Gladiators’ exit for top scorer

Ian Holmes, Matlock Town.
Ian Holmes, Matlock Town.
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Last season’s top scorer Ian Holmes is leaving Matlock Town.

Gladiators’ boss Mark Atkins has opted to release Holmes, a contract player, who netted 17 goals in his first year back at the Reynolds Stadium after a four-year break which saw him move initially to Mansfield Town, then in League Two.

He also had spells with AFC Telford, Eastwood Town and Glapwell during that period.

The Liverpudlian scored 34 times in the 2006-07 season but never threatened that tally in 2011-12, when Matlock struggled in the goalscoring stakes, managing just 52 goals in their 42 league matches, Holmes contributing 14 of these.

He is believed to be attending university in Lancaster from September, but Atkins insisted that Holmes would have been released anyway.

“He was our highest paid player by a considerable distance and when we sat down and looked at things, we decided that we couldn’t pay him the same again.

“We went out on a limb to sign him, we didn’t get him with our first offer but we managed to get him when we made an improved offer.

“We didn’t get as much from him as we thought we would. We were looking for 25 to 30 goals, but he got just 14 in the league.”

Now Atkins has the unenviable task of finding an out-and-out goalscorer.

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Liam Wilkin has scored regularly for Winterton Rangers in the Baris Northern Counties East League Premier Division, two levels below the Gladiators in the non-league pyramid.

Wilkin netted three times in a couple of mid-season friendlies before getting his maiden competitive goal at Chasetown in March only for a rib injury to cut short his season.

But Matlock clearly need to strengthen in the striking department.

“We have a few names on our radar, not necessarily big name strikers but players who, having watched them, we feel could come in and do a good job for us,” said Atkins.

“We’re looking at strengthening our squad in general and have approached four or five players. They haven’t said yes, they haven’t said no, but it’s still early days yet.”

Also going through the Causeway Lane exit door is winger Chris Bettney, who like Holmes was signed last summer.

Bettney had often been a thorn in Matlock’s side scoring for Alfreton Town, Bradford Park Avenue and Retford United against the Gladiators. He moved to Matlock from Worksop Town.

“He began very well for us but then got injured and things happened, meaning we never saw the best from Chris,” Atkins continued.

“He didn’t feature towards the end of the season so we felt it was only right to release him so he can find another club.”

Contract players James Lukic, Adam Yates, Micky Harcourt, Jon Kennedy and Liam King will all be at Matlock next season while all non contract players, Bettney excepted, should also remain as Gladiators.