The signing Matlock Town boss Mark Atkins was desperate to make materialised this week when 27-year-old midfielder Liam Needham moved from Conference Premier new boys FC Halifax Town.
Needham, who started out at Sheffield Wednesday and has also been with Notts County, Gainsborough Trinity and Guiseley, made 31 appearances for the Shaymen last term, scoring five goals, and is Atkins’ seventh new recruit of the summer.
“Liam’s a massive signing for us,” said Atkins, who believes Matlock were found wanting in the middle of the park last season.
“You only have to look at his performances both at Ossett Albion on Saturday and against Derby on Tuesday to see he will prove to be a valuable addition to the squad.
“He’s fit, keeps the ball well, breaks things up and runs the midfield area. He’s a leader, and that’s something we’ve lacked.”
Atkins is happy with his deals so far but would ideally like to do a bit more business.
He added: “I’m still looking to strengthen in a couple of areas and have people in mind but whether we can get them depends on a number of issues including the budget.”
Atkins admitted he was disappointed not to have returned home from Ossett Albion with more than a 2-2 draw but equally he was heartened by what he saw against Derby, in spite of the Rams’ 3-0 victory.
“Ossett was a game we should have won quite easily but we gave a couple of silly goals away and let them have chances to score more, but it was good to see that we’d learned from that by the time we played Derby.
“On Tuesday I was encouraged by our performance, particularly in the first-half when we closed them down well and restricted them to a couple of long shots.
“We looked dangerous when we attacked and kept the ball well.
“Half-time saw us lose our momentum, Derby saw more of the ball in the second-half and they passed it better. It was never a 3-0 game though.”
Now Matlock head for Clipstone on Saturday and Mickleover Sports on Tuesday before taking on Leicester City under 21s next Thursday (7.30 pm) and visiting Eastwood for their final warm up game on Saturday week.
Both Atkins and chairman Tom Wright praised Derby who sent a strong side to Matlock.
“We’ve a good relationship with Derby and it was nice of them to send a good side and our lads will have enjoyed and learned from playing against good strikers such as Nathan Tyson and Theo Robinson,” said Atkins.
Wright mirrored those sentiments, adding “It was good to meet Derby’s chief executive Sam Rush who I know enjoyed his night at Matlock and it was great that Derby fielded a side with some very well-known players so that local people could see them in action and also see how well our players performed.
“I’d like to thank Sam, Nigel Clough and all those involved with Derby County for a great night’s football and we hope it’s something that will continue for many years to come.”