Gladiators ready for life after Thomas

By David Watters

Matlock Town

EVO-STIK League Matlock Town said farewell to a second member of last season's strike force last week when former Ilkeston FC striker Daryl Thomas left the club to move south before bringing in two new attackers to help replace him, writes Ian Richardson.

Thomas, who arrived from Belper Town last summer, is moving to London for his work commitments and Town's manager Mark Atkins swooped to land Leon Osborne and Jason Stokes to replace him last week.

Osborne, 24, began his career at Bradford City before moving to Conference North Harrogate Town. Last season he was at both Buxton and Frickley Athletic in the EVO-STIK League's Premier Division.

Stokes was released by the Robins a third of the way through last season. A tricky winger, he has impressed Atkins in the Gladiators' opening two friendlies against Derby County and Chesterfield and has an early chance to meet his former teammates competitively when the club host his former employers in the FA Cup's First Qualifying Round on Saturday September 13.

The Gladiators manager said: "I'd seen Leon two or three times in the last couple of years and he's done well when he's played against us. He likes the ball to feet which should suit us and as he can play on both the wing and down the middle, he'll offer us some versatility.

"I was keen on signing Jason last year when he was at Ilkeston but he wanted time out. When he became available I was only too glad to try and get him again. I like what I've seen from him, he can play wide, in the hole or up front and has good quality on the ball."

It was in attack where Matlock's big problem lay last term and Atkins knows his attacking options need boosting after seeing his side struggle to make a significant impact on the opposing defence in the games against strong Derby and Chesterfield teams which ended 1-0 and 4-1 respectively.

He said: "It was a good pleasing performance against Derby. The lads looked fit after the summer break and we looked well organised, giving a strong Derby side a good game.

"The Derby management told me they were happy with the workout we gave them. We showed endeavor and commitment plus a first class work rate. There wasn't too much going forward but we still had two or three good chances."

His delight turned to disappointment after the Chesterfield defeat though. The Spireites won at a canter and had it not been for the exploits of stand in former Derby goalkeeper Ross Atkins, the scoreline might have reached embarrassing proportions for Matlock.

"We weren't fully at thee races and defensively we allowed Chesterfield too much time and sides of their quality will punish you," admitted Atkins. "Ross [Atkins] in goal did very well but we didn't help him too much, hue stopped us taking a real battering.

He added: "So we were taught a bit of a lesson, training will be stepped up for we need to be stronger and fitter and pass the ball better."

* Sheffield Wednesday and Grimsby Town both visit the Autoworld Arena this week on Wednesday and Friday respectively with admission prices set at £7 pounds for adults, £4 for concessions and £2 for juniors aged under 12.

The Mariners are expected to include former Matlock goal-scoring hero Ross Hannah in their line-up.

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