Matlock boss Mark Hume will probably be more concerned about his side’s visit to basement club Ramsbottom United than the trip to play-off chasing Stourbridge on Monday night, given the Gladiators’ results so far this season.
The latest in a long line of poor results against struggling sides came last Saturday when Matlock succumbed to a deserved 2-0 defeat at Stamford, earning the Daniels a league double over Hume’s men and seeing them climb out of the bottom four.
Just four days earlier ten man Matlock had battled superbly to earn a fully-warranted point in a 1-1 draw at home to Nantwich Town, who beat Conference National Dover Athletic to reach the FA Trophy semi-finals on Saturday.
“The players must think they’re better than they are, it’s got to be a mental thing,” said a frustrated Hume.
“I make it now 23 points we’ve dropped against teams who‘ve been 18th or below when we’ve played them. Even if we’d got, say, 13 of those points we’d be in a healthy position in the table.
“Some of the players have to be stronger both physically and mentally. The lower sides are showing more fight and when we go over that white line against these sides we’ve got to stand up and be counted.
“If we were losing games to the likes of Blyth, Salford and Nantwich you’d put your hands up and accept it a little more easily, but losing to the bottom sides is hard to take.”
Looking back on the Stamford defeat, Hume added: “We didn’t play the first-half correctly. We were weak, and although we were down on troops, there’s no excuses, the team we put out was strong enough to have done better.
“In every game we’ve played this season we’ve had enough good players to have been capable of beating the other side. They’re letting the club down, the fans down and me down as I’ve shown so much faith in them.”
Hume says that the rest of the season is important for a number of players as he looks ahead to next term.
He added: “There’s five or six that we have cemented in for next season, they want to be here as we aim to progress.
“It also means we’re better off than this time last year when we had to concentrate on avoiding relegation and then begin planning with a lot less to work with.
“Now we have to add to those five or six, some of the current lads can be part of that provided they show me they mean business for the rest of the campaign.
“I’m out watching games and talking with clubs about loans and I’ll be putting some seven day notices in with a view to looking at players this season for next year.
“We need more players with a stronger mentality, those that can go out there and sort things out for themselves without us having to keep shouting from the bench. They should be geeing each other up out there if their mate’s not doing his job.”
The postponement of Tuesday’s home meeting with Stourbridge due to a waterlogged pitch means that both Adam Yates and Laurie Wilson must complete their two match bans this weekend.
Ben Algar remains a doubt as he recovers from a hamstring problem, while Craig Nelthorpe who replaced Algar in the number three shirt came off with a similar complaint at Stamford. Jake Orrell could return though after being out with a thigh injury.
So the Ramsbottom game and solving the enigma of poor results against the strugglers remains Hume’s main immediate concern.
He said: “They’ve got to go there and show character, the potential’s there and I’m like a broken record in that I keep telling them it’s a mentality thing. Look how well they played at home to Blyth in the FA Trophy, and away at Salford and Nantwich in the league, they have to treat it as if they’re playing the likes of Salford and say to themselves they have to be better than the man who’s up against them and drive him into the ground.
“To be perfectly honest it worries me more when we play the so called lesser sides, I’m generally more relaxed when we come up against one of the top clubs.”
The Town chief reiterated the importance of a strong end to the season to prepare for the 2016/17 campaign.
He added: “I don’t want Matlock Town to finish constantly in the middle of the table, I’m no Steady Eddie as a manager, I want us to push on and not be run of the mill. I’ve won this league both as a player and as an assistant manager and I want to be successful as a manager by us competing up there.
“I’m looking to getting a really good squad together, another central defender would be good to go alongside what we already have in Tom Burgin and Adam Yates while we’re all aware we need that goalscorer, so I’ll be after a couple of strikers to complement the forward players we have.”