Two steps forward then one step back - that’s the last three Saturdays for St Ives Town.

Defender Gav Hoyte conceded the penalty that allowed Barwell to level against St Ives Town. Picture: DUNCAN LAMONTDefender Gav Hoyte conceded the penalty that allowed Barwell to level against St Ives Town. Picture: DUNCAN LAMONT

Ricky Marheineke’s men saw their Southern League Premier Division Central winning run brought to a disappointing end as they were condemned to a 2-1 defeat by struggling Barwell.

This Westwood Road clash was settled by a fine header from visiting defender Henry Eze in the fourth minute of stoppage time - a crucial contribution followed some spectacular gymnastics from the goalscorer in celebration.

To be honest they had every right to be head over heels with delight after just a second win in the 13 games, whereas Saints boss Marheineke was predictably and considerably less happy.

He saw his side hit the front through a terrific Ben Seymour-Shove finish in the 20th minute only to be pegged back by a Brady Hickey penalty (awarded for a handling offence by Gav Hoyte) early in the second period.

Captain Robbie Parker in action for St Ives Town against Barwell. Picture: DUNCAN LAMONTCaptain Robbie Parker in action for St Ives Town against Barwell. Picture: DUNCAN LAMONT

And Saints were then laid out for the count by the late Eze sucker-punch in the dying moments of a second half in which they didn’t manage a single attempt of note on goal.

“We didn’t hit the levels we have in recent games,” said Marheineke. “And we know we’re always going to be in trouble at this level when we fall short of our best.

“We lost too many key battles and we didn’t do the important aspects of the game - winning tackles, knockdowns, second balls for example - anywhere near enough.

“The question I was left asking myself was whether five or six of our players did enough . . . and the answer is probably not. No team can expect to get points when having that many people not at the races.

St Ives Town defender Jarvis Wilson in action against Barwell. Picture: DUNCAN LAMONTSt Ives Town defender Jarvis Wilson in action against Barwell. Picture: DUNCAN LAMONT

“There have been a few times this season where we have seemed to be putting a good run together with a bit of consistency, but then taken a step back.

“It’s happened again here. We had two good wins on the road but then came unstuck at home.

“We have fallen short against another team are similar to ourselves in that they don’t have the best players at this level, but work really hard.

“I would have been delighted to hold on for a point, but it wasn’t to be.”

Saints will aim to return to winning ways when they travel to Leiston this Saturday, 3pm.

Mark Coulson could return after illness ruled him out of the Barwell clash - an absence which led to Jordan Patrick making only his second Saints start in an unfamiliar left-back role.

Central defender Charlie De’Ath and utility man Danny Kelly are also closing in on returns from injury.