Melton Town co-manager Tom Manship has accused his team of lacking character and leadership as they fell to a 2-0 defeat in their big league showdown at Anstey on Tuesday.
Town had a chance to leapfrog their opponents into second place in Division One and move within a point of top spot, but two goals in two minutes midway through the first half severely damaged their promotion chances.
“Last night was really disappointing,” said Manship. “It was the first time I have told the lads exactly what I thought of them.
“The first 10 minutes was probably the best start I have seen from us. We had them penned back, forced corner after corner, cross after cross, and kept probing away.
“But then they scored with a wonder strike from a free-kick and then scored on the break, from our mistake.
“You need leaders and characters to pull you through and you need to keep playing the same way, but I didn’t see any of that. We disappeared after the second goal.”
Nomads are the only team to have kept Melton’s prolific attack goalless this season, in a pair of 2-0 wins, and it rekindled their own title hopes as they closed within a point of leaders Lutterworth with five games left.
But it was the lack of courage and reaction, as much as the result, that frustrated the Town boss.
“Anyone can play when you’re winning 6-0, but I want to see how you play when you go 1-0 down against a team that won’t give you any space,” he said.
“After 17 games winning and you go 1-0 down you shouldn’t hide; you should still have belief to play the same way.
“I told them last night if you want to win anything or be good at anything in life you have to have something about you when things go bad.
“You have to be able to rise in adversity and I didn’t see any of that.
“The players changed their personalities and approach after going behind.”
Despite the performance, Manship believes his team will bounce back, but knows his side are now on the back foot in the title run-in.
“It’s not over until it’s over, but what I have seen from them (Anstey) last night, I think they are too good to drop points again,” he said.
“Their front three shouldn’t be playing at this level.
“I can see us winning all of our games, but can’t see the top two dropping points.
He added: “We have secured FA Cup football next season for the first time in the club’s history, we have got to the county cup final and are fighting for the championship in April so that’s something we can be proud of.
“Someone told me there was nearly 500 up there last night and that’s amazing for this level. We have created that as a group.”
The matches now come thick and fast, with a tricky league trip to Irchester on Saturday followed by Town’s first Senior County Cup final at Holmes Park next Tuesday.
A big following is expected to make the trip down the A607 to Leicester, and they should expect a high-quality final, as Melton take on Heather St Johns who are eight points clear at the top of Midland Football League Division One.
Manship added: “To use the cliché, all of the next six games will be cup finals and we have to win every one, but next Tuesday will be a relief from the league.
“It is a cup final and there will be pressure, but of a different kind.
“Heather are a very good team. They are romping their league so it won’t be easy, but we have to turn up on the day and perform.”