Non-League Football: Bird plays it safe: Signing spree

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THE top match tomorrow in the GM Vauxhall Conference sees the leaders, Dover Athletic, entertain fourth-placed Halifax Town, who are enjoying their best start to a campaign for a decade.

Apart from Newport County, who folded during their first season in the Conference, every club relegated from the Football League has subsequently made the step back up again within two seasons. For Halifax, who are embarking on their second term outside the League, this is a crucial season - especially as they are maintaining a full- time playing staff.

In charge at The Shay is John Bird, the former York and Hartlepool manager. He has strengthened his squad with signings who have plenty of Football League experience, including the former Colne Dynamoes centre-forward, Dave Lancaster, a five-figure signing from Rochdale.

The same source provided another striker, Andy Flounders. Gary Worthington, whose father and grandfather played for Halifax, arrived from Exeter, and Andy Kiwomya, the elder brother of Chris of Ipswich, signed from Rotherham. The defender, Grant Leitch, joined from Blackpool, while the midfield muscle is provided by Kevin Langley, once of Everton.

''I've gone for proven players,' Bird said. A grant from the Football League helped Halifax pay for a full-time staff last season, but that source of funds has now gone. 'This is something of a make-or-break season for us,' Bird admitted.