Steve Chettle says his Ilkeston Town side will need to step up their game ahead of two crucial league clashes over the next fortnight.
The Robins host fellow promotion-hopefuls Atherstone Town on Saturday before a trip to title favourites Walsall Wood a week later.
But having seen his team stutter to success against Whaley Bridge in the Derbyshire Senior Cup on Tuesday night - their 15th successful game in a row - he is expecting more from them in the upcoming games.
He said: “I thought we were poor against Whaley Bridge.
“At half-time, the only positive I could tell the lads was that we were still in the game as they probably could have been three or four up.
“I needed to do something and reverted back to the shape we’ve been used to for the last ten or 11 games. We were better, but not a lot.
“Ian Deakin got us out of jail. He admitted he made a mistake for their goal but told me he’d make up for it in the shootout which he did.
“We showed good character to win the penalties but if I was part of the Whaley Bridge setup I’d be distraught at coming away having lost that tie.”
Ilkeston’s 4-0 win at Coventry Alvis last Saturday was their first outing for nearly a month, and Chettle believes a degree of rustiiness may still be present as his team looks to get back into a rhythm.
He added: “It might be part of the reasons but generally I just thought we were poor. I spoke to one or two players tonight from whom I expected more and told them that.”
The win over Whaley Bridge sets up a semi-final away to National League North side Alfreton Town, expected to take place in mid-February.
Looking ahead to the weekend’s visit of Atherstone, Chettle reiterated how key it is to beat the teams around Ilkeston in the table.
He said: “We’re behind on fixtures now and playing catch-up a little bit but this is a big month for us and we have to improve on how we played on Tuesday.
“Aside from Leicester Road who have played a couple of games more, the top sides are a bit more level on games played now so it’s a fairer reflection and we know that winning these games will be crucial.”
Chettle added that Charlie Jemson will be assessed following a clash of heads with team-mate Chris Shaw against Whaley Bridge, but otherwise he expects a largely clean bill of health with Micah Edwards returning to the squad having been unavailable for the Whaley Bridge game.