LOUTH Town boss Daryl Clare admitted his side were caught cold as they slipped to their first league defeat of the season against Athersley Recreation at Park Avenue on Saturday.
An early goal from Tom Harban and Jack Briscoe’s strike just after the break saw Town slip to 2-0 behind, and Mark Wood’s late goal could not prove more than a consolation as Town went down 2-1.
The visitors, sitting second at kick off, started well as Town began slowly, and took the lead on 19 minutes when defender Harban’s free kick flew through a crowd and past Ian McTaggert.
And it was nearly 2-0 after 30 minutes when Athersley broke loose but striker Bentley put the ball wide when it would have been easier to score.
Louth did have their moments though and in a scrabble in the visitors’ goalmouth, including a spectacular but unsuccessful bicycle kick from Jamie Coulson, the ball was just cleared.
There were high expectations as the second half started and Louth began brightly only for the visitors to grab a second goal in the 49th minute, a killer pass from Wilkinson splitting the defence for Briscoe to score.
White Wolves manager Daryl Clare responded by sending on Matt Kennedy and Dan Pawson in search of goals but the latter had only been on the pitch for three minutes before he was shown a yellow card for dissent.
Louth piled on more pressure but the visitors defended well. During a spell in which the White Wolves won three corners in succession it seemed that it was not going to be their day until the 77th minute when some clever work by Jamie Coulson set up Mark Wood to shoot through the crowd of players in the goal area and into the net.
Harban was booked for the visitors soon followed by McSpadden for the White Wolves.
Then came a moment of hope as an Athersley defender seemed to handle a loose ball in the box, but the referee was unmoved.
With five minutes to go Jamie Coulson was booked for an innocuous foul and shortly afterwards a second booking for McSpadden meant that he was shown red, reducing Louth to 10 men for the remaining few minutes.
It summed up Town’s day but Daryl Clare praised the visitors who he predicted will be among the promotion challengers this season.
“Sometimes we have to give credit to good sides who come and do a job on us and in many ways they played very similar to us,” he said.
“We were slow starting again out of the blocks, but rallied with another late show that maybe should have earned us a draw.
“Now is a good opportunity to freshen up the side after what, in all fairness has been an excellent start to the season.”
Town drop to sixth after the defeat and host local rivals Cleethorpes Town at Park Avenue on Wednesday night (7.45pm).