The shock departure of first choice goalkeeper Adam Sollitt means a new goalkeeper is top of Matlock manager Mark Atkins’s shopping list with the new season just under a month away.
The former England non-league international told Atkins late last week that increased work commitments are behind his decision.
Atkins explained: “Adam has been straight with me and said that with his new job he can’t commit the time to football and to the club that he used to and needs to, so we’re on the lookout for a new keeper.
“It’s disappointing to lose Adam, but I totally understand that his family must come first.
“He was a great goalkeeper for us and a smashing lad to have in the changing room and I’d like to thank him on behalf of everyone at the club for his outstanding contribution and wish him all the best for the future.”
Dan Whatsize, who was with Sheffield FC last season, was between the posts for town’s opening two pre-season friendlies, a 1-1 draw at Teversal last weekend before a 2-1 midweek win at Armthorpe Welfare on Tuesday.
“Ironically, Dan Whatsize rang me on Thursday to see if I knew of any club looking for a new keeper and I said we’re looking for one, so I got him to turn up for the opening games.
“Dan’s done well enough but it’s important we look at all options that might be available,” Atkins continued.
The manager said both games so far have been useful for fitness.
“For four training sessions ahead of last Saturday, we’d hardly touched a ball as we were concentrating on getting the lads’ fitness levels up.
“We had about an hour of ball work last Thursday.
“I was pleased with our fitness in both games. The problem at Teversal was that we didn’t keep the ball well enough.
“We did that much better at Armthorpe.
“The idea was that most lads would get 45 minutes – that’s why we had a big squad at the game.
“It was disappointing not to win at Teversal. After all, every player and manager wants to win every game they take part in. The main aim apart from winning was the lads’ fitness.
“I was happy we won at Armthorpe and got a couple of goals and we kept the ball much better going forward.”
Attention now turns to two infinitely more difficult tests against Football League opposition, both at the Reynolds Stadium, against Bradford City on Friday and Chesterfield in the Banner Jones Cup on Tuesday night (7.45 pm).
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Bradford’s visit will see the return of talisman striker Ross Hannah, the Gladiators goalscoring machine of the last three seasons, who joined the Bantams in May. The Spireites, meanwhile, were League Two Champions last term, so a bumper crowd should be in attendance.
“Games against the full time clubs are there to be enjoyed as it’s good to test yourself against better players,” said Atkins. “The Bradford game will give fans the chance to say goodbye and thank you to Ross who truly was a fantastic player for us. So it should be an excellent night as should Tuesday against Chesterfield in front of a big crowd.”
Captain James Lukic will also take on the role of player coach this season. Even at only 29, Lukic has made more than 500 appearances for the Gladiators and he wants to take a move towards coaching.
“James has told me that he wants to get into coaching eventually and we feel we can help bring him along in this way,” Atkins explained. “He’s been a terrific servant to the club and we feel it’s right and proper to give him all the support, assistance and encouragement he needs, but his chief role will be as a player for the club.”