Matlock Town slumped unceremoniously into the bottom four following their third league defeat of the campaign at Nantwich Town in Cheshire on Saturday.
The old failings of not taking chances and not enough solid defending haunted the Gladiators once again, as well as having the likes of key defenders Micky Harcourt and David Haggerty on the injured list.
There is, however, a lot of hard work to be done to turn the unhealthy situation around.
Two goals from Aaron Burns and a third from tall winger Vinny Mukendi had ensured the game was out of Matlock’s reach by the 79th minute mark.
Jason Stokes pulled one back almost immediately but that was merely a goal of the consolation variety as the hosts saw the game out to take all three points.
Haggerty failed to recover from the leg injury he sustained in the FA Cup defeat to Ilkeston so Matlock went for a back three of Josh Meade, Adam Yates and Oscar Radford, and they also gave a debut in a five-man midfield to North Ferriby United loan signing Jamie Yates who operated wide on the left.
In a stale opening played out generally in the middle of the park, Matlock had the first glimmer of a chance on 13 minutes when Jamie Yates fired over the bar from the edge of the box.
Nantwich’s response was a crossfield pass aimed by a debutant of their own, Iain Howard, aimed for Mukendi but which wass superbly cut out by Joe Leesley.
Then on 29 minutes, Jon Kennedy saved superbly in clawing away an Adam Jones header. The former FC United centre-half was forced off with a nose injury almost immediately.
Six minutes later came the Nantwich breakthrough as in a sweet cross field move, Alex Meaney set up Burns to his left who crisply beat Kennedy with a diagonal strike.
Radford headed wide from a corner before Jamie Yates should have found the target on the stroke of half-time, lifting his shot over the bar when well placed.
The opening moments of the new half saw Danny Holland’s shot deflected wide but Nantwich built up a head of steam as they looked to double their advantage.
Howard saw his shot blocked and Mukendi’s effort was deflected wide.
The pressure was maintained from a corner which Matlock could simply not clear and in the scramble, defender Mat Bailey kept a clear head to feed Burns who netted from close range with 66 minutes on the clock.
There seemed to be no way back for Matlock now, but there could have been when Stokes burst through only to drag his shot wide with only goalkeeper Aaron Ashley to beat.
A reply then might have led to an interesting finish but it was Mukendiwho scored for the Dabbers from a similar situation with 11 minutes to play, keeping his cool to slot convincingly past the exposed Kennedy.
Stokes scored from 25 yards with a far more difficult attempt than the one he missed but by now the game was over.
An effort from Leon Osborne flew narrowly wide but by that point the match was in stoppage time and Nantwich were comfortable winners.
Saturday, September 20, 2014:
Nantwich: 1 Aaron Ashley 2 David Brown 3 Andy White 4 Mark Jones 5 Adam Jones (Kyle Blake 29) 6 Mat Bailey 7 Vinny Mukendi (Mark Winslade 79) 8 Iain Howard (Harry Clayton 79) 9 Aaron Burns 10 Max Harrop 11 Alex Meaney. Subs not used: Jordan Johnson, Cohen Bramall
Matlock: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 James Ashmore 3 Joe Leesley 4 Corey Gregory (Leon Osborne 75) 5 Adam Yates 6 Oscar Radford 7 Jason Stokes 8 Josh Meade 9 Danny Holland 10 Jamie Yates (Phil Roe 70) 11 Liam Needham (c). Subs not used: Sam Robinson, Alex Hewitt, Matty Leese
Att: 256 Ref: M Wilkes (Stourbridge)
Star Man: Liam Needham