The league table might look depressing reading for Matlock Town fans as their side lie second bottom and four points from safety but joint interim boss Dave Rushbury offered some words of encouragement and fight for the tough battle that lies ahead.
Rushbury and veteran midfielder Martin Foster were asked to take control of team affairs after the resignations of Mark Atkins and Nick Buxton following the 4-0 home defeat by Halesowen Town last Saturday.
The new era began with another defeat, their fourth on the trot in the league, when Grantham came from behind to win 2-1 in Lincolnshire on Tuesday evening, but Rushbury says he saw enough in the better performance to suggest that Matlock can get out of trouble.
“If we play like we did tonight we won’t be at the bottom of the league, we have to convert that kind of performance by finishing a game off at 1-0 or 1-1”.
Jamie Yates’ 29th minute header gave Matlock the lead which lasted until the 67th minute when Michael Towey levelled, then Grantham completed their fightback thanks to substitute Connor Johnson ten minutes afterwards.
“We set the team up to give a reaction after Saturday and in the first half I thought we were outstanding” Rushbury added.
“We looked solid at the back, passed the ball crisply and well and landed on the second balls, looking dangerous when we went forward. At set pieces our defending was excellent against a side who rely heavily on their set plays. We were okay until twenty minutes into the second half and we have to give the Grantham management credit. They realized they had to change it, it wasn’t quite the system which affected us but the change in personnel with the fresh legs.”
Rushbury says he and Foster have already identified a problem which needs speedy rectification.
“The latter part of the second half unfortunately showed for me our lack of both mental and physical fitness in certain areas. That’s down to conditioning and we need to address that first and foremost. We’ve a young squad that needs to learn to see games through.”
Rushbury gave little away as he talked about the vacant manager’s post at the Autoworld Arena.
“The club are advertising it and however long they decide before interviews take place, Martin and me are doing a practical interview if you like. Can we get a reaction out of the lads in every game we play? Can we play to a system that earns us the points we need? Can we credit ourselves for Matlock Town going forward?”
Injuries to experienced players continue to play a key part in the Gladiators current problems.
Defenders Micky Harcourt (knee) and David Haggerty (leg) are expected to be missing for at least the next two weeks and captain Liam Needham has been given the same recovery period after collecting a leg injury in the Halesowen defeat which forced him off at the interval. Jason Stokes was bitten on his knee in the lead up to last weekend’s game which became both infected and swollen and he missed both the Halesowen and Grantham matches. He is rated doubtful for Saturday’s trip to Witton Albion.
The Northwich based outfit are actually on a worse run of form than Matlock having lost their last six league games. But they still hold a five points advantage over Matlock as they sit in 18th spot having played a game more.
Since the Albion returned to the Premier Division as First Division North play off winners in May 2012, Matlock have been beaten in each of the four tussles between the clubs, so there would be no better time than Saturday for Town to end that sequence and gain a much needed second league win of the campaign.