United appeared to have done enough to overcome a below par first half performance at Crawley on Saturday when a good spell of pressure brought an equaliser and a second goal in two games for Jon Mellish.
But there was huge disappointment to follow when Nick Tsaroulla volleyed a 90th minute winner into the net for the home side, leaving the away side with nothing to show for their second half display.
“It’s difficult to take,” manager Chris Beech said. “I was pleased with the response after the break. But upset that the staff were working very hard to support the team in trying to win a game.
“I think the basic set-up of the team was good enough to be more competitive. One or two of the boys stated that after the game – they wasted those first 45 minutes.
“For them to be honest like that is good but, from my perspective, you’re trying to keep away from that sort of situation. You want to see everyone on it for the full duration of the game.”
“We were much better in the second half,” he continued. “We scored a very good goal, it was a well-worked passing goal, and to be fair at that point I thought Crawley started to panic a bit.
“We had a lot of pressure on them at that point, they were kicking the ball out of play, their staff were stressed because they’re trying to not concede a winner, but from nothing, in terms of what happened.
“The table turned completely on simple things - not making a clean header, not making the work clean.
“In the last five or ten minutes we were huffing and puffing rather than having a real opportunity to get another equaliser, but we shouldn’t have been back in that position to allow them to get their second goal.”
Speaking more about the passage of play leading up to the Crawley winner, he commented: “The lads had to respect the point it looked like they’d gained, but at the same part we were respecting that result by playing well and getting on the front foot.
“We wanted to turn one point into three. But it swung a little bit and the lads found it difficult without anything other than clearances coming out from Crawley.
“We were winning first contacts, then sometimes not, often winning them but not getting second balls after that. It just wasn’t quite right.
“But, more than anything, we wasted a first half opportunity to stamp our authority on a football match.
“And it’s always difficult to put a finger on why, it’s how football can be sometimes. Let’s be right, the first half wasn’t great from both teams and if anything, as an away team, you feel quite comfortable because the game isn’t great.
“We did get in with Tristan and different things on the edge of the box, not enough, but we did, and they score off a 40-yard cross that hits somebody on the belly and goes out for a corner. It’s a League Two mistake and that’s the difference in the two teams.
“That made us look at what we were doing because I wasn’t happy anyway. I wanted a response, thought we got it, but you want it to be worth something. In this game we respond well, but it has more value if you take something at the end, which we didn’t.”
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Conceding from a set piece is always a disappointment, and that was no different when Tom Nichols stabbed the first goal of the game over the line with his team’s first real attempt on target.
“It’s a corner, it comes in at head height, but somehow it goes through everybody and it’s just five yards out,” the manager said. “We have specific markers, so we’re not happy with people today in respect of that goal.
“I’m not going to publicly criticise, I’ll make sure we know that’s not good enough and make sure next time there’s a question to be asked of a player, we respond very well to it.
“We’re never going to be happy when a marked player becomes unmarked to tap home. That’s not acceptable, especially when playing away.
“We picked ourselves up after the break but we weren’t ruthless at that point of being back on level terms and ascendant. We made it difficult when we’d done the hard to get on top, and that’s the most disappointing aspect.”
“If you look at the last two away games, we’ve been done by the set play and three goals from outside the box,” he added. “It’s tough to take, but it’s happened.
“We’re allowed to score them too. We’re unfortunate in that domain, I suppose. Callum’s shot from my angle looked like it had gone in, Lewis Alessandra’s header was excellent, it comes off the inside of the post, and the goal’s excellent, but we’ve lost.
“We deal with it, we move on, but we’ve got to respond to not winning a game when we’re playing away. We have no divine right to win a game, we have to earn it, and we didn’t really put our foundations down to do that in the first half. We responded well but we want more.
“The boys said at half time, we’ve been brilliant all week, in training, let’s express ourselves on that football pitch, because we know we can.
“We want to be hard to play against, functional, but we want to play as well. First half the ball was too easily coming back at us, because we stepped back as full-backs instead of stepping up to win headers.
“That means if my centre half wins a header, I’m over covering, and when the ball drops in midfield the opposition are going to get it and come again. But, having said that, that didn’t build into Magnus needing to put in a man of the match performance, the difference has been split by a corner.”
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