STOCKPORT County have signed experienced goalkeeper Ben Hinchliffe from fellow National League North side AFC Fylde.

The 28-year-old has enjoyed a successful career at non-league level so far having been involved in four successive play-off campaigns with the Coasters – and named best goalkeeper in the division during each of them.

Not only does he keep goals out but Hinchliffe has gained a reputation for scoring at crucial times, netting the winning penalty in Fylde’s shootout success over Ashton United in the 2014 Evo-Stik Northern Premier Division Play-Off Final.

But the lorry driver went one better in 2013 by claiming the Lancashire club’s Goal of the Season award for a stunning 60-yard goal from a free-kick in their play-off semi-final against Hednesford Town.

Hinchliffe has been with Fylde since May 2012 but felt he needed a fresh challenge and this was the right time as Dave Challinor’s team prepare to become a full-time outfit for 2016-17.

He told the club’s website: “I want to be playing every week and enjoying my football, I’ve had other offers but I want to come here and play in front of good crowds every week, and I know some of the lads here already.

“It’s going to be a tough league this year, probably more so than in the last two years, with the likes of Halifax and Kidderminster coming down. Having said that, I don’t see any reason why we can’t go all the way.”
County boss James Gannon added: “Over a number of years I’ve been an admirer of Ben’s ability and in our recent game against Fylde, and every other opportunity we’ve had to see him, he’s been excellent.
“Therefore, when he became a realistic target, he quickly moved to the top of my list and I’m delighted to have secured his services for next season.”

Hinchliffe began his career with Preston North End in 2006 before following boss Billy Davies to Derby County a year later, after loan spells at Kendal Town and Tranmere Rovers.

The shot-stopper first moved into non-league in 2009 with Oxford United on non-contract terms before brief stints at Worcester City, Kendal Town, Bamber Bridge and Northwich Victoria respectively.

Hinchliffe will hope his knowledge and ability will stand him in good stead in the battle for the number one jersey at Edgeley Park with fellow keeper Ian Ormson.

His arrival continues a busy close-season already for the Hatters, who have now brought in six players this month.

Centre-back Michael Clarke was recruited from Gannon’s former club Northwich Victoria, fellow defender Mark Ross joined from Chorley and former England Under-18 captain Courtney Meppen-Walter has also signed.
Winger Adam Thomas left Hednesford Town for Cheshire while there is a return to County for left-back Scott Duxbury after leaving nine months ago.
Hinchliffe is the second player to arrive from Kellamergh Park following the capture of winger Danny Lloyd.

Gannon, 47, has already agreed new deals with Ormson, Chris Smalley, Ryan Ellison, Adam Etches and John Marsden ahead of the first full season of his third spell in charge at County since replacing Neil Young in January.

Lewis Montrose, their player of the year in 2015-16, and fellow midfielder Glenn Rule have also signed up.

County – who finished ninth last season, 12 points adrift of the play-offs – will hope to mount a serious promotion challenge next term in their fourth consecutive season in the sixth tier of English football.

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