Non-league Matters: Relegation battle first challenge for new Stockport County management team

By Matt Davies & Ross McLean

Stockport County officially unveiled new manager Darije Kalezic and assistant Stuart Watkiss on Monday and the pair take the hot-seat for the first time this weekend.

Stockport County v Nuneaton Town

With County just two points above the drop zone, the visit of lowly Nuneaton Town represents a great opportunity to get off to a winning start.

However, a negative result could propel the Hatters into a relegation dog-fight, a position newly installed number two Watkiss is keen to avoid.

“It’s a big game with Nuneaton, they are down there like ourselves and it gives us the opportunity to increase the distance between us,” he said. “It’s one that everybody is looking forward to.

“It’s not going to be easy, I have been manager of Kidderminster Harriers in the conference, it’s an uncompromising league and it’s hard league to get out of.

“My last game was West Ham away in front of a full house but it’s still a game of football, it’s still 11 v 11 and I’m sure Stockport fans will create a great atmosphere.”

Alan Lord took caretaker charge of the Hatters’ last game, and Watkiss is hoping he can assist Kalezic in leading County to a second consecutive victory.

“You would hope that we can back up the Forest Green result with another victory and as silly as it sounds you have only got to put 2 or 3 results together and you can find yourself in a completely different situation,” he said.

“The flip side is of course if you have two or three reverses and you are in a tough position.”

Watkiss has previous experience with Mansfield and Grimsby in various roles, with his most recent being as a development coach at Hull under Phil Brown.

Having worked with the youngsters at the Tigers, Watkiss admits he cannot wait to get started at County after witnessing his first training session on Monday.

“The age group of the squad appeals to me and I love working with players that age,” he said.

“I’ve seen a really eager bunch of lads this morning who want to learn and improve and I think that’s a great place for me and Darije to start.”

Stockport are currently two places and three points above Nuneaton in the Blue Square Bet Premier League, but Town will be no pushovers having already defeated the Hatters in November.

Woking v Hyde

Hyde travel to Woking on the back of three narrow defeats in January, and are bolstered by the loan signings of Blackburn Rovers pair Osayamen Osawe and goalkeeper Chris Dilo.

The Tigers have failed to score in 2013 but face the league’s joint worse defence this weekend with Phil Jevons hoping to rediscover his goal-scoring form.

Altrincham v Gloucester City

Altrincham welcome Gloucester to Moss Lane on the back of a 7-1 demolition of Boston United on Tuesday.

The win cemented the Robins’ position in the play-off places and Lee Sinnott will be hoping his side can continue their fine form without the injured James Lawrie.

Bishops Stortford v Stalybridge Celtic

Stalybridge make the long journey to Essex to face Stortford with their hosts currently sitting just above the drop-zone in the BSB North.

Celtic have not played in two weeks, and will be keen to edge closer to securing a spot in the play-off places.

Histon v Droylsden

Droylsden travel to Histon to play a side who are two places and ten points above them in the BSB North.

The Bloods are without a league win since late October, and took a point from their home fixture against Histon with Nat Kerr bagging a very late equaliser.

The best of the rest

In the Evo-Stik Premier Division, FC United of Manchester and Ashton United are both on the road this weekend and face Derbyshire opposition in Buxton and Matlock Town respectively.

Mossley and Trafford continue their assault on the summit of Evo-Stik League Division One (North), with the Lilywhites at home to Salford City and Garry Vaughan’s side at Radcliffe Borough.

Elsewhere, Curzon Ashton host a wounded Skelmersdale United, who lost for the first time this season in midweek at Burscough.

Ramsbottom United entertain Wakefield at the Harry Williams Riverside Stadium while New Mills host Bamber Bridge.

Image courtesy of zoominnl via YouTube, with thanks.

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