Tough division for Town next season

The FA has announced the line-ups for the senior non-league divisions and at present there are no major surprises as far as Matlock and the Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division is concerned.

Darlington, in the Blue Square National Division last season, were relegated four divisions to the Northern League Division One, two tiers below Matlock, due to administrative and financial problems, although press reports from the North East suggest the Quakers could still find themselves in the Evo-Stik Premier or First Division North in 2012-13.

Frickley Athletic, who finished fourth bottom last term, have been given a reprieve due to the Darlington situation and Northwich Victoria being relegated, despite finishing as Premier Division runners up.

The Evo-Stik League sent them down in April following internal problems at the club and they will play at Stafford Rangers’ ground in the First Division South next season.

Blyth Spartans and Eastwood Town come down from Blue Square North, replacing champions Chester and play-off winners Bradford Park Avenue.

Grantham Town and Ilkeston FC come up from First Division South, while AFC Fylde and Witton Albion step up from the Northern section.

All in all, it makes for another competitive division, although the final make-up has to be ratified at the League AGM in Blackpool on June 23.

AFC Fylde, based between Preston and Blackpool, seem determined to make it a hat-trick of First Division winners aiming for the Premier Division title at the first attempt. A raft of experienced players have been drafted in during the summer including Halifax striker James Dean and Chester forward Chris Simm plus goalkeeper Ben Hinchliffe from Northwich.

Hednesford Town, who lost in the play-off semi-final to Bradford Park Avenue, have brought in Marine striking duo of Neil Harvey and Aaron Rey, plus the prolific Michael Lennon from Nantwich Town and his midfield teammate Dave McPherson, in a concerted bid to go one better.

“Clubs are signing players on good wages, on unbelievable terms really. They have far bigger budgets than us but it’s no different to last year. It’ll be another tough league and we’ve got to try and compete with these clubs,” Town manager Mark Atkins reflected.

There has been no further player movement news yet as far as the Gladiators are concerned, but I understand that Matlock are currently keeping their cards close to their chests on targets to stop other clubs from outbidding them.

n The teams in the 2012-2013 Evo-Stik League Premier Division are: AFC Fylde, Ashton United, Blyth Spartans, Buxton,Chorley, Eastwood Town, FC United of Manchester, Frickley Athletic, Grantham Town, Hednesford Town, Ilkeston FC, Kendal Town, Marine, Matlock Town, Nantwich Town, North Ferriby United, Rushall Olympic, Stafford Rangers, Stocksbridge Park Steels, Whitby Town, Witton Albion, Worksop Town.