Mike Flynn has admitted that he was left disappointed by the manner in which his side conceded more “sloppy” goals in the 2-0 defeat to Colchester United.
The Exiles were condemned to their first set of back-to-back league defeats under Flynn’s guidance at the Weston Homes Community Stadium, while also failing to score for the first time this year during the game.
The opening 45 minutes of the encounter in Essex came and went with very few chances of note, ex-Exile Ryan Jackson forcing Joe Day into a smart fingertip save for the best opportunity by either side.
But Colchester came out the quickest in the second-half and found a deserved opener from debutant Ben Stevenson after 59 minutes.
Striker Courtney Senior ran the length of the pitch to set up the goal, skipping past several County challenges, before playing the ball across the area for Stevenson to finish with a clever flick inside the six-yard area.
Mikael Mandron and Kurtis Guthrie both missed good chances to extend the U’s lead, but they would eventually put the game beyond the Exiles with ten minutes remaining.
Mandron rose highest from a corner to send a dangerous header back into the six-yard area, which Mickey Demetriou could only deflect into the path of defender Tom Eastman, who had the simple task of sliding home a second from close range.
County fought valiantly to try and find a way back into the game late on, substitute Paul Hayes coming agonisingly close to a first goal for the club with a header that narrowly went past the far post.
But Colchester held on well to secure a first win since a Boxing Day triumph at Crawley Town, leapfrogging County in the process and sending the Exiles down to 11th place in the League 2 table and five points behind the play-off positions.
And Flynn feels that the goals for Colchester came at critical moments in the game.
“It wasn’t good enough as soon as they scored,” he admitted.
“I thought we were the better team and quite comfortable before they scored, but after that we weren’t good enough and we were way off.
“The first-goal was crucial if I’m honest.
“I’ve just said to the boys now that it’s three games, six goals conceded, and we’ve given away six very sloppy goals.
“And that would have to include the goal against Spurs as-well.”
County had gone into the game searching for a first win over Colchester United since 25th April 1981.
And the Exiles were well in the game for long periods, having a similar number of corners to the home side and sharing the possession.
But County were punished by the ruthless finishing from the home side in the second-half, something Flynn felt his side were lacking during the entirety of the match.
“It is really frustrating,” he continued.
“I just said in there again that we’ve played some really good football and got into some good positions, but it was just the final ball or the final pass that wasn’t good enough.
“It was just frustrating to be honest.”
Flynn could find a positive, however, in the Exiles having a good spell of possession for a brief stint of the game.
But again he affirmed that the goals came at crucial moments in the game and admitted his side didn’t react correctly to going behind after that bright spell.
“We were the better team until they scored,” he stated.
“They started brighter in the first five minutes but after that, we were the better team and we created a lot of chances.
“Switched the play a lot, got into some good positions, but after the first goal I just think that they switched off.
“Their heads went down and it wasn’t good enough.”
The result saw the Exiles slip five points behind the play-off positions and eight from the automatic places in the League 2 table.
But Flynn remained insistent that County could still finish in a top-seven position, especially with the succession of home matches against the play-off occupying teams coming up in March.
“We have [a tough task to make the top-seven,]” he affirmed.
“But again we have got a big swing in home fixtures coming up.
“We’ve got to dust ourselves down and go again, we’ve got to show some mental strength.
“They are physically fit – you could see that they kept running and running and running but the quality just wasn’t there today.
“I think if we’d have still been here tomorrow we wouldn’t have scored.”
The Exiles have now also failed to pick up a point since securing a resolute 1-1 draw with Premiership side Tottenham Hotspur in the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round.
But Flynn doesn’t feel that the cup run has had anything to do with the successive league defeats.
“I’m not going to use that as an excuse,” he said.
“We gave away sloppy goals today and that has nothing to do with the cup run.
“We were sloppy, the cup run didn’t affect us before when we were winning games, so it’s not going to affect us now.
“It just wasn’t good enough today and we’ve conceded two simple goals really.”
The Exiles won’t have to wait too long to put things right as they go again on Wednesday against Spurs in the replay.
And Flynn believes his side have to get the basics right if they are to pull off one of the biggest upsets in the history of the 147-year competition.
“We’ve just got to go back to the drawing board,” he added.
“A few of them have made my decisions easy for Wednesday so it is what it is."
Some early team-news for that trip to Wembley sees Flynn able to provide welcome news on defensive duo Ben White and David Pipe.
The Brighton loanee missed just his third league game of the season after not travelling with the squad to Essex, while Pipe was able to make the bench after missing the previous game through a hamstring complaint.
But Flynn believes the pair could both return before Wednesday.
“Ben has a thigh injury,” he confirmed.
“He wanted to travel and give it a go but I didn’t think it was fair. He’s going to have a scan tonight and hopefully nothing is on there because then he will be alright for Wednesday.
“It was good to have Pipey back as-well on the bench but again with the hamstring, I didn’t want to risk it today.
“I thought that we needed to have a look at Tyler [Reid] and see how he stood up to it.
“I’m sure Pipey will be back [for Wednesday.] He looks after himself and he recovers well so I’m hoping he will be back.”
NEXT UP| Our next League Match sees us host Forest Green Rovers at Rodney Parade. Get tickets here.
AFTER THAT| It's an away trip to Mansfield Town on the 13th February.
IN THE CUP| Our Emirates FA Cup journey continues with a Fourth Round Replay at Wembley on Wednesday 7th February.