Alarm bells jangled loudly around Matlock Town’s Autoworld Arena during and after Saturday’s 4-2 home defeat by relegation rivals Trafford.
The Manchester club had collected a meagre two out of the previous 33 points on offer and must have thought Christmas had come five days early as the Gladiators gift wrapped a three point present.
Town joint boss Dave Rushbury labelled his side’s defending as ‘schoolboy’, adding: “If we had defended correctly with everyone doing their jobs the points would have been ours.”
Shelton Payne put Matlock to the sword with a hat-trick adding to an easy Steve Mason goal and three out of the four goals conceded could and should have been prevented.
“You just can’t defend like that and expect to win football games,” Rushbury rapped.
“People are saying we need more going forward and they have a point but we have to stop goals going in against us as well.
“For the first goal their lad, and not a particularly big lad at that, has been given a free header. Then the wall parts for the second before we get caught out through a lack of concentration defending a ball played down the centre for the third. The last goal wasn’t a bad one but basically we’ve thrown the game away.”
After conceding two in the opening 15 minutes Matlock roared back by the half hour mark scoring a brace inside 90 seconds to level.
Rushbury added: “If we could have scored again it would have probably been different as they were reeling, but they stayed in the game and we couldn’t maintain our momentum into the second-half.”
Trafford remained in the relegation zone despite the win with Matlock hovering precariously one place above the bottom four.
Tough trips to Buxton on Boxing Day and Ashton United on Sunday (1 pm) follow and given their poor performance on Saturday they will travel north on both occasions as underdogs.
Buxton will be seeking revenge for a 2-0 Derbyshire Senior Cup defeat at The Autoworld Arena earlier this month when Corey Gregory’s brace proved to be decisive.
Matlock have not beaten Ashton since a 2-0 win at Hurst Cross in 2009/10.
Adam Yates missed the Trafford defeat following a bout of food poisoning and is likely to return to the line up for the festive fixtures.
A big improvement in performance and commitment will be required for Matlock to spring a Christmas surprise in either game.
Meanwhile, Town will travel to Conference Premier side Alfreton Town in the quarter-finals of the Derbyshire Senior Cup on Tuesday, January 13.
Matlock were 3-1 winners when the sides last met in the competition in December 2009 when the Gladiators went on to lift the trophy by beating Belper Town 2-0 at Pride Park.