BUXTON Football Club manager Martin McIntosh insists his side will prove a match for anyone this season.
The Bucks head into Saturday’s Evo-Stik League Premier Division curtain-raiser at big-spending North Ferriby United (kick-off 3pm) with a new-look squad to the one which pulled off last season’s great escape from relegation.
Despite the departure of a number of first-team regulars during the close season, McIntosh has retained a large majority of last season’s team, which has been supplemented by nine new summer signings – taking to 19 a squad packed with depth and experience.
And targeting an improvement on last season’s 13th-place finish, the gaffer said: “We had a fantastic run towards the end of last season, winning ten out of 14 matches, so to improve on that is going to be very difficult, but I have total confidence in all my players and I feel those I’ve brought in are going to hopefully make us a better side.
“I think the league is stronger this season. Chester were far and away the best team and the biggest club last season, and deservedly won the league comfortably. I don’t see any one team being quite as dominant, but I look at all the teams and there could be ten or 12 really strong sides in the mix.”
The final piece in the team jigsaw was the acquisition this week of experienced goalkeeper Steve Collis, who put pen to paper following a series of impressive performances for the Bucks in pre-season.
Released by Macclesfield Town in the summer, the 31-year-old’s former clubs include Yeovil, Southend and Crewe Alexandra, in addition to loan appearances for Aldershot Town, Torquay United and Northampton Town.
Collis’ arrival comes hot on the heels of the signings of Jordan Thewlis and Kyle Nix. Nineteen-year-old Thewlis has performed well for the Bucks in pre-season matches, against Sheffield Wednesday and Stalybridge, after last season being a contract player with Gainsborough Trinity. He spent his earlier years with Scunthorpe United.
Returning to the Silverlands after more than five years away is 26-year-old midfielder Nix, who scored one penalty goal in seven appearances in Buxton’s Division One championship season.
He spent his formative years with Manchester United, Aston Villa and Sheffield United, and after leaving the Bucks had two seasons with Bradford City before most recently playing in the Blue Square National for Mansfield, Gateshead and Tamworth.
Paying tribute to the players who departed the Silverlands over the summer, McIntosh said the likes of Neil Stevens, Steve Ridley and Scott Hartley had been “fantastic servants” of Buxton FC.
“There was no doubting that John Reed left behind some very good players, and I tried my very best to keep them all here,” explained the manager, insisting that Hartley had been offered a contract but availability issues scuppered any chance of a deal.
Turning to the season opener at North Ferriby, he said: “It’s always a tough place to go to. They’ve got the money, invested in the club and brought in many players, but I’m confident of my players going into the match and I think we will be a match for anyone this season.”
An added spice is that the Humbersiders will have Ridley and Stevens in their ranks, alongside former Buxton skipper Gregg Anderson.
Buxton chairman Tony Tomlinson added: “It’s a tough start for us as Ferriby have attracted a lot of attention with their close-season signings of highly-rated players such as strikers Ryan Kendall, who had been retained by Gainsborough Trinity, and Jack Muldoon from Stocksbridge, but Martin McIntosh has done very well for us too over the summer.”
McIntosh’s squad has been given a near-clean bill of health ahead of Saturday’s fixture (kick-off 3pm), with only Kallum Keane a doubt after picking up a knock during the goalless friendly at Stalybridge Celtic.
Next Wednesday (kick-off 7.45pm), Buxton play their first home league game when Marine are the visitors.