Matlock Town have received a timely boost with the news that goalkeeper Jon Kennedy is fit again following a long injury absence.
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 he 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 deputised for him in the majority of the Gladiators’ late season matches.
He said: “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,” he said.
“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 in Matlock’s first friendly at Teversal on Saturday but Buxton says the Gladiators 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, July 20.
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 will then 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.