The honeymoon’s over and the hard work starts from now for new joint bosses Dave Rushbury and Martin Foster at Matlock Town.

Last week the pair were promoted from joint caretaker managers to be successors to Mark Atkins who resigned a month ago, but the thrill of leading their team in their first home game in full time charge turned out to be a nightmare as they crashed out of the FA Trophy to Halesowen Town in a home replay on Tuesday night.

The visitors won 4-0 to repeat the result of the league game at the Autoworld Arena exactly a month earlier.

Rushbury apologised to officials and fans before adding “That was a big disappointment after the past month or so, firstly financially to the Football Club. It would have been a real boost to be able to strengthen the squad with money available from a cup run. It is fairly obvious to Martin Foster and myself looking at the pattern of results over the past twenty or so games that either individual players or collectively as a group, the squad is unable to maintain the level of consistency to physically match the opposition when there’s two games a week.”

Having also departed the FA Cup at the first hurdle, the Gladiators have not gained one penny in prize money this term which puts extra pressure on the club as a whole.

“Due to financial constraints placed on the club by having eight contracted players, our hands are tied at the moment in terms of being able to strengthen and freshen a squad of players that for whatever reason are finding it difficult to maintain a level of consistency.”

But Rushbury and Foster had talks with senior club officials the night before Tuesday’s humiliation and there was some light at the end of the tunnel as Rushbury revealed.

“The Board have assured Martin Foster and myself that they will do everything possible to make funds available over the next four to six weeks so we can bring in some new faces.”

To this end, it might be the end of the road at Matlock for some of those contracted players.

“In order to do this we will have to place a number of the contracted players on the transfer list or make them available for loan” Rushbury continued. “It’s then up to Martin and me to bring in players who are capable of wearing the Matlock Town shirt and playing at this level with an enthusiasm and willingness to represent this football club.”

Having been the better side for much of the first tie at Halesowen, the need for a replay should not have presented itself. Danny Holland put Matlock ahead shortly after the interval and Yeltz custodian Matthew Sergeant was given star rating by the hosts for keeping Matlock out. But one moment’s lack of concentration, five minutes from time led to Kristian Green scrambling home the equalizer. It proved to be a pivotal moment.

“Since the last ten minutes on Saturday we’ve had an absolute nightmare” Rushbury admitted. ” On Tuesday we didn’t seem the same team as on Saturday. Is it the pats on the back that make the boxer softer, not the punches he receives in the fight?”

League leaders Skelmersdale United, with an eight points advantage of second placed Buxton visit the Autoworld Arena on Saturday before Matlock host Ilkeston in the Doodson Cup on Tuesday.

“We’ve had a good hiding and fully deserved it” said Rushbury. “Are we going to react in a positive manner or are we going to let another game slide away? The players have to do it themselves, we can set them up and put them in the right position to turn things around but at the end of the day they step over that white line. So here’s a challenge we’ll be putting to the players in the next six games. Get the same points haul (ten) in the league in these six games as you got in the last six, no matter how it comes. That will be an outstanding feat and worth a pat on the back!”

Both Danny Holland and Micky Harcourt picked up knee injuries on Tuesday and are rated doubtful while Phil Roe, Jason Stokes and Liam Needham again will miss out. Matlock might just need those reinforcements sooner than later!

They will visit Stamford in a rearranged league meeting on Saturday week.

Ian Richardson

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