Smiles are back on the faces of the players and management at Heanor Town after a comfortable cup victory which ended a run of four games without a win.
A Jamie Sleigh double and one from Sam Vickers saw the Lions overcome Heath Hayes to progress into the quarter-finals of the Polymac Packaging League Cup.
Tuesday night’s success was met with praise by The Town Ground management team, which came at a good time ahead of a tough month of fixtures for Heanor.
Attentions quickly turned to Saturday’s Midlands Football League visit of second in the table Sporting Khalsa, who have not lost in the league since 2nd September.
Lions boss Glen Clarence said: “I thought it was a nice way to end the run with a comfortable victory and a clean sheet.
“We could have had and probably should have had two or three more goals but I don’t want to be overly critical.
“We mixed it up, changed personal and changed the shape.
“I don’t want to be derogatory to Heath Hayes but it was all about getting a win tonight and getting the smiles back on faces.
“I thought we did well but we’ll have bigger and harder tests this month, starting on Saturday against Sporting Khalsa who are a top side.
“We’ll be judged on that but tonight was all about getting out of that rut, getting some goals in the back of the net, keeping a clean sheet and getting smiles back on the faces.
“It’ll give us that platform ahead of a big month.”
The margin of victory over Heath could have been greater on Tuesday night but for Elloitt Reeves’ missed penalty just before half-time.
Assistant manager Steve Postlethwaite said: “We created plenty of chances again. We still missed a fair few but Jamie Sleigh makes a bit of a difference, we saw the goal that he took, and no disrespect to anyone else but in the past four to six weeks we’ve probably missed half a dozen of those one-on-ones and Jamie slots it home.
“It gives the other lads a bit more confidence in front of goal. Jamie’s come in and taken a bit of the pressure off Vicks, Elliott and one or two others and they seem to benefit from Jamie’s runs.
“We saw the back four keep a clean sheet again because we’re scoring goals. When you score goals you take the pressure off the back four and the goalkeeper. When you create chances, score goals, you win games.”
Fellow assistant Steve Hamilton added: “There’s nothing better than seeing players go and express themselves.
“Heath Hayes posed us some problems and whoever you play you’ve got to turn up and we’ve done that for 90 minutes.
“There’s a lot of good and aggressive football that we’ve played tonight and it couldn’t have come at a better time for us because we’re going to need it in some of the tougher tests coming up.”
Heanor will have to wait to find out their quarter final opponents but now face seven matches between now and the New Year.
Clarence added: “Maximum respect for Khalsa. We’ve had some ding-dong battles with Khalsa over the years.
“They’re a top side. We’ve not played them yet this season but we’re a different animal to what we were over the last couple of years.
“We’ve got different aspects to our game this year, inconsistency is one of them as we know, but we can be a top side on our day.
“We’re a match for anyone if we want it enough and play for large parts of the game like we did tonight then we’ll give them a game.
“They won’t give us any chances. They’ll be on the front foot. They’ll be physical. They’ll be clinical and if we match that then we’ll see what happens.”