Perilously placed in 19th spot, Matlock head to fellow strugglers Stocksbridge Park Steels on Saturday knowing a third successive defeat must be avoided at all costs.
Poor finishing and a defensive lapse meant that another relegation-haunted club in Eastwood Town left the Reynolds Stadium with a 1-0 smash and grab win last weekend.
And Steels prepared themselves for the Gladiators’ visit in the best possible fashion. Watched by Town chief Mark Atkins, the Yorkshire side earned their first home win of the campaign on Tuesday night, beating Rushall Olympic 3-0 and moving above Matlock.
There is just a point separating Saturday’s opponents, with the Gladiators having two games in hand.
Nathan Joynes scored twice following his move from Matlock on Friday, and ironically it was in the final third where Matlock’s problems chiefly surfaced against Eastwood.
“We dominated the game without making their goalkeeper work,” Atkins reflected.
”Our finishing was poor, there was a lack of concentration and I would go as far to say we were lazy going forward. That cost us the game.
“Eastwood had one chance and took it. I was disappointed with the way we allowed the ball to be put into our box.
“We were on top for virtually the whole game and okay going forward until the final third. But scoring goals is the be all and end all, it’s what football is all about.”
The Eastwood defeat, in which former Gladiators striker TJ Nightingale scored the decider, plus the win for Stocksbridge on Tuesday, puts more pressure on Matlock.
“It does put pressure on us,” Atkins admitted.
“But there’s no excuses, we’ve simply not been good enough to take the chances that have come our way in recent games.
“We’ve got to be able to handle the pressure but I remain confident that we still have enough quality to see us start picking up points to push us up the league.”
Atkins had also released another striker last week, albeit on loan as Shaun Tuton went to Belper Town.
“We’d had a hard training session when Nathan came to me and said he was packing in because of the stress of playing, then we found out he wanted to join Stocksbridge.
“With Shaun, Belper asked us if we’d got any spare strikers to help them as they had injury problems.
“Shaun wanted the games and playing for Belper will help him adjust to our league as it’s a different kettle of fish from what he’s been used to.
“He has to stay at Belper at least 14 days, then we can recall him at 24 hours notice. He’s still very much part of our plans.”
Bradley Grayson may be included in the squad at Stocksbridge after seven weeks out, with midfielder James Ashmore and winger Ben Algar being rated as “close” to a return by Atkins after absences of two months.
“It’s all about converting the chances into goals, once we get one we may go on and get three or four goals, we’ve also got Joe Leesley who has goals in him, but at 18 years old we’ve got to build up his physical strength, eventually I believe he’ll score plenty.” Atkins continued.
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Defender Luke Foster is also being released folowing the signing of Oscar Radford and the return to fitness of Micky Harcourt.
Matlock are back on home turf for the first of three successive home matches on Tuesday night against promotion chasing Chorley.
“Wherever teams are in the league doesn’t really matter because all games are important. Now we’ve really got to work at it and collect some points, starting on Saturday. I thought we’d turned a corner then we get the Eastwood result but I still believe in the players. Both games will be difficult, last year we beat Chorley 4-0 at home when they were top of the league. But it’s got to be about us. People have got to take their chance, they may only get one for if someone comes in and does well they will stay in the side.”