If they didn’t already, Dave Rushbury and Martin Foster may now recognise the size of the task that faces them in reviving Matlock Town’s fortunes.

Although defeats in their last two league matches, 3-0 at title chasing Curzon Ashton on Saturday and a 2-1 home reverse to Rushall Olympic on Tuesday night have not worsened their 17th spot in the Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division table, they will be aware that other clubs have made ground on them, particularly Witton Albion who have beaten high fliers Ashton United and Buxton at the same time.

So Matlock now have a real battle on their hands to stay out of the dreaded bottom four and with play off chasing Ilkeston and Ramsbottom United to play in their next two fixtures, they must definitely improve.

Rushbury believes that all five goals conceded in the last week could and should have been avoided.

“We’ve got to stop gifting the opposition goals and basically grow up” Rushbury snapped. “We conceded two goals from set pieces on Saturday, situations we’d been working on and that’s not good enough. Then we concede another from a corner for Rushall’s equalizer. We defended sloppily for the penalty at Curzon and what can you say about Rushall’s winner? It was an absolute gift!”

Certainly Matlock can’t afford to be generous in defence given their scoring problems, having only netted three times in the past four league matches.

At Curzon Rushbury said Matlock were beaten by the better side.

“There’s no doubt they were worth the win, we were in the game for an hour but we didn’t really create anything and then as we’ve said, our defending was shocking” Rushbury continued. “I was happier on Tuesday, once we got things right after a slow start. Once we got in gear we began to look dangerous but the disappointment, apart from the manner in which we conceded, was that we didn’t match them for enthusiasm and work rate and that’s something you simply have to do at this level. You have to do the ugly things first before you can earn the right to play. Having got the lead we should have been able to protect it better and even build on it, but we weren’t disappointed with our general second half performance.”

Rushbury and Foster could not hide their frustration and anger over the 70th minute controversy which in the end, played a pivotal part in the destination of the points.

“We were undeniably robbed of a penalty and a goal, the ball was over the line from Danny’s header and then the defender’s pulled the ball back with his hands. The referee and linesman interpreted the incident totally differently to us, the crowd and even the opposition bench. It’s very disappointing but we have to live with it and move on” said Rushbury, with Foster adding “That was a game changer, the score was 1-1, they would have been down to ten men and a goal or a penalty could have put us 2-1 in front. and probably in a great position to go on and win it.”

Instead within four minutes a defensive howler handed Rushall the win meaning now Matlock travel to the New Manor Ground at the weekend in desperate need of points against a side who has beaten them in two of the three matches between the clubs already this season at the Autoworld Arena.

The Gladiators will be clear underdogs for the first time in a league match since Ilkeston was promoted to the Premier Division at the end of the 2011/12 campaign. Matlock achieved a league double over the Robins last season and took four out of six points on offer during 2012/13. It is in cup competitions where Kevin Wilson’s men have dominated. After a 0-0 league draw at Matlock in September, goals from Rob Duffy and Kane Richards cancelled out Corey Gregory’s early strike in the FA Cup tie a week later. Then last week, a Michael Williams goal earned Ilkeston a 1-0 win in the Doodson Sports League Cup when both clubs fielded youthful sides.

Ilkeston won 4-1 at runaway leaders Skelmersdale United last weekend, so Matlock’s bosses know they face a huge task if they are to keep their unbeaten league run against Ilkeston going.

“They’re a very good, strong and very fit team with a plethora of good players who can train every day” said Rushbury. “They’ve got the Indian sign over us so far this season but we must go there, work hard and cut out the mistakes to try and bring home a good result. We’ll reassess how our lads are before then and work on our mistakes, but we know we’ll have to play well on the day.”

That reassessment will mean checking on midfielder Niall McManus who missed the Rushall game with a bang on his foot sustained last weekend and defender Oscar Radford, who has come off both matches as he recovers from injury after his suspension.

“I think fans should know that both Jon Kennedy and Joe Leesley turned out on Tuesday despite being ill. Joe only lasted twenty odd minutes but Kendo kept on going. Both had a sickness and diahorrea virus which hopefully will clear up for Saturday.”

Club captain Liam Needham and former Ilkeston winger Jason Stokes who both have ankle injuries, are in rehabilitation but will not be fit for the clash at the New Manor Ground.

Matlock have been drawn against divisional rivals for the third time in a cup competition this season. After facing Ilkeston in the FA Cup and Halesowen Town in the FA Trophy, Buxton visit the Autoworld Arena in the third round of the Derbyshire Senior Cup on Wednesday December 10.

Ian Richardson

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