Corby Town’s depleted squad were soundly beaten 3-0 by Calor League Premier Division play-off chasers Poole Town at Steel Park.
As expected, there were enforced and significant changes to the Steelmen line-up following the bombshell yesterday that some players would not feature in protest at unpaid wages.
With Nathan Stanton and Claudiu Hoban suspended anyway, the Corby squad was decimated as Paul Malone, Chris Carruthers and Sam Ives were all missing.
And joint-boss Tommy Wright’s hopes of convincing Gareth Jelleyman and Tom McGowan clearly fell on deaf ears as they were also absent.
It was also confirmed before kick-off that Malone had his contract cancelled and he has now officially left the Steelmen
Of those who were at Steel Park, there was a surprise return for central defender Brad-Lee Gascoigne, who was at Corby earlier this season, while local youngster Connor Kennedy, at the tender age of 16, was given a start at right-back.
Former Hinckley United left-back Theo Brown also came into the Steelmen team along with boss Wright’s brother Danny while Pa Njie was handed a start in attack.
It was always going to be an uphill task, although the heart and desire that the Corby players showed could not be questioned.
They even threatened early on when a surging run and cross by Cleveland Taylor was set to land at Harry May’s feet but Njie took it away from him.
But from there, Poole began to get the job done. Steve Devlin rattled the crossbar with a superb long-range effort and the visitors went in front on nine minutes.
Michael Charles got in behind Gascoigne and he calmly lofted the ball over Walker.
The Steelmen’s cause was not helped when Gascoigne was forced off through injury and that meant another youngster Ben Williams, most recently at Harborough Town but previously with Corby’s youth team, entered the fray with Tommy Wright moving in at centre-half.
Poole should have made it 2-0 when Charles’ clever flick released Ekow Elliott but he could only blast over the crossbar.
However, the visitors went out of sight before the break. Their second was created by Devlin who whipped in a free-kick, which was met by a thunderous header from Marvin Brooks which gave Walker no chance.
And it was three in first-half stoppage-time when Tommy Wright hauled down Charles in the area. Devlin stepped up and hammered the spot-kick home from 12 yards.
Things were better for the Steelmen after the break as Poole seemed to settle for what they had.
But Corby did pose the visitors one or two problems with a couple of scrambles from set-pieces while Greg Mills forced Dan Thomas into his first, and only, real save when he punched the frontman’s free-kick over the bar.
May sent a low shot just wide of the mark before the end but that was as good as it got as far as chances were concerned.
It was always going to be a tough ask and Tommy Wright, who was excellent at the heart of the defence, and fellow joint-boss Andrew Wilson deserve all the credit for throwing a team together, let alone getting them to compete.
The makeshift team worked hard for the cause. And that was all anyone could have asked for.
Quite what the future holds for the club in these uncertain and dark times, however, remains to be seen.
Steelmen: Walker; Kennedy, K Thomas, Gascoigne (sub Williams, 21 mins), Brown (sub Barton, 58 mins); T Wright, D Wright; May, Mills, Taylor; Njie. Subs not used, Carpenter, Wilson
Poole: D Thomas, Burbidge, Dibba, Whisken, Martin (sub Lowes, 13 mins); Devlin (sub Davis, 67 mins); Preston, Brooks, Elliott, Davies; Charles (sub Turner, 72 mins). Subs not used: Yates, Gillespie.
Referee: Ian Rathbone.
Goals: Charles (9 mins, 0-1), Brooks (33 mins, 0-2), Devlin pen (45 mins, 0-3).