Marcus Law questioned the “want and willingness” of his Kettering Town players after they slipped to a second defeat in a row in the Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division.
The Poppies were beaten 2-1 at fellow play-off chasers Hungerford Town with the loss ensuring that Kettering stayed in 12th place, nine points behind Redditch United who occupy fifth place.
The setback was made all-the-more worse as Hungerford were forced to play the vast majority of the second half with 10 men after Gary Horgan was sent off for a challenge on Wilson Carvalho.
The Poppies were 1-0 down at that stage but levelled through Liam Canavan’s header, only for Stefan Brown to score from the penalty spot after Brett Solkhon was penalised for handball.
Despite plenty of late pressure, Kettering were unable to find another equaliser and Law felt his team took too long to “get started”.
“We didn’t perform very well on the day,” the Poppies boss said.
“We lacked a bit of heart and the willingness to go and win the game.
“For the first 25 minutes we had the ball but didn’t do much with it on a difficult pitch.
“They have a good home record and you can see why because they work extremely hard. They dealt with us and worked harder and they got the reward with the goal.
“The second half started much the same, we really didn’t have the tenacity that we needed.
“But then the sending-off has sparked us into life. We put ourselves all over them and we got a goal we deserved.
“Then a long throw has gone in, Brett is there with his arms to his side but the referee was straight on to it and gave them the penalty. It was disappointing but would I have wanted the decision as the attacking team? Yes.
“We hit the post near the end, we had two glaring headers but the truth is we didn’t get started until the sending-off.
“I was more disappointed with the way the whole game went. We didn’t have the want or willingness that Hungerford showed to grind the game out.”
The Poppies are due to be back in action on Tuesday night when they make the short trip to UCL Premier Division side Rothwell Corinthians in the semi-finals of the NFA Hillier Senior Cup.