St Albans City joint manager James Gray has demanded a “massive response” at Corby Town tonight after his side let themselves down with their “biggest disappointment of the season”.
The Saints slumped to a 3-1 home defeat to Truro City on Saturday as their Southern Premier Division promotion hopes suffered a setback and they dropped down to fourth.
It was their first loss at Clarence Park in the league since September and Gray is expecting his players to respond positively in tonight’s match.
Gray said: “It just wasn’t good enough on Saturday and I have demanded that they show a lot more heart and desire at Corby.
“The lads know they are in a dog fight and their attitude in training on Monday was spot on so we’re looking for a massive response.
“We need to pick up maximum points against a side that are in really good form and are probably looking to have a late push for the play-offs.”
Gray added: “Nine times out of ten we have been good this season but there have been four or five times where we have let ourselves down.
“Fortunately the players have bounced back well after all of these and we need to make sure this continues because it’s really tightened up at the top of the league.”
The Saints thrashed Truro 7-3 back in October but it was a totally different story at the weekend as City slipped up in front of a bumper crowd of almost 800 fans.
The visitors caught St Albans out on the counter-attack after 15 minutes when Jamie Lowry clipped the ball in for Cody Cooke and he volleyed past keeper Paul Bastock.
The Saints grabbed an equaliser nine minutes into the second half when Peter Dean chipped the ball through for Elliot Bailey to volley home his second goal in as many games.
This joy was shortlived though as Truro regained the lead when Ben Watson’s shot was charged down and Dan Green reacted quickest to fire past Bastock.
St Albans had opportunities to equalise but the visitors killed off the contest in injury time when Green netted at the second attempt after his first shot was blocked by Matt Taylor.
Gray said: “We didn’t get out of the traps and we lost the battles all over the park which was massively frustrating.
“That performance was just not good enough and we missed a massive opportunity because other results went our way.
“It was just one of those days where everything we tried was nowhere near good enough.
“It’s disappointing the way we applied ourselves. We have been poor in a few games this season but in front of our own fans that was our biggest disappointment of the season.
“With seven or eight players off their game, then you are just not going to win a match at this level.”
The Saints were undoubtedly hindered by the absence of suspended striker John Frendo. But Gray insists the players standing in for the 36-goal top scorer need to make more of their opportunity.
The St Albans boss said: “He is the second highest scorer in the division and has 36 goals so you’re always going to miss him.
“They are big boots to fill but a couple of other lads had an opportunity to come in and they let themselves down.
“The one positive was Elliot Bailey’s contribution and another goal but some of the other lads have to step up to the plate.”
Although Gray was critical of the team, he insists everyone at the club is responsible and they are all in this together.
He said: “The way we played in the first half was absolutely appalling but we are all in this together.
“It’s not just about them though because we have to take some responsibility if we made mistakes in our team selection.
“We had a chat and we have to put it right.”
This evening’s game is the first of three consecutive away matches for the Saints which could be a defining period in their push for the play-offs.
After facing Corby tonight, St Albans head to fifth-placed Stourbridge on Saturday in another crucial clash before visiting Biggleswade Town on Monday.
Gray said: “That will be a big game and Stourbridge was always going to be but we cannot look ahead to that yet because we need to focus on getting the job done at Corby.”
l There is a St Albans City team and supporters coach going to Stourbridge for the game this Saturday.
The coach will depart at 10.30am from the Clarence Park entrance to the ground.
To reserve £15 seats call Ian Rogers on 07714 145862.