Matlock Town’s 3-2 Boxing Day defeat at Buxton saw the Gladiators slide into the relegation places in the Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division and it brought a chillingly blunt assessment from joint boss Dave Rushbury.
Matlock were 2-0 up but eventually lost to their promotion-hopeful hosts, and that left Rushbury in an unforgiving mood ahead of another big local derby against Belper on New Year’s Day.
“We’re in the bottom four because we deserve to be. It’s down to some players here not fulfilling their potential and being on a cushy number. That has to change,” he said.
That remark suggests forthcoming player movement in and out of the Autoworld Arena but getting the men they want is proving to be tricky for Rushbury and co-boss Martin Foster.
“Martin and I have made lots and lots of phone calls, we’re trying to bring in quality players,” added Rushbury.
“We’ve made enquiries about four good players and are awaiting responses. It’s now time to get quality rather than quantity, but some may have to go if we are to bring in these new players.”
It looks doubtful whether there will be any movement prior to the New Year’s Day clash with bottom club Belper Town and the home meeting with Grantham Town on Saturday.
These matches present an opportunity for Matlock to end a barren run of just one point from the last 18 since a 1-0 win at Stamford in mid-November.
In fact most of 2014 has been unrewarding for Matlock.
After a 3-1 win at Ilkeston on March 8, Matlock won just one more league game in 2013/14, that form continuing this season in which they have managed just five league victories in 25 attempts.
Rushbury said: “We’ve got to get our heads up as we start the new year with two games coming quickly together.
“Before the Trafford game we were looking at nine, maybe ten points from the next five matches. Well we’ve lost the first two and the Ashton game was off on Sunday, so now ideally we need six points this week. We must not be beaten.”
The defeat at Buxton was especially hard to take as goals from Corey Gregory and Micky Harcourt had Town two goals ahead inside 24 minutes.
But Rushbury says they the events at the Silverlands were typical of what has happened throughout most of 2014.
“We got ourselves in an excellent position but could not see it through to half time with a clean sheet and then afterwards to the end.
“We haven’t the right type of leadership on the pitch to ensure we see things through. It was the same the week before. We’re trying to play attractive football and have started scoring more goals but it’s also shown up our weaknesses.
“Now we’ve got to roll our sleeves up, learn quickly and get ourselves out of trouble. We capitulated, we dropped too deep and got scared. Certain individuals are cracking under the pressure and that’s down to both fitness and mental capacity.”
Midfielder Niall McManus will miss both games due to a pre arranged family holiday prior to him joining Matlock, so club skipper Liam Needham, who played for the last quarter of the Buxton defeat is likely to make his first start under Rushbury and Foster. Goalkeeper Jon Kennedy picked up a hip injury at Buxton and will be fit.
Sunday saw a second late postponement of the season on their travels for Matlock, the clash at Ashton United being the victim of a frozen pitch as Matlock arrived at Hurst Cross.
On this occasion match referee Darren Strain made the correct decision, this coming after a disputed late call off at Blyth Spartans a fortnight earlier.
“We feel a decision should have been made far earlier given the road conditions and players risking their safety to get to the game so it turned out to be a wasted day for them,” said Rushbury.