Boss Ricky Marheineke has stressed the need for improved defending if St Ives Town are to reach the third qualifying round of the FA Cup for the first time in their history.

Danny Kelly hit a hat-trick in St Ives Town's defeat to Kettering. Picture: DUNCAN LAMONTDanny Kelly hit a hat-trick in St Ives Town's defeat to Kettering. Picture: DUNCAN LAMONT

Saints travel to the Midlands to take on Stourbridge in a second qualifying round tie today (Sunday, 3pm).

And Marheineke is well aware of the need to stop leaking goals at an alarming rate after conceding 13 times in four successive Southern League Premier Division defeats.

Opponents Stourbridge - who reached the third round proper of the FA Cup last term - have been in considerably better form in the early weeks of the Northern League Premier Division season.

“Stourbridge have a player who can throw the ball an absolute mile and three very big lads who love to attack them,” said Markeheine.

“They will bombard our box at every opportunity and we are going to have to do a lot of defending.

“And if we don’t do it considerably better than we have for much of this season, we will find ourselves knocked out of the FA Cup.

“But, on the other hand, we know that we are capable of causing good teams problems so we can go there with plenty of belief.”

Saints’ latest setback came in midweek when they slipped to a 4-3 home defeat at the hands of a Kettering side tipped to challenge for the Southern League Premier Division title.

Striker Danny Kelly found himself on the losing side despite hitting a hat-trick, which included a first-minute opener.

It was cancelled out within seconds by Ben Milnes and an early turnaround was completed when Kettering hit the front through Brett Solkhon.

Michael Richens extended the visitors’ lead just after the hour, but Kelly responded inside 60 seconds to keep Saints in the contest.

Another Solkhon effort restored the visitors’ two-goal cushion and it lasted for three minutes on this occasion until Kelly completed his treble.

“If you score three goals at home against a team of Kettering’s calibre, you should be winning the game,” added Marheineke.

“Unfortunately conceding too many goals has been the story of our season. It happened four times from set pieces in this game - and that is just not good enough.

“We’re not a young team, we’re not a small team and we’re certainly not an inexperienced team. We’ve got defenders who have played hundreds of games at good levels of football.

“We didn’t have enough threat going forward or score enough goals last season and that is something we tried to address with our recruitment in the summer, but now we’re just shipping far too many at the other end.

“I would rather play poorly, keep clean sheets and give ourselves a chance to grind our results as we have done in the past.

“If we don’t learn quickly, we are going to become a soft touch and known as a team that has a quality squad, but isn’t getting victories.”