Marcus Law lamented Kettering Town’s inability to defend set-pieces after they went down to a 4-1 defeat at Stratford Town.
The Poppies’ Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division campaign is panning out into nothing more than a top-10 finish and their three-match winning run was ended as former Kettering man Carl Adams’ Stratford side completed the double over them.
Law shuffled his pack for the clash with youngsters Jack O’Connor and Ben Baker both handed starts while Ethan Lee also made an appearance as a second-half substitute.
Baker brought the Poppies level at 1-1 but Law admitted the first two goals his team conceded, both free headers from set-pieces, proved costly.
“We put two of the youngsters into it and we were without three others so we had to juggle things around a bit,” the Poppies boss said.
“But yet again, our inability to defend from a couple of set-pieces has hurt us.
“Certainly for the first two goals, we have switched off and allowed two free headers and that has cost us.
“I thought we did okay either side of half-time and I thought we earned the goal we scored.
“We had a couple of near misses and I made changes to get another young lad into the game as well and in the last five minutes, they have scored another two goals.
“I think that flattered them a little bit but it was a defending for the first two goals that really cost us.”
Kettering’s cause wasn’t helped by the absence of Liam Canavan, who has been ruled out for the last two games of the campaign after suffering broken ribs in a car accident on Thursday.
Jack Kelly also missed out through illness while James Hall was also absent.
The Poppies take on Cambridge City, who are battling against relegation, at Latimer Park in their final home game of the season tomorrow (3pm).
And Law added: “Liam was in a car accident on Thursday morning and he won’t be available for the rest of the season now.
“He was in hospital for a couple of days, he’s out now but he won’t play again this season.
“We will look at it again for tomorrow. Jack was ill for yesterday and James Hall will miss tomorrow as well.
“But Brett Solkhon came through a warm-up, so there’s a possibility he could come into it.”