Matlock Town boss Dave Frecklington had no complaints with the result as his Gladiators lost at home for the first time in 10 league and cup matches against the side he last managed.
Gainsborough Trinity completed a league double against Matlock with a 2-0 victory in a game where Matlock huffed and puffed for long periods but seldom looked like blowing down the Trinity defensive door.
“We let ourselves down today,” was the manager’s frank assessment on a game which attracted a season’s-best home crowd of 665 to the Proctor Cars Stadium on New Years Day.
“It wasn’t the Matlock Town that we’ve come to know.
“We didn’t win enough first and second battles all over the park and we played into their hands with too many straight balls down their two centre halves’ throats.
“Their extra man in midfield caused us problems and to be honest we could have been three or four behind by half time.”
As it was a Jonathan Margetts goal a minute before the break was all that separated the sides until man of the match Simon Russell scrambled in a second Trinity goal in the last minute.
“It was a fair result, I’ve no complaints,” said Frecklington.
“Jamie Jackson had a chance near the end but that was about the only one we had in the second half.”
Matlock’s search for a clean sheet continued, their last shut-out coming 14 league and cup games ago when they thrashed Grantham Town 7-0 on 23rd October.
“We’ve conceded the first goal or two goals a lot of late and it’s something we need to resolve for, as we said last week, you’re not always going to come back,” said Frecklington.
“We’ve got to get back to basics, but I don’t want to be too critical of the players.
“Gainsborough have the experience, they’re a good team and really should be up there challenging for the title instead of being just outside of the play-offs.
“Gainsborough had lost three on the trot before this match so were always going to be up for it.
“We weren’t at the level we should have been, so we need to put this one to bed now and train well on Thursday so we’re ready for the Lancaster game on Saturday.”
Lancaster, like Matlock, had an horrendous start to the season, although Matlock beat them 4-0 on the season’s opening day.
They rallied somewhat to move away from danger, but defeats by fellow strugglers Workington and Marine in their last two outings have seen them slide back into trouble.
Conversely, high-riding South Shields needed a last minute equaliser to earn a point at City’s Giant Axe ground recently to highlight that any one team is well capable of eating any other in the league.
Frecklington said: “This league’s so unpredictable, there’s only really North Ferriby who have become cut adrift.
“I thought Stafford were a good side when they came to us the other week but they’ve lost three on the spin now and are in the relegation mix.
“It goes to show that if you’re off your game, as we were on New Years Day, you’ll get beat. So we need to be fully focused on bringing home a good result on Saturday.
“Sometimes you can get carried away when things are going well. “Two defeats in 16 is a record to be proud of, but there’s a tendency to believe the hype that’s around you.
“We need to be realistic for when we took over our aim was to keep this club in the league.
“But we’ve shot up the table and while the chance of what I believe to be the one remaining play-off place is there, we’ve got to try to take it.
“When everyone’s fit we believe we have a decent changing room - one disappointing result won’t derail us.
“But at the same time we can’t have many off days like the Gainsborough game.”
Midfielder Cleveland Taylor was ruled out on New Year’s Day with a knee injury and, with fellow midfielders Nathan Whitehead, Harry Vince and Michael Williams still on the sick list, and Tom Davie not having much playing time due to an ankle injury recently, the Gladiators look light in the engine room.
“Ashton Hall came in and while he did nothing wrong,” said the manager.
“Asking an 18-year-old to come in against such an experienced and well-drilled midfield was a tough ask.
“Losing Cleveland was a blow on top of the other midfielders currently injured, but we’ve one or two options available to us and, while the best team won, we need to go into Saturday in a positive frame of mind.
“It was particularly tough to take with it being the first game of 2019, but I trust this group of players to bounce back.”
Meanwhile, experienced striker Craig Westcarr has signed an 18-month contract with the Gladiators with several other clubs showing an interest in the former Nottingham Forest, Notts County, Chesterfield and Mansfield Town forward.
“It’s just reward for his performances,” said Frecklington.
“He came to us on a dual registration from Boston United and he’s a winner. He’s clever and has always scored goals.
“His attitude in and around the place is spot on.
“He is a player we need to keep as when the opposition look at the team sheet and see Craig Westcarr playing, they know they’re going to be in for a tough time.
“We’re extremely pleased to have him for the rest of this year and next.”
Westcarr currently heads the Matlock goalscorers’ list with 13 league and cup goals and has formed a deadly partnership with both Luke Hinsley and Marcus Marshall, who are also both in contention for the NPL Premier Division’s Golden Boot award.