St Ives Town’s inability to defend set pieces cost them dear again last Saturday.

Ben Toseland earned an early penalty for St Ives Town as they lost at Stourbridge. Picture: LOUISE THOMPSONBen Toseland earned an early penalty for St Ives Town as they lost at Stourbridge. Picture: LOUISE THOMPSON

The struggling Saints remain five points from Southern League Premier Division Central safety after being beaten 3-1 at Stourbridge - and it was a setback caused by a familiar failing with all three of the hosts' goals arriving from dead-ball deliveries.

Saints were also guilty of squandering a gift-wrapped opportunity to hit the front after only 90 seconds as Robbie Parker fluffed a penalty for the second successive match.

The Saints skipper blasted his effort against the bar after Ben Toseland was sent tumbling in the box and, after missing the chance to go ahead, they soon found themselves behind.

Anthony Dwyer pounced from close range after the Saints defence failed to deal with a Tom Turton corner in the sixth minute.

Andrew Osei-Bonsu in action for St Ives Town during their defeat at Stourbridge last Saturday. Picture: LOUISE THOMPSONAndrew Osei-Bonsu in action for St Ives Town during their defeat at Stourbridge last Saturday. Picture: LOUISE THOMPSON

And the same supply line led to Stourbridge doubling their lead midway through the first half when another Turton flag-kick was headed home by an unmarked Jordaan Brown.

Defender Alfie Powell prevented further damage when hacking a Nathan Hayward shot off the line, but the same Stourbridge man did succeed in striking again five minutes before the break when finishing in a scramble which followed another dead-ball delivery into the Saints box.

Dan Clifton acrobatically cleared a Tom Tonks effort off the line just before the hour as Stourbridge continued to go on the attack in the second half.

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But it was Saints who claimed the only remaining breakthrough when Dylan Wilson intercepted a weak defensive header and lobbed stranded keeper Charlie Price to register his third goal in two games.

Frustrated Saints manager Rcky Marheineke said: "We could easily have won the game had we defended set-pieces properly.

"We're conceding far too many goals for our liking full stop - and far too many of those are coming from balls into our box.

"We've let in 15 goals in the last four games and eight have been from set pieces which is nothing short of criminal at this level of football.

"We have players with size and stature, and who are good in the air, but this is something that keeps happening and has turned into a major issue that we must address.

"Missing the penalty was a major blow as well. At a time when we should have been 1-0 up we found ourselves 1-0 down and it was an uphill task from there.

"What was said at half-time will stay within the dressing room, but the reaction was good in the second half."

The loss at Stourbridge was an 18th reverse in Saints' 26 league fixtures so far this season.

Their need for points is becoming all the more pressing ahead of back-to-back home fixtures as they host Biggleswade Town this Saturday, 3pm, with Hednesford then visiting Westwood Road on Tuesday, January 28 (7.45pm).