St Ives Town were unable to recover from a nightmare start on another afternoon of Southern League Premier Division Central misery.
Ricky Marheineke’s strugglers slumped to a seventh successive defeat in all competitions when being beaten 2-0 by Stratford Town at Westwood Road.
Saints were behind after just 50 seconds as Chris Cox was left unattended to flick in a Will Grocott free-kick and their deficit doubled midway through the first half as a Grocott corner was nodded home by Mike Taylor inside the six-yard box.
Marheineke’s men, with only seven goals in the league all season, rarely looked like fighting back from those set-piece setbacks as they failed to muster a single shot on target.
Defenders Charlie De’Ath – when they trailed by a single goal in the first period – and Sam Cartwright – when already two down on the hour – sent the best Saints opportunities well over the bar.
In fact they were fortunate not to lose more heavily as Stratford’s dead-ball dangerman Grocott was kept out by a spectacular Sam Wilson save when unleashing another fine effort with 10 minutes to go.
A wonderful tackle from substitute Jarvis Wilson denied Taylor his second goal of the afternoon before Joe Hood bravely blocked a Grocott blast at point-blank range.
“Stratford are unbeaten in 10 games for a reason,” said Marheineke. “They are a very decent side and caused us a lot of problems from set pieces.
“Falling behind so early on was obviously far from ideal and to again concede two goals from dead-ball situations doesn’t please me.
“There wasn’t a lot between the teams in most of the pitch, but we have to be better in both boxes.
“We didn’t defend well enough at one end and we never really looked like scoring at the other end – and those things have to change if we want to start picking up points again.
“We have a young group of players and I’m not sure at this moment in time whether they have the mental strength to dig us out of this difficult period.
“Hard work only gets you so far in football and everyone can see we’re lacking a bit of quality. We’ll be racking our brains over the next few days to try to find a couple of additions who can help us.
“No manager can expect to lose the amount of games that we have done lately without their chairman starting to ask questions and I know I’m under pressure.”
Saints remain one point above the relegation zone but appear to have an excellent opportunity to snap their losing streak on Tuesday night.
They entertain Godmanchester Rovers at Westwood Road in a Hunts Senior Cup semi-final but Marheineke stressed they can’t the Step 5 side lightly after being taken to a replay by another team from that level – Saffron Walden Town – in the FA Cup earlier in the season.
He added: “Tuesday night is a perfect opportunity for the players who are selected to prove they want to be at the football club, and for us to put things right.
“It’s a game we should win bearing in mind the levels the two clubs play at, but we found out that it wasn’t easy against Saffron Walden and we know Godmanchester Rovers will give us a physical battle as well.”