Joint Matlock Town manager Dave Rushbury was a relatively happy man despite Tuesday night’s Doodson Sports League Cup exit to Ilkeston.
An early strike from Michael Williams knocked a youthful looking Gladiators side out who came up against an Ilkeston line-up that also relied heavily on youth.
It was the third time this season Matlock have exited a cup competition at the first hurdle and came just days after Danny Holland had given them a rare away win in the league at Stamford.
Rushbury said: “We put out a young side and said to them can you grab a shirt? At half time we would probably have said no, we made Ilkeston who are a good side look better by not pressing them.
“We stood off them and sides of that quality will pass the ball around you. They did, they scored and in the end it proved decisive. But once we got hold of the game we were the better side and in the second half Jon Kennedy had very little to do.
“The back three were magnificent, it was both a solid and a positive second half performance. We didn’t create very much at all in the first half but we looked more dangerous after the interval.
“These young lads will need experienced lads to come in alongside them and they’ll develop. The crowd too were very supportive, I think they understood what we were trying to do.”
A pattern ran through the second half on Tuesday and during most of the Stamford win. Matlock need to be more clinical in front of goal.
“But the killer instinct needs to be in the whole team, not in just two or three of them,” added Rushbury.
“Players are sometimes slow to react and that can be the difference between scoring a goal or not. Good teams finish off their chances.
“We’re not as clinical as we’d all like to be, but it’s up to us as managers and the lads to develop that and it’ll take time.
“Had we taken our chances at Stamford we wouldn’t have been sweating on Jon Kennedy’s penalty save and fine stops at the end to ensure our win.”
Changes are certain at Curzon where Oscar Radford, Micky Harcourt and Danny Holland should all return, but Corey Gregory will be missing for two to three weeks with shoulder ligament damage which forced his 16th minute withdrawal at Stamford.
Striker Andre Johnson (19) has joined the Gladiators after scoring 16 goals for Worksop Town in the NCEL Premier Division so far this season. Johnson, who is at Matlock on a dual registration basis, was formerly at Derby County and started his first game for the Gladiators in midweek.