Matlock Town’s league season reaches its half way point on Saturday with the first ever meeting with Ramsbottom United at the Autoworld Arena.
The Gladiators sit 18th in the Evo-Stik Premier Division with just five wins secured so far, their latest match seeing Ilkeston FC record a narrow 1-0 victory in Erewash on Saturday.
Now joint bosses Dave Rushbury and Martin Foster want their players to put a poor first half of the season behind them and step up to the plate.
“It’s not been a good start for the club with personnel and managerial changes plus the points total of just 22 so far is not good enough,” said Rushbury.
“But I believe we’re now getting some stability in there and from Saturday, when the second part of the season gets under way, our season must now get going properly for we have to ensure we maintain our league status and also try to head towards mid-table if we can.
“So really the lads here are playing for their futures at the club.”
Three league defeats on the trot have seen Town slide back into the relegation picture with Rushbury admitting that when he examined the fixture list, he knew the current set of fixtures would probably prove to be problematic.
“We’ve had a run of games against some top sides but really we don’t mind playing them. It’s a pity were haven’t had a full squad to pick from but that’s life,” he said.
“We know Ramsbottom will be a good side, they’re not up there for nothing. Curzon Ashton are the best side we’ve faced by a long shot where we were well beaten but we played well against Skelmersdale who came to us as clear league leaders.
“Now we’re getting close to having more of our contracted players available after injury so we’ll be using the Ramsbottom game as a marker for the 23 league matches that follow.”
On the balance of play Matlock probably deserved a point from their visit to Ilkeston last weekend, but an early James Reid strike proved to be decisive.
Rushbury said: “The players looked comfortable on Saturday and the key to being successful is to have a stable platform with strong centre backs and a strong central midfield.
“The only thing lacking was that extra bit of flair and creativity in the final third, but we played some great football and played well enough to win it, but just lacking that bit of punch up front. The two young lads didn’t disgrace themselves but lacked the thrust where it mattered.”
Danny Holland was ruled out with a swollen knee so with goals already being in short supply for Matlock, losing their top scorer was a crushing blow. Holland should be fit to return against Ramsbottom, as should midfielder Niall McManus whose ankle injury has seen him miss the last two games.
A bonus to emerge from the weekend was the cameo 15-minute show from Foster, his first appearance after breaking a leg in the pre-season friendly at Handsworth Parramore in July.
“Fozzie’s been working hard to get back as he knew he might be needed,” said Rushbury.
Winger Jason Stokes will hopefully be back in action within the next two to three weeks after five weeks out with an ankle injury sustained during the 3-0 home win against Frickley Athletic.
Matlock are at home again on Wednesday when Buxton visit in the third round of the Derbyshire Senior Cup.
The Gladiators’ cup form this term is awful with exits at the first hurdle in all three of the other knockout competitions, the FA Cup, FA Trophy and Doodson Sport League Cup.
Rushbury added: “It’ll be a difficult game but we’re at home in a local derby. Buxton will want to ruffle our feathers and show why they’re so high in the league. But we’ll not treat the game lightly, we want to progress and will relish the challenge.”
Suspensions will hit Matlock in both of these next two matches with Joe Leesley sitting out the Ramsbottom clash and Adam Yates missing against the Bucks.