“Let’s be positive and enjoy ourselves” is the message from joint boss Dave Rushbury ahead of a five game festive programme which begins with Saturday’s crucial battle with fellow strugglers Trafford at the Autoworld Arena.

Rushbury has even instructed the Matlock squad to turn up wearing festive gear and has called upon club officials and fans to follow suit.

“Let’s all embrace the Christmas spirit and make Saturday a fun and really enjoyable day” said Rushbury.

Enjoyment, of course, will come from a first league win in five outings in which, even at the mid point of the season is vital for both sides. Trafford are in second bottom spot, with Matlock three places higher and six points better off, both teams having played twenty three matches.

But Rushbury wants to relieve any pressure his team might be feeling under as they aim to move away from the relegation zone.

“It’s a six pointer but it’s still relatively early in the season. Put it this way I wouldn’t want to go into the last game of the season wanting a positive result to stay
in the league. It’s another football match that we can go and win, there’s no point whatsoever in piling pressure on anyone. We want to go out there on Saturday, play well, express ourselves and enjoy it. Hopefully we can collect all three points. The key this season is to keep away from the relegation area but also look to the future.”

While the late postponement of last Saturday’s game at Blyth Spartans was frustrating, with referee Helen Byrne calling the game off at 1.50 pm after Matlock had made the long trip north, Rushbury again saw a silver lining.

“It was frustrating for we were ready for Blyth both tactically and in terms of personnel. The lads felt good and confident of getting a good result. But it wasn’t to be and the approach was to make light of it. In fact the lads got a lot out of it, they went down to the beach, worked hard but enjoyed themselves. It was tough, they were made to sweat a lot but team spirit which was already great went up by about 20%.”

At least the call off gave Matlock a ten day break following their 2-0 home win over Buxton in the Derbyshire Senior Cup in midweek. Now they have a busy couple of weeks. Visits to Buxton on Boxing Day and Ashton United on Sunday week follow the Trafford clash before Belper Town on New Years Day and Grantham Town on Saturday January 3 visit the Autoworld Arena.

“The break’s been good, some of the other teams have been playing which evens the games played totals up a bit. We’ve a variety of games coming up, we’re not setting any targets but just taking each game as it comes and the squad’s ready to get stuck in.”

Club captain ~Liam Needham should return, most likely from the substitutes bench during the next week after a knee injury which has seen him out of action since the beginning of October.

Meanwhile former boss Mark Atkins is back in work having been appointed as Assistant Manager at one of his former clubs, Conference North outfit Stalybridge Celtic.

“Mark’s had a break but we knew it wouldn’t be long before became back” said Rushbury. “We’re all really pleased for him, he’s well capable of working at that level and a lot higher.”

Dave Rushbury heaped praise on his younger managerial partner Martin Foster for the “huge contribution” he has made since the pair took over from former boss Mark Atkins earlier this season.

Foster and Rushbury initially took temporary charge after Atkins resigned on October 4 but were named as Atkins’ successors in joint roles four weeks later.

Rushbury (58) has worked alongside Foster (37) in the latter’s first managerial post.

“He’s the key to how we operate” Rushbury explained. “He’s been an absolute rock both on and off the field. He’s worked tirelessly on his fitness and also looked at the opposition as well as speaking with a lot of players. He’s been like a Duracell battery, showing also just the exact physical and mental approach to get back playing if needed.”

Foster fractured a leg in a pre season match at Handsworth Parramore in July but fought his way back to fitness to make a couple of recent cameo appearances as a substitute recently.

“He’s been a positive change for us both times he’s come on” Rushbury added. “He’s taken on the mantle of playing because he has that hunger still to do it. But he’s there in a supportive role to the lads rather than saying he’s still a player. The good thing is that the lads respect him as a person and for his ability and that’s important.”

Ian Richardson

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