Non-league Matters: Stockport County have to be clinical in front of goal, says assistant boss Stuart Watkiss

By Matt Davies & Matt Simpson

Stockport County host Luton Town this weekend and assistant manager Stuart Watkiss has called for his team to be more clinical on the back of consecutive home defeats.

The Hatters have lost two on the bounce at Edgeley Park and Watkiss, alongside manager Darije Kalesic, is keen to turn around their fortunes.

The pairing have won two of their opening six games in charge, and Watkiss believes the County players need to improve in front of goal if they are to climb up the league.

“We need to play effective football as well as passing football,” he said. “It is important that at the end of our passing we have something to show for it, whether it is a shot on goal, a goal or a corner.

“I think in our last two games we’ve been a bit guilty of not having enough end-product.”

The former Walsall and Mansfield man is expecting a difficult challenge against Luton, as John Still took charge this week following Paul Buckle’s departure.

“They have arguably the best squad in the division and obviously, with a new manager going in, all the players will be eager to show him they’re worth a place in the team,” explained Watkiss.

“Put it all in the melting pot and I think it will be a tough game for us.”

Ahead of the Luton clash, club captain Joe Connor – yet to feature since Kalesic took the reins – has joined Hereford on loan until April.

Watkiss said that discussions had taken place between Connor and Kalesic and that it was important for County’s reigning ‘player of the year’ to get some game time under his belt.

“It’s important for Joe to go and play some football,” he said. “He’s going to a good club in Hereford with a good manager and hopefully he can get some valuable playing time.”

Fullback Andy Halls is in line for his 100th County appearance should he feature in the game while there could be debuts for Greg McDermott and Paul Marshall.

Another boss expecting a difficult encounter this weekend is Hyde boss Scott McNiven, whose side welcome high-flyers Newport County to Ewen Fields.

Hyde have lost four on the bounce and McNiven does expect Newport to be an easy task, despite watching his side win 3-1 at the Rodney Parade in November.

“They were one of the best teams we’ve played all season when we played them at their place,” he said.

Hyde have struggled with injuries of late – especially in the attacking department – and he admitted that there are five or six players who face late fitness tests ahead of the game.

“I want to give them all as long as possible to declare themselves fit,” explained McNiven.

“We’re trying to get the strikers back fit – we’ve struggled since we lost our main strike force so it’s a case of trying to manage while they’re out.

“I’d like to be scoring more goals, at the minute it’s not happening but the rest of the lads need to chip in.”

In the Blue Square Bet North, Altrincham are without a win in four and welcome Oxford City for their Moss Lane debut.

Stalybridge Celtic host Solihull Moors while struggling Droylsden are also at home against Bradford Park Avenue.

Danny Johnson’s Ashton United head to Nantwich Town while FC United of Manchester play league-leaders North Ferriby United at Bower Field – home of Stalybridge – on Sunday.

The game of the day sees second-placed Trafford host play-off hopefuls Curzon Ashton at Shawe View while New Mills travel to bottom of the table Garforth Town.

Mossley will look to recover their form – one win in eight league games – when they travel to the Giant Axe to face Lancaster City.

Ramsbottom United and Radcliffe Borough are both on the road and head to Salford City and Bamber Bridge respectively.

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