Aldershot Town have conceded four or more goals in five of their last seven games - and manager Tommy Widdrington is frustrated with their fragility at the back.
He said: “I’m disappointed with the result, obviously. It’s a game where we put ourselves in a winning position, and I thought we looked comfortable. I thought we had the tools on the pitch to go on, but we shot ourselves in the foot again. The defending in general is just not good enough, and people can point fingers publicly if they want. I’ll never do that. We’ve had a chat in there and I’ve made my feelings really clear.
“There’s not enough of the players in there who won their individual battles. A few did, and I’ll keep that under my own hat, but ultimately we lost more one-on-one battles over the 90 minutes than we won and that usually ends up with a negative result.”
One of the casualties of the 6-1 FA Trophy drubbing at Bishop’s Stortford was goalkeeper Jordi van Stappershoef, who was replaced by Jasper Sheik.
And despite Sheik shipping four on his Shots debut, Widdrington was full of praise for the 18-year-old. He said: “That’s the one huge positive for me. Lots of people say ‘oh, why don’t you go and get a loan keeper?’. The lad trains with us every day, he’s a very, very good young goalkeeper.
“Not many people will give young keepers their platform. He’s been out and played at Step 3 fantastically when we’ve watched him, he performs at a really high level in training, and today, in fairness to the lad - never mind the penalty save - he’s done nothing wrong. He’s been absolutely let down by a back line that didn’t defend correctly. There wasn’t enough gumption shown of how to defend a very direct, very basic way of playing the game.”
Widdrington remained calm about the number of times the ball was hitting the Shots’ net - but he warned that it could not go on forever.
He said: “It’s not a worry, because I can change it - but at the end of the day it’s a concern, because we don’t want to keep conceding goals.
“When we played this team at home, we beat them 1-0. We’ve had a couple of nils, but ultimately I said this at the beginning of the season - it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
“We won our last league game and we drew the one before that. If anybody thought we were going to go to West Brom and win then they were very optimistic. We’ve had one really bad performance and that was at Bishop’s Stortford. At the end of the day the game was closer than 4-2 in my opinion, but it’s the manner in which we’re conceding goals.
“It’s not the way the team’s set up, it’s not most of the players, it’s just some of the players. It’s probably ones who are liked a lot, but they are the ones who aren’t quite doing what we want them to do. It’s shape up or ship out.”
Widdrington reminded Shots fans angered by how the game turned around that the men on the pitch at Aggborough were the same ones who had produced a fine first half of the season.
He said: “They’ve turned the mood around at the football club. People have got to remember the best run we had was with those players that were on the pitch at the end of the game, that’s the best 11 we’ve had, less Haji Mnoga. We haven’t changed the message, we haven’t changed the preparation. What’s happening is - and this happens at certain levels of football - performance levels go up and down.
“That’s why certain players are at certain levels of the game. They’ve all got attributes, one or two attributes that could take them higher, but some of them aren’t getting them out at the moment because some teams have looked at us and seen a deficiency with us, and are nailing it.
“We started the game fine and the game plan was going really well, but we gave them a penalty. We earned our penalty but we gave them a penalty, and then the defending for the second goal is just unacceptable.
“People on the far side of the pitch who were there would have seen our player run past the tackle. I don’t get that, I don’t understand how that happens. So when that happens and the ball then goes in our box we’re all scrambling to do something.”
But he ended in upbeat mood with further compliments for Jasper Sheik.
He said: “Nobody realises Jasper could’ve easily come off at half-time because he was absolutely clattered in the first half and didn’t even get a free kick for it. He showed some real spirit the lad, to be fair. For a debut, it’ll go down that he conceded four goals and it’ll be remembered because he saved a penalty.
“But he did nowt wrong and I’m delighted for him to have got his chance.”