Gladiators’ joint boss Craig Hopkins says Matlock were “masters of their own downfall” as they conceded two late goals to relinquish a vital lead and lose at strugglers Halesowen last Saturday.
Top scorer Shaun Harrad and winger Ted Cribley had netted to put Matlock within sight of a morale-boosting victory only for the hosts to level on 88 minutes and add a winner in added time.
It is the fifth successive game that Matlock have conceded three goals and they have now conceded three or more goals in 15 league and cup outings so far this term.
“Having had time to dissect the result I thought without being brilliant we were much the better side for 87 minutes,” said Hopkins.
“We were the more threatening in attack on a bobbly pitch until those last few minutes and it shocked us.
“Our lack of nous to see out the game was unbelievable. In those last few minutes we were screaming at players to get in certain positions.
“The players needed us out there to hold their hands and not to be able to think for themselves was unbelievable.
“At 2-1 up away from home with five minutes left it’s a matter of keeping your shape and we expected experienced players to have known better.”
Before their late collapse, Hopkins accepted that Matlock should have put the game to bed.
“We probably should have scored more. Shaun Harrad had a simple chance that he put over the bar and Dwayne Wiley’s put a free header wide,” he added.
“Halesowen have had four shots on target and scored three but the striking thing is our inability to see the game out.”
The Gladiators missed three important players down the spine of their side with injury and illness ruling out goalkeeper Phil Barnes and captain Adam Yates respectively, while midfielder Joe Doyle-Charles was serving a one match ban following his red card against Witton Albion a week earlier.
He added: “We had three big players missing and I believe if we’d had one of them in we wouldn’t have lost and had all three been available we’d have won.
“Lee Bennett was also out, he didn’t show up for the bus, he’d not answered phone calls and texts and basically he’s gone AWOL. He’s let everyone down.”
Barnes, Yates and Doyle-Charles are all expected to return for this weekend’s home meeting against play-off chasing Ashton United, a game where Matlock on current form will be clear underdogs.
“But we all know what football’s like,” Hopkins said, “Now we’re creating chances and scoring goals after struggling in that department earlier in the season. “Obviously it’s at the other end where we’ve got to improve. There were three mistakes leading up to Halesowen’s first goal, after that we generally defended well until those last few minutes and I can’t remember Jordan Pierrepont making a save in that period.
“But I repeat, we didn’t see the game out, the top sides like Altrincham, Ashton, Warrington and Shaw Lane know how to do this by slowing the game down, talking to one another and staying organised and disciplined.
“If we’re in front late on we’ve got to get the basics right, keep concentrating and get the right result.”
Hopkins says Matlock hope to add a defender to their ranks ahead of the Ashton clash. They travel to Nantwich Town on Tuesday night.