Manager Ricky Marheineke still believes the best-ever St Ives Town squad will turn around their miserable start to the Southern League Premier Division season.

Saints received another harsh footballing lesson yesterday when slipping to a 3-2 home defeat at the hands of Merthyr.

It was the same old story of defensive shortcomings costing them as they conceded twice early on and were then undone again from one of their own corners in the second period.

Marheineke's men have only collected one draw from five league outings at ProEdge Westwood Road so far this season. They sit third-bottom of the Premier Division standings with just five points gained in their opening 10 games.

"It is simply not good enough to concede three goals again," said Marheineke. "And it is becoming very frustrating because we are always going to lose games when that happens.

"We left ourselves with a mountain to climb and no amount of coaching can stop the individual errors that we have seen far too often this season.

"Our central defenders are experienced footballers, but they are not making the right decisions. They're not getting tight to opponents and they're not protecting space well enough.

"We played well in possession, scored two goals and created plenty of other chances, but it is largely irrelevant when conceding in the manner we are doing.

"I can't question the commitment, effort or desire - we're just falling short in key areas.

"But we have to remember this is the best St Ives Town team we've ever seen and we're very close to getting it right.

"We've just got to tidy up a few problems and if we can't do that I'll look to sign players who can.

"We're not just going to sit back and accept what is going on, but we have to be realistic. We don't have the finances and facilities to always be able to attract players of the calibre we need."

Saints were stung by an early double-salvo as Merthyr struck twice in the space of three minutes. Jaye Bowen tucked away a loose ball before creating a second goal for Ian Traylor.

Saints soon halved their arrears as Phil Draycott arrived at the back post to convert a low Lewis Hilliard cross and Danny Kelly squandered a great chance to level before the break.

Jimmy Hartley was denied by visiting goalkeeper Ollie Davies less than 30 seconds after half-time and the Merthyr number one also kept out Kelly.

Saints continued to apply pressure, but found themselves further behind after a blistering Merthyr counter-attack that stemmed from their own corner.

Draycott's flag-kick was punched clear by Davies and then helped on to Traylor, who sped away from defender Jordan Jarrold to fire his second goal.

Marheineke sent on striker James Hall from the bench and he quickly carved out a glorious opportunity for Peter Clark only to see the midfielder head over from close range.

Hall did soon cut the arrears with the first goal of his second spell as a Saints player, pouncing on defensive indecision to prod the ball past Davies with six minutes to go.

But it proved to be nothing more than a consolation and only a terrific late save from James Goff - to keep out a free-kick from Merthyr substitute Kerry Morgan - prevented Saints from conceding again.

Saints are back in action tomorrow (Monday) when facing tenants Cambridge City in a League Challenge Cup first round tie at ProEdge Westwood Road (7.45pm).