Goalkeeper Ben Hinchliffe has agreed a new deal to remain with Vanarama National League North club Stockport County until the end of next season.
Hinchcliffe has been in outstanding form during the current campaign, keeping nine clean sheets so far.
Last season he became County’s most successful keeper in two decades as he made a total of seventeen shut-outs as the Hatters missed out on the National League North play-offs by just one goal.
Following four successive play-off campaigns with AFC Fylde, Hinchcliffe joined the Hatters in May 2016 and has been the regular number one since then, clocking up his eightieth appearance.
Hinchcliffe started his career as a youngster at Preston North End before spells at Derby County, Oxford United, Bamber Bridge and Northwich Victoria.
County boss Jim Gannon told his club`s official website: “I’m delighted that Ben has agreed to a contract extension. I still believe he has been one of our best signings in recent years and brought a great deal of stability to a position that had been a huge problem for previous managers, especially our last manager Neil Young.
“Since signing, Ben has been one of our most consistent performers over my time at the club and I feel he remains one of the top goalkeepers at this level. During last season the defensive stats of the team were the best in the division, and I feel that Ben has maintained his own high standards this season.
“Despite a demanding daytime job and young family he has a very professional attitude to playing for County, his conditioning, athleticism and ability shows that he trains really hard in the gym as well as at the club. It is that commitment and hard work which has meant he has kept improving himself, and his game, to keep pace with the increasingly demanding playing environment at National North.”
Hinchcliffe is only the second part-time player to be retained by Gannon so far, but the manager says he had no hesitation in agreeing the deal: “Similar to Matty Warburton, we do not feel that any training restrictions will hinder his positive contribution to the team, and we feel that his qualities can be further maintained and improved within our new training structures.”
Hinchcliffe now joins Sam Minihan, Dan Cowan, Jimmy Ball, Adam Thomas, Matty Warburton and Darren Stephenson in signing up for next season. Gannon added: “Those players, along with the young professionals at the club provide great confidence and excitement that we have some very good performers with great potential to develop and improve further, although there is a lot more work to be done.
“During this demanding stage of the season it is difficult to plan and prepare many aspects required for the team and club in regard to future seasons, but that work has to be ongoing and will be done with great diligence and careful consideration for the future growth of the club. Talks remain ongoing with several other first team players as well as other targets for next season. I believe that much of the first team has made progress this season and there isn’t a need for a major overhaul, but we do need to improve.
“I’m conscious that in certain areas we need more commitment, strength, quality and experience that perhaps better full-time football orientated players might bring, so in tandem with our own players’ discussions there are ongoing talks with a new type of full-time target for the club that has been taking place. With the Board’s support I am looking to implementing some of those signings sooner than next summer, as there is much still to be played for this season”.