Atkins predicts tough times for Town

GOOD SIGNS: Mark Atkins is happy with Town's pre-season form.
GOOD SIGNS: Mark Atkins is happy with Town's pre-season form.

Matlock Town manager Mark Atkins says the Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division “will be as tough as ever” after the Football Association announced the constitution of the various senior non-league divisions.

Darlington were placed in the Northern League First Division following demotion from the Conference and their internal administrative and financial problems, although reports from County Durham suggest that the Quakers still have hopes of playing Evo-Stik football, whether it be at NPL Premier or First Division level.

Frickley Athletic, who in finishing fourth from bottom would normally have been relegated, have been reprieved, Northwich Victoria had been relegated by the Evo-Stik League in April due to ground and administrative problems, and will be based at Stafford Rangers and play in the First Division South in 2012/13.

Relegated from Blue Square North are Blyth Spartans and Eastwood Town who replace title-winning Chester and play-off winners Bradford Park Avenue.

Coming up from the two lower tiers are AFC Fylde and Witton from the Northern Division while Grantham Town and Ilkeston FC join from First Division South.

Atkins’ comments are fuelled with the news that AFC Fylde have made a raft of big name signings, intent on being the third successive First Division North title winners to win the Premier Division crown in the following campaign.

Fylde have recruited strikers James Dean (Halifax) and Chris Simm (Chester) plus Northwich goalkeeper Ben Hinchliffe.

Then Hednesford Town, who were beaten play-off semi finalists last season, made their intentions clear with the acquisitions of Marine striking duo Neil Harvey and Aaron Rey plus Nantwich’s prolific marksman Michael Lennon and Dabbers midfielder Dave McPherson.

Atkins said: “Clubs are signing players on good wages, on unbelievable terms

“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.”