Ross returns to bid farewell

THE search goes on for a suitable replacement for departed goal machine Ross Hannah following his move to Bradford City a fortnight ago.

But the striker, who joined City on a free transfer following the expiry of his contract, will be making a swift return to Matlock on Friday, July 15, when the Gladiators host his new employers in a pre-season friendly.

Town officials were quick to contact the Bantams to fix up the game to give home fans the opportunity to say a proper goodbye to Hannah, a firm crowd favourite who smashed in a record 52 league and cup goals last term.

Meanwhile, Matlock boss Mark Atkins has this week paid tribute to his number two Nick Buxton for his contribution both on and off the field.

The former Doncaster Rovers, Scarborough and Stalybridge goalkeeper stepped into the breach after Mark Haran moved to one side due to personal commitments midway through last season.

As yet, there is no official news from the club of Haran’s future intentions.

And when first choice stopper Adam Sollitt suffered with back problems, Buxton came in to produce faultless performances between the sticks.

“Nick’s a real character in the changing room who came in when Jugsy (Haran) had to take a step back from his position at the club.

“Bucko’s done a great job and the lads have a lot of time for him. He’s learning all the time about the management side of the game and is taking things on board very well.

“Also he’s come in to play in goal when Soll’s not been fit and in spite of not being fully fit himself, he’s been magnificent.

“It’s something of a double bonus for us.

“He’s a great lad who’s helped me so much.”

Buxton recently got married, departing for a well-earned break before he and the Gladiators squad return to commence their pre-season training schedule in a little over a month’s time.

Atkins described the situation on the playing front as “quiet” at the present time, not that he has been idle in attempting to add to his squad.

The Gladiators boss says he is talking to players and putting offers to them, but it is a case of playing a waiting game at the moment.

The Bradford City game will be Matlock’s first home friendly, with visits from both Chesterfield and Derby County to follow on July 19 and July 25 respectively.

Meanwhile, last Friday the Football Association announced the composition of the leagues down to Step Four of the non-league pyramid.

Matlock are at Step Three level and will once again face old rivals Stafford Rangers, relegated from Blue Square North.

Matlock and Stafford fought out some fiercely competitive league and cup battles in the late 1970s, prior to the formation of the Alliance Premier League (now Conference) in 1979.

Rangers will be one of four Staffordshire sides in the Evo-Stik Premier Division.

Joining Chasetown, who enjoyed a fine debut campaign last season, are Hednesford Town who switch back from the Zamaretto Southern League after a gap of two years and newly promoted Rushall Olympic from the First Division South.

Rushall won the play-off final against Grantham, but champions Barwell will play in the Zamaretto.

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First Division North champions Chester are bound to boost many clubs’ attendances with their huge away support and they will be joined by play off winners Chorley. Burscough remain in the Premier Division having been granted a reprieve in spite of finishing in a relegation place, but the linnets future is far from certain after a takeover at the West Lancashire side sees them playing at neighbouring Skelmersdale with Linnets fans far from happy with the sequence of events.

Closer to home Glapwell have tendered their resignation from First Division South, allowing their players to seek new clubs after a dispute with the Parish Council over the use of their Hall Corner ground but newly formed Ilkeston FC have been granted a place in the same division.