Angry boss Charlie Palmer admitted “my players didn’t turn up” after Belper Town threw away their 12-match unbeaten run with their first defeat since October.
Palmer did not mince his words in the wake of a poor performance at The Marston’s Stadium that resulted in a 2-0 loss to struggling Stamford. And he warned: “I do not want to see that again this season.”
“For the first time, I am sorry to say that my players weren’t up for the challenge,” Palmer blasted. “Football wise, Stamford were not better than us, but they wanted it more than us, which was extremely disappointing.
“One or two of our key players were missing, but I would never use that as an excuse because we have a squad. Whatever standard of football you play in, you have to earn the right to win games. But Stamford stamped their authority on the match in the first 15 minutes.
“At half-time, when it was still 0-0, I felt we could turn it round and I expected a reaction in the second half. But the players just didn’t turn up. The competitive edge wasn’t there. It was a bad day at the office, and the players have to recognise why.”
Belper’s unbeaten sequence had fuelled hopes of grabbing a place in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, Division One South promotion play-off positions.
But the defeat, against a Stamford team who began the day just five points above the relegation zone, left the Nailers in 11th spot with plenty of ground to make up and plenty of work to do.
Now Palmer is desperately hoping the surprise reverse was just a one-off. He was planning to “freshen things up” by making a few changes for Tuesday night’s league cup tie against Chasetown before expecting to see his players return to their best in an important league game away to fellow mid-tablers Stocksbridge Park Steels this coming weekend.
“Stocksbridge is a tough but crucial game,” he said. “We need to bounce back. We need to show that Stamford was just a blip.
“We had been on a good run, but that run is now in the past. We need to learn from last Saturday and move on.”
As they sit a similar number of points from the play-off places as the drop zone, Belper’s season is clearly at a crossroads. Worryingly, 12 of their remaining 18 games are away, although their indifferent home form (five defeats, six draws and only four wins) suggests that won’t be a problem.
“I don’t see it as a home or away issue,” said Palmer. “I am more concerned about creating chances and taking them. Our goals-against record (27) is one of the best in the division, but our goals-for record (30) is not up to scratch. We have to start taking more of our chances.”
Palmer did not rule out new signings in a bid to boost his side’s firepower, but he insisted that despite the Stamford setback, he is “looking upwards, not downwards” when he assesses the league table.
“There is still a long way to go,” he said. “The players recognise the challenge that is in front of them. As long as they learn from experiences like last Saturday’s, they can show that we are still moving in the right direction.”