STRIKER Liam Wilkin played and scored for Winterton Rangers in their 3-2 last day Baris NCEL defeat at Arnold Town on Saturday, but Matlock Town fans need not worry...he’ll be at the Reynolds Stadium next term.
The promising, speedy forward scored three goals in a couple of trial games for the Gladiators in January and netted his first and so far only competitive goal in the 1-1 draw at Chasetown on March 20. But then he was struck down with a rib injury.
“Liam needed the game and it won’t have done him any harm in scoring, we were happy for him to turn out for Winterton,” Town chief Mark Atkins explained.
“But he’ll be our player next season. He’ll be back for pre-season and we’ll be doing plenty of work with him as we feel he can offer us something different to what we’ve had in attack during this past season.”
Matlock need to act to pep up an attack which hit just 52 league goals last term, the joint third lowest in the division.
Ian Holmes scored 17 in league and cup to finish as top scorer and pick up the Steven Greenhough Leading Goalscorer award.
“Those goals from Ian were really important for us,” Atkins reflected.
Atkins had to miss the recent presentation evening, but was full of praise for the award winners.
He added: “James Lukic has had a fantastic season and held the back four together brilliantly.
“He has been great in his first season as player coach, taking a prominent role in training and the pre-match warm ups.
“He’s gaining valuable experience for when he eventually stops playing but he’s got enough talent and time to play plenty more games at this level.”
The manager said he thought it would be a close call between Lukic and Jon Kennedy for the players’ player which Kennedy won.
“Jon winning it is no surprise, he’s very well liked and has been an excellent signing for us,” he said.
“Micky Harcourt won the young player and has done very well after stepping up a level. We expect more from him next season.”
And Atkins also gave Clubman Kris Witcombe a glowing tribute, adding: “I can’t say a bad word about the lad, he never lets us down and always gives us the full 100 per cent.
“He might not quite have the ability of others but he more than makes up for it with his commitment. He’s got a heart of gold, never moans and just gets on with things.”
Many club officlals in the Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division would have been relieved that Bradford Park Avenue defeated FC United of Manchester in extra-time in Sunday’s play-off final to gain promotion to Blue Square Bet North.
United continue to be one of the best-supported sides in non-league football, and staying in the division almost guarantees Matlock one bumper attendance next term.
Meanwhile, Atkins watched the First Division South semi-final as Ilkeston FC thrashed Sheffield FC 7-0, eventually going on to beat Leek Town 2-0 in the final to secure promotion.
He said: “Ilkeston looked a very good side and on that performance look a top six or seven side in our division.
“I hear Witton are very strong also and they are only play-off winners, so the sides coming up always provide a tough challenge.
“We’ve got to try and move forwards with these clubs and we’ll be looking to add to our squad within what we can afford to do just that.”