Atkins looks to add cutting edge

Mark Atkins
Mark Atkins
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Matlock Town boss Mark Atkins swooped quickly to replace departing goalkeeper Adam Sollitt with Worksop Town’s Jon Kennedy and is now looking to boost the one problem area he has in his current squad – his attack.

After impressing in the Gladiators’ 1-1 draw with a virtually full strength Bradford City on Friday, including the hosts’ former goal machine Ross Hannah, Kennedy signed on the dotted line at the Reynolds Stadium. And Atkins was delighted as Kennedy, 30, was his number one choice.

“Since Adam said he was leaving, I’ve had a few names I’ve been interested in but Jon Kennedy was always top of my list. I was pleased to hear he hadn’t signed on at Worksop for the coming season, so I made the call and he was very keen to sign.”

Trialist Dan Whatsize had been between the sticks for the opening two friendly games, but Atkins says he wanted a goalkeeper with experience and Kennedy clearly fits the bill, having joined Sunderland during his first spell with Worksop as a youngster.

He never made it into the Black Cats’ first team but had better fortune on loan at Blackpool and Accrington Stanley. Other non-league experience has come at Halifax and Witton Albion, playing against Matlock for the Albion in the 2007 play-off semi final.

“This is a difficult league for a youngster to come into. I’m a firm believer that you need an experienced goalkeeper at this level. Jon’s a great shot stopper and he’s proved that in his two games so far. He talks well and has a great presence about him,” said Atkins.

Now the final bit of his team jigsaw, and possibly the most tricky, is finding someone to get on the end of the chances Matlock make from their clever passing approach play.

“We’re a bit short up front,” he admitted. “I’ve spoken to six or seven players over the summer and have a couple in mind. One could possibly be a loan agreement if it comes off. We need to do something but I’m sure people will become available as players filter down as the pre-season programme progresses.”

Immediately, Atkins is short of forward options with Nathan Joynes likely not to figure until the Belper friendly on August 6 after pulling his hamstring against Bradford.

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Then on Tuesday in the 3-1 defeat to Chesterfield, Ian Holmes limped off with a badly gashed leg following a mistimed challenge.Holmes though, goes on holiday for a fortnight on Saturday, so will not be available until the opening league game at Ashton United on August 13.

The Matlock chief has been encouraged by his team’s performances against full time opposition.

“I thought we were excellent against Bradford. We defended really well when we had to and passed the ball well at times although thee were times when it could have been better, but that will come in time. Although we were under the cosh at times, equally we could easily have won with those two great chances in the second half. The main aim of pre season is getting the lads fit and although Bradford train full time and have had far more sessions than us, any neutral wouldn’t have distinguished who the full time outfit was. On Tuesday I thought we were unlucky to go in at half time one nil down, the first time we didn’t defend that well we were punished, but to give them basically one chance and one shot from outside the box when they’re such a good footballing side is very encouraging.

“I think we sat off Chesterfield too much in the second half, showing them too much respect. We let them play and didn’t close them down well enough, but came back well in the last twenty minutes and got the goal. All in all I was pleased with our attitude and fitness levels.”

Matlock withdrew Micky Harcourt at half time on Tuesday with a knock in the ribs, already being without the experienced James Lukic (holidays) and Simon Sturdy who was delayed by a road accident in York.

A training game takes place at the Reynolds Stadium on Thursday night (7.30 pm) and fans are invited to watch for free ahead of their next friendly at home to Derby County on Monday (7.45pm) when Lukic again will be absent. The Gladiators travel to the Coach and Horses at Dronfield to take on Sheffield FC next Thursday (July 28).