Sleaford Town manager Jamie Shaw believes some of his squad are letting down the rest after the Green Army slumped to their heaviest defeat of the season.
A miserable campaign for the club, which was shorn of most of its first team squad over the summer, grew worse on Saturday when Town were beaten 13-0 at promotion-chasing Loughborough University.
It left them five points adrift at the bottom of the United Counties League Premier, without a point from 14 games, having shipped 72 goals.
Shaw intended to hang up his boots a few seasons ago having been Town’s star striker for many years, but was forced to fill in at full-back on Saturday.
His efforts to keep the team going under tremendously difficult circumstances have drawn praise from the wider football community, but the reluctant player-manager is keen for the plaudits to go elsewhere.
“I really appreciate all the messages of support and encouragement,” he said.
“However this isn’t what this should be about. If anyone deserves support and appreciation it’s the players that are turning up week in week out and being let down by less reliable team-mates.”
Shaw, who is one of the few managers in the division working without a playing budget, did well in his first season to draw in experienced campaigners into a weakened squad.
His recruitment, done without a chequebook, saved Town from relegation two seasons ago, and now matter how forlorn the situation appears will continue to try and strengthen.
But while acknowledging the deficiencies of his current squad, Shaw was also keen to laud Saturday’s opponents who went third and four points off the top.
Five separate players scored twice – Connor Smith, Jordan Connor, Olly Davis, Jack Turner and sub Merlin Ferrinho – while Olusanya Fadahunsi, Thomas Iaciofano and Princewill Ogunmekan also got on the scoresheet.
“I‘d much rather concentrate my report on what was good about Saturday and that was the sheer quality of the Loughborough side.
“Maybe we didn’t offer them enough opposition on the day, but if I was a neutral, rather than a 40-year-old chasing shadows at left back, then I’d have been happy to pay my money and watch their passing and movement.
“They played with fluidity and their players rotated all over the park, and you could see how match fit they are with their movement off the ball being as good as I’ve seen.
“None of that excuses our performance, and nor should it, but I do think sometimes you have to give credit where it’s due to a very good side.”
Life doesn’t get any easier for Town as they welcome another set of title chasers in Deeping Rangers on Saturday.
Sleaford’s supporters have cheered just one league goal at Eslaforde Park this season in six outings. Kick-off is 3pm.