By Steven Oldham, Sports Correspondent
Stockport County’s Joe Connor has not forgotten the 6-1 mauling the Blue Square Premier club suffered at the hands of Alfreton Town last season.
County begin their second season at this level at Edgeley Park against the Derbyshire outfit tomorrow and will want to improve on last year’s return of one point from six against Alfreton.
Connor – offered a new deal after impressing since his arrival on non-contract terms mid-season – says despite their opponent’s lack of big names, they are still a tough match.
He said: “Last season, we drew 0-0 with them and then got thrashed at their place. I played some part in both games, and the heavy defeat is a big incentive for me and the other returning players to put that right.
On paper it might look like an easy game, but they were one of the better teams we played last year.”
County finished 16th last season – one place and three points behind Alfreton – after surviving a relegation scare by finishing the season strongly under the leadership of the returning James Gannon.
County have faced Premier League opposition in their pre-season programme, with both Wigan and West Brom visiting SK3.
Connor believes the new look Hatters team have benefitted from playing the higher level teams, where they drew 2-2 with Wigan and lost 4-1 to West Brom. Manchester City also sent a young team who won 2-1.
“It’s been good for the club to play some really good teams. Pre-season is good for the team to get to know each other and find each other’s strengths.
Personally, I have been disappointed with my contribution. I feel I could’ve done more. The gaffer has picked up on these things too. Nothing gets past him!”
Gannon is in his second spell in charge of the club, and has boosted the squad with the signings of striker Craig Hobson, defender Jordan Fagbola and midfielders Tom Collins and Alex Kenyon.
Some familiar faces to County fans will also line up for The Hatters this season – popular centre back James Tunnicliffe has signed on a free having last played for the club in the 2008/09 season, while Sean Newton and Lewis King are back at Edgeley Park after loan spells last term.
Joe said: “I’m really excited for the new season. We look like a real club again, both on and off the pitch. Jim has got things how he wants it here.
We all know we have to put good performances on if we’re picked this weekend. The real test for players is when they’re not in the team and want to be – you have to fight for your place.”
If County are to improve on last season’s midtable position, they will need to turn more draws into victories – they shared the points 15 times last season.
“There are no easy games in the Conference. I think we should be aiming for the play-offs. Winning the league is a massive task for any club.
“When we played the four sides who made the playoffs last year, there wasn’t much difference between us in many games – I don’t see why we can’t make it.”
County begin their bid to bring League football back to the town tomorrow at 3pm at Edgeley Park. Tickets start at £16 for adults and £3 for children. Under 7’s go free.
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