Joint-boss Craig Hopkins is still focused on a play-off place for his Matlock Town side, despite a faltering run which has seen them pick up only two points from the last 12 on offer.
Tuesday’s 0-0 draw at home to Coalville Town followed a 5-3 defeat at play-off rivals Stourbridge at the weekend and Matlock now lie in seventh spot but still in contention to finish in the top five come the end of the season.
They have 11 league games left, starting with Saturday’s visit of Stafford Rangers, and Hopkins and fellow joint-boss Glenn Kirkwood have set their players a challenge.
“Our mini-season starts on Saturday, we’ll need probably eight wins from those games to make the play-offs although seven may be enough depending on other results,” said Hopkins.
“We’re in with a chance, it’ll be difficult admittedly but it’s also do-able, we’re more than capable of going on a run.”
Matlock have mostly stuttered their way through their last four games and fans will be hoping it is just a hiccup in what has been a memorable season so far.
A strong league showing plus outstanding performances in both the FA Cup and FA Trophy, and a Derbyshire Senior Cup Final appearance, have left fans thrilled, although recent performances suggest the Gladiators have become victims of their own success.
“The lads have played 52/53 games and they have been incredible - many are only young and not used to it with full time jobs,” Hopkins explained.
“They’ve all worked so hard from mid-June when we started training until now and now they’re in a position where they’re in with a chance of a play-off place.
“We’ll rest up now for Saturday and we’ll be doing our best as we have all season to get the win, Then with no midweek game next week it’s the ideal chance for the lads to rest up, relax and be ready for the game at Ashton at the weekend.”
Stafford are a hard working and robust side who comfortably beat Town 2-0 on their home ground in December.
“Stafford are a good side and would probably be up there challenging for the play-offs themselves had they made a better start to the season,” Hopkins warned. “We know what to expect from them and must be ready.”
Niall McManus will miss the Stafford game through suspension after being sent off for two bookable offences at Stourbridge which Hopkins described as ‘a funny game’. The Glassboys led 4-3 after an amazing first-half before scoring the only goal after half-time to clinch victory.
Hopkins said: “You normally get one goal from 30 odd yards against you in a season, not two in ten minutes. The pleasing aspect was that we kept coming back, at 70 minutes we were on top and had the pressure but couldn’t get the equaliser. We battled, we fought but then their fifth goal and the sending off knocked the stuffing out of us.
“We weren’t at all happy with the officials, we didn’t appear to get any decisions in the game at all and it made it very difficult for us as every one seemed to go Stourbridge’s way and it led to us becoming increasingly frustrated as the game went.
It was frustration again on Tuesday against Coalville.
Hopkins said: “We started really well at a tempo, for 10 to 15 minutes we played some good football but again needed to stick a chance away. We had nearly all of the play in the second-half, we had three or four half chances which came from pressure more than anything else.
“There was no finishing touch, we’ve played better and lost, we’ve played worse and won, it’s something you have to accept.”