Eastwood Town assistant manager Darren Kelk has praised the Badgers squad for redeeming themselves over the past week.
The Badgers’ number two was scathing in his criticism of the players after they had crashed to a 5-0 defeat at Coalville Town and he laid down the gauntlet to them to show what they can do.
A goalless draw last Thursday against a Scarborough side who had only narrowly lost to Notts County was followed by a 1-0 victory at Bedworth United on Saturday.
The Warwickshire club have been promoted to the same level as Eastwood in the southern section and it was a tough test which the Badgers came through.
Tuesday night saw a 3-0 home defeat against a very strong Mansfield Town side but Kelk was not unduly worried by the margin of defeat.
“It has been a positive response from the players. They have put a shift in against a very competitive Mansfield side who have had results against Derby and Forest” explained Kelk.
“Mansfield brought a good strong side which in fairness is what we want. I am very pleased with our lads. For half-an-hour we matched a professional outfit.
“They were always going to dominate as they are full time, but we did well.
“The first Mansfield goal [scored by ex Badger Lee Stevenson] was good quality but the second, an own goal just before half-time was a sucker punch for us.”
Kelk feels a change of formation has helped the squad.
“Before the Scarborough game we released five players. They are not bad players, it’s just that we have better players which is a good thing.
“We have changed to a 4-4-2 which I think has settled us down and stopped the balls dropping in behind us into the second third which were hurting us.
“Against Bedworth, the confidence in the dressing room was there, it was just the belief. The lads have done well. They have played four games in ten days. It is a big ask at any level, but it will pay dividends once we go live on August 18.”
Kelk was also astounded his side didn’t beat Scarborough. He explained: “I can’t believe we didn’t beat them. We had 25 shots, 16 of them on target, and you would expect to win the game.
“We then went to Bedworth and apart from them starting well, we dominated the rest of the game.
“We should have had a penalty within the first 15 minutes. It was blatant. With all respect to Grant Ryan, he tried to stay on his feet, but their keeper mullered him. It was an embarrassing decision [not to have the penalty given].
“Grant made up for that on 25 minutes by cutting in from the left and netting with a right-footed shot into the keeper’s right-hand corner.”
The Badgers now face three more pre-season outings before the league campaign begins on Saturday, August 18 with a trip to Marine.
This Saturday sees an attractive home game against Hucknall Town (3pm).
On Tuesday, the side go to Gresley FC, that game has a 7.45pm kick-off and on Saturdya, August 11, Eastwood travel to Carlton Town.
Kelk intimated that the squad is all but finalised but that there may still be time for one or two additional signings before the big kick-off in a fortnight.