MANAGER Alan Gillespie has stunned St. Helens Town fans by resigning from his position a week before the start of the league season.

He spent two solid years at the helm, following relegation from the NW Counties’ Premier Division at the end of the 2014/15 season, only just missing out on the play-offs in his first season before ending last season in mid-table.

Well-respected at the club and throughout the Hallmark Security League, his departure comes as a huge blow to the club, who have moved quickly to appoint his popular assistant Lee Jenkinson to the post and he will be supported by coach Nick Robinson.

Jenkinson was on holiday when the news broke, but he had no hesitation in accepting the position and Robinson took charge of a somewhat depleted squad for the final pre-season warm-up game, away to Vauxhall Motors on Saturday.

Town, who eventually went down 5-1, were well in contention for the first hour and equalised through the excellent Joel Douglas, who was by some way the outstanding player on the pitch.

He netted after 55 minutes, following good work by Luke Edwards, who was unlucky not to score himself, but Douglas finished well from the rebound.

However, a spectacular goal six minutes later from 25 yards out put the home side back in front and a defensive howler immediately from the re-start put the game out of Town’s reach and a further two goals in the closing minutes rubbed further salt in the wounds to give Town an unwanted blank pre-season record of five defeats from five games.

League fixtures begin on Saturday with a trip to New Mills.

The Derbyshire club suffered a second successive relegation last season, having spent five seasons in the Evo-stik Division 1 (South) before falling right through the Hallmark Security Premier League at the first attempt.

However, the last league meeting between the sides at Church Lane was a humiliating 9-0 thumping for Town in March 2011, so there is a big score to settle on Saturday.

The following Thursday sees a first home game at Ruskin Drive when new club Abbey Hulton United from the Potteries are the visitors, kick-off at 7.45pm.

At this stage, the game is subject to the issue of a ground grading certificate, as at the time of writing, some necessary works are still outstanding.

If the ground is not deemed fit, the fixture could be reversed, or transferred to Ashton Town’s ground.