PHIL Simkin has labelled new arrival Ben Watson his “gold-plated signing”.

The former Exeter City striker becomes the Magpies’ second capture of the close season, following in the footsteps of gloveman Jason Matthews.

And after fighting off stiff competition for the 26-year-old’s signature, the county town boss was clearly over the moon.

He told Echosport: “He is one we have been after for a while but we’ve finally got him and I’m delighted.

“He is someone I have tracked for two-and-a-half seasons. I tried to get him on loan when he was at Exeter but he ended up at Eastbourne.

“The chairman (Shaun Hearn) and I have had to work really hard and we are absolutely delighted to get him.

“He is a quality front player and with the way we play, and the chances we create, I would like to think he will be a big success.

“Up front is the hardest position to fill so to get someone of Ben’s quality, who doesn’t live far away in Exeter, is a massive bonus.

“It’s not the end of our business though. There are still one or two irons in the fire but Ben was the gold-plated singing we were after. He is a proven goal-scorer at this level and above.”

Simkin also took time to acknowledge the role played by former loanee Tom Nichols in persuading Watson to put pen to paper on a one-year deal.

He added: “Ben has three years of Football League experience and there were a lot of clubs in for him. We weren’t the best offer he had financially but we sold it to him.

“In fact, Tom Nichols also sold it to him. It was Tom who got me his number initially and he told Ben about the way we play and how good a club we are, so he was a big help in getting him here.”

Following his release from the Grecians in May 2011, Watson joined Blue Square Bet South outfit Eastbourne Borough.

And last season the hitman scored 14 goals for the Sports, including one against the Magpies in a 3-0 win at the Avenue Stadium.

Prior to his move into the professional game, Watson started his career as a trainee at Brighton & Hove Albion before enjoying fruitful spells at Bognor Regis and Grays Athletic.