Louth Town boss Daryl Clare admitted responsibility after his side suffered a blip in an otherwise faultless start to the season with a 2-1 home defeat to AFC Emley on Wednesday.
Clare’s depleted side threw away a 1-0 lead and finished second best to a terrier-like visiting side.
White Wolves manager Clare was clearly disappointed with the performance and result but did not flinch in apportioning at least some of the blame to himself.
“We found out tonight that without four of our best players we were not quite strong enough to beat top sides,” he said.
“I’m learning and accept responsibility, perhaps sometimes we try and keep all the players happy with game time and early substitutions and tonight it did not work.
“Emley beat us with pace and movement all over the park and we credit them for that style of performance.
“Injuries permitting we now revert back to our strongest available 14 and the squad will have to accept that if we are to stay in the top three.”
The game started brightly enough with Louth exerting early pressure but Emley looking dangerous on the break.
Both defences found themselves quite busy and the first corner went to Louth with Matt Kennedy planting a good ball into the box only for the defence to scramble it away.
When Louth did look as if they had broken through the scoring chance was ruined by an offside decision.
Emley continued to be quick to the ball and seriously threatening whenever they broke through but neither side had a goal to show for their first half efforts. Just a few minutes before the break the Louth side was disrupted further by an injury to Mark Wood who was replaced by Bobby McSpadden.
Louth looked more determined as the second half started and in the 50th minute Matt Kennedy was rewarded for his hard work in the first half when he smashed home the ball to put the home side ahead.
Emley barely flinched however and kept pressing for an equaliser. Mactaggart was fortunately in good form again in the Louth goal but it seemed only a matter of time and it was. Dan Pawson was shown a yellow card for a foul and just a few minutes later Emley were awarded a free kick within reach of goal.
Liam Schofield stepped up and took a textbook free kick curling into the top right hand corner leaving Mactaggert with no chance.
Rocky Rawlings replaced Paul Coulam soon afterwards and then Emley used up their substitues which seemed to give them even more vitality. Eventually in the 77th minute the unthinkable happened and a defensive mix-up led to Wharam putting the ball in the next and the visitors ahead for the first time.
The game continued in the same pattern with Louth pressing but Emley looking the more dangerous and almost scoring another but for some stout defending and the ball being kicked off the line. The last few minutes were spent with Louth in earnest trying to salvage something and Emley counting the clock down.
It was a sobering result for Louth but also a valuable lesson learned that there is no let up if you want promotion.
Watch some match action from the game by clicking here.