minutes of the 3-2 win against Derby County, operating on the left side of midfield.
Atkins has also shown his commitment to progressing the careers of the Gladiators under 19s as James Travis, Sam Rhodes and Connor Dean have all signed first team forms.
“The trial match went very well” said Atkins.
“We used the players we had available plus some trialists and under 19s and it was a good workout.
“Ben Algar’s back with us and we’ve brought in both Lee Whittington and Will Kendall, who’ve done well pre-season.
“Ben Hunter, who’s had four or five years playing in America, showed me enough to suggest he’ll be a useful acquisition for us, while we’ve also signed James, Sam and Connor from the under 19s.
“These three aren’t quite ready yet, but they’ll improve being with the senior players.
“It’s important we boost the squad in terms of numbers. Last season we were scratching around at times to fill the bench.”
But adding to the striking department is still Atkins’s top priority.
He gave Tyeisse (TJ) Nightingale a trial against Derby with the former Hucknall, Alfreton and Eastwood striker heading home the opening goal and giving the Rams the runaround, before an ankle injury forced him off.
Nightingale went home on crutches and Atkins intends to see him again.
This will hopefully be in the home friendly with Alfreton Town on Wednesday night (August 3), if Nightingale has recovered in time.
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“Tyeisse hasn’t had much football this pre season so the injury’s come at a bad time for him but I liked what I saw and will take another look at him” Atkins explained.
The Town boss enjoyed the performance and the result against Derby.
“I thought in the main we were excellent so I’m really pleased. I thought we bossed the first twenty five minutes, scoring two good goals. In the last twenty minutes of the first half I felt we got complacent and gave the ball away cheaply so a side with the quality that Derby have will hurt you. Our defending was a bit sloppy as well. 2-2 at half time was a bit disappointing but in the second half we showed a lot of character, we showed great determination and put in a lot of effort. The way we closed Derby down was good to see. we got back in front again and showed a lot of resilience to keep our lead.”
Matlock head to the bright Finance Stadium in Dronfield tonight (Thursday) to take on the oldest football club in the world, Sheffield FC, who are managed by former Matlock midfielder Mark Shaw. Atkins has promised numerous changes to the side which beat Derby as he plans to use players who have not featured greatly recently. atkins’options are limited anyway with Lee Featherstone, Gareth Davies, Micky Harcourt and Ian Holmes all away on holiday. All except Holmes will be back in contention for the Alfreton game as Atkins will look to field pretty much his preferred line up against the Reds and in the final friendly at Belper on Saturday week.
“There’s two or three positions I’m not entirely sure on at present so we’ll still probably have to rotate some players, so it’s their chance now to prove to me that they should be in the team when we head to Ashton for the first game” Atkins concluded.