Nicky Eaden believes the Kettering Town players need to be “stronger” with their mindset after their tough start to the Vanarama National League North campaign continued with a 2-1 defeat to Gateshead at Latimer Park.
For the second time in the space of a week, the Poppies allowed a winning position to slip from their grasp.
A decent first-half display saw them hold a half-time lead thanks to Marcus Kelly’s sixth-minute strike.
But things deteriorated in the second period as Kettering dropped deep and Gateshead’s pressure paid off with Toby Lees equalising before Joshua Koyade snatched all three points in stoppage-time.
The defeat has left the Poppies with just four points from five matches since gaining promotion.
And boss Eaden said: “It’s a real kick where it hurts, especially with how well we played in the first half.
“We weren’t as good in the second half. We dropped off a little bit and stopped getting as much pressure on the ball as we should have been.
“I don’t know whether it effects players sometimes when you’re on top and you have three or four good chances and only convert one.
“But you have to be stronger than that. If you have the lead, you have to keep doing the things that got you success. And we stopped doing it.
“If anything, we needed to up it in the second half because Gateshead’s manager would, I’m sure, have been looking for more from his players.
“We had to meet that head on. But by us dropping deeper, it just invited them to get closer to our goal.”
Eaden, meanwhile, was bitterly disappointed with the way the winning goal was conceded as Alex Nicholson was given plenty of time to deliver a cross from the right, which was converted by Kayode in the six-yard box.
“We should defend it but it was far too easy for the cross to come in,” the Poppies boss added.
“If you know you’re up against players who have good quality when delivering into the box then you try to stop it.
“You can blame the defenders but it’s a full team thing. I thought that goal was too easy.”
The Poppies now have a free week as they prepare for the bank holiday weekend, which sees them head to Leamington on Saturday before hosting Kidderminster Harriers a week tomorrow.