Dave Frecklington said he was ashamed and apologised to the Matlock Town crowd for an abject display against local rivals Buxton on Easter Monday in their biggest home defeat in nearly 25 years.
Buxton won 6-0 and might have scored more as Matlock were cruelly punished for not only their defensive deficiencies but for a lack of effort and application from many of their players.
The Bucks therefore had little difficulty in sneaking above Gainsborough Trinity for the final play-off spot, despite the Holy Blues winning 2-0 at Grantham Town.
“Everything I was worried about has come to the fore today,” he said speaking an hour after the match.
“We had no leaders, no togetherness, no team spirit and to keep conceding from set piece after set piece after set piece is criminal.
“We had an 18-year-old goalkeeper playing while injured today, yet he still put his body on the line.
“But we left him isolated and didn’t get around him to offer any protection.
“We said at half-time we needed to play for our pride and respect but in the end the final whistle couldn’t come quickly enough for us and 6-0 was a fair result.”
Matlock have won just two league games since they were contesting a play-off spot with the Bucks when they drew 2-2 at the Silverlands on Boxing Day.
“We’re miles and miles away and I’m ashamed to call that a team of mine,” added Frecklington.
“Terry (Fleming), Chris (Rawlinson), Adam Sollitt and myself all work extremely hard and we deserve more than that, but I pick the team and I ask that we show pride.
“That result is embarrassing - conceding six and losing to your local rivals, and it could have been more, but I’m not surprised.
“The lads have had their flipflops on since we were safe and that’s unacceptable for the public who come to watch us and pay good money.
“There’s too many passengers and I, along with the rest of my management team, apologise to the fans, committee, officials and helpers for that performance.”
Matlock conceded 10 goals over the Easter period, although they probably did enough to have deserved a point from Saturday’s trip to Bamber Bridge when they lost 4-2.
“We knew it would be a difficult game for they needed the points to stay up, and until the third goal went in we looked the more likely side to win it.
“But to lose the game in the way we did when we were on top is very frustrating.
“Take the last goal - the Bamber full back ran the length of the pitch and we didn’t close him down.
“He went down and the referee gave a penalty which never was.
“We also conceded the third goal shortly after we’d equalised and these things sum up the second half of our season. We lost a game we should never have lost.”
The Gladiators have only one game left now at Stafford Rangers on Saturday and they will have to improve drastically to finish the season with a victory.
“There’s been a cancer in our dressing room for the past few weeks now and as a team we’re very vulnerable,” said Frecklington.
“People don’t seem prepared to run harder, be brave, and get their heads in where it hurts.
“But you find out more about players when we lose games and believe me I’ve found out a lot.”
Matlock’s Presentation Evening is on Friday week in the Shorts Lounge when a number of awards, including the supporters’ player of the year trophy, will be given out.
Admission is free and there will be music from Ilkeston-based duo JD and Coke plus a buffet, a review of the season and the chance for those present to choose their goal of the season.