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Robins add quality in all areas

Ashton United boss Steve Cunningham has unveiled the club’s first wave of summer signings, including talented midfielder Jak McCourt. 

Firstly, galloping left-back Josh Doherty joins from Hyde United.  

The former Northern Ireland Under-21 international has Football League experience with Watford, Colchester United and Crawley Town, as well as non-League spells at Barnet, South Shields and Spennymoor. 

Cunningham says Doherty will be a crucial asset for the Robins, especially in an attacking sense: 

“We were keen to bring Josh in because of what he can offer us going forward, he’s a full-back who loves to join the attack and he’s proven he can provide goals and assists at this level.” 

“He’s had a great career and I’m sure he wasn’t short of offers elsewhere with how much he impressed last year at Hyde, so we’re delighted to have been able to get our hands on him.” 

28-year-old goalkeeper Conor O’Keefe is another new signing.  

The globetrotting stopper played for clubs in Spain, Sweden and Gibraltar before landing at Macclesfield last summer. 

The Robins boss believes O’Keefe will add some unique qualities to his goalkeeping group: 

“We’re delighted to have brought Conor in, he’s a ball playing goalkeeper capable of using both feet. 

“This gives us the option of playing out from the back, but not only that, he’s a fantastic all-round goalkeeper with great pedigree.” 

The signings haven’t stopped there either, with Ashton United confirming three more signings over the past 48 hours. 

The first of this three sees talented midfielder Jak McCourt arrive at Hurst Cross from National League North side Buxton.  

The 28-year-old came through the ranks at Leicester City and has a fair amount of Football League experience, having spent time at clubs such as Northampton Town, Swindon Town, and Chesterfield among others. 

Steve Cunningham says McCourt will add quality both on and off the field: 

“He’s a player who likes to get on the ball and make things happen. 

“He can play off both feet and he’s a fantastic leader as well, so he’ll add so much to our group next season”  

Another recent signing sees target man Tom Denton join up with Ashton’s squad ahead of pre-season. 

The 34-year-old former Chesterfield and Halifax Town man adds bags of experience to the squad, and his 6’7” frame makes him a huge danger in the opposition box. 

Speaking on Denton’s arrival, manager Steve Cunningham said: 

“We’ve been looking for a bit of a target man for a while so we’re glad to have finally got our man. 

“Tom will add some much-needed firepower to our forward line and give us that cutting edge in front of goal. 

“We created a lot of chances last season, but we should have probably scored more. 

“You look at teams like Radcliffe scoring over 100 goals and that’s where we want to get to, these signings will hopefully help us get closer to that target.”  

18-year-old Jack Massey, who signs after being released from Accrington Stanley, should also add goals to Ashton’s front line. 

The former Clitheroe loanee can play anywhere across the front three, and his versatility is one of the reasons Steve Cunningham was keen to secure his signature: 

“We feel we might have discovered a bit of a rough diamond with Jack, he’s still very raw but has so much potential. 

“He can play as a striker or on the wing which is great for us going forward and we’re delighted to have him.” 

As well as these new arrivals, ten players have inked new deals, including the defensive wall of Dan Cowan, Sam Baird and player-assistant manager Sean Newton. 

Wingback Luke Burke, who won the Players’ Player and Manager’s Player of the Year awards, has also re-signed and been promoted to team captain. 

Assist machine Alex Byrne and 24-goal striker Jason Gilchrist will spearhead the Robins’ attack next season, with the influential Nathan Lowe and James Hardy leading the midfield. 

Former Matlock man Ewan Catt and ex-Blackpool trainee Bobby Bjork – who was on dual-registration with Glossop North End last term - complete the retentions. 

Boss Steve Cunningham says keeping hold of his most talented players was as important as bringing new ones in: 

“Keeping Sam Baird was massive for us, he was a rock at the back last season and we’re over the moon that he’s decided to stay on. 

“Sean Newton is crucial to what we do, and he offers so much both on and off the pitch in terms of his leadership and advice. 

“Keeping Luke Burke was massive as well because he had quite a few offers elsewhere, and he’s going to be our new captain next season after doing so well last year.” 

“And if Nathan Lowe can stay fit then we’ve got one of the best midfielders in the division.” 

Despite these reinforcements, Cunningham is keen to continue to add to the squad over the coming weeks: 

“We’re working on a couple more signings, especially in forward areas so hopefully we can get those over the line. 

“I’m pleased with where the squad is at the moment, we’ve got seven or eight players who I believe are capable of getting double figures in terms of goals, so if we can build on that and get a few more in then we’ll be in a very good place.” 

One man who has gone out the door at Hurst Cross is winger Warren Clarke, who is stepping back up to the National League North with Chorley. 

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