Skegness Town manager Nick Chapman described his side’s 1-0 home defeat to Sleaford Town Reserves as a wake up call for his ring rusty side.
“We looked like a team that has played only once in six weeks,” he said. “You don’t get anything unless you work hard and we didn’t work hard enough. That was the wake up call we needed.”
Indeed, going into the match there were seven places and 12 points between the two sides and the Lilywhites started the game as though they expected to win.
Their play lacked tempo and, although they enjoyed the majority of the possession they tended to overplay against an organised unit.
The game was 27 minutes old before they created their first real chance, but visiting keeper Garry Doran diverted Jake Gibson’s shot just wide of the post after the striker broke free of the Sleaford offside trap.
The seasiders continued to huff and puff, but lacked penetration, and when a 43rd minute chance fell to Andy Parish on the edge of the Sleaford penalty area, he dragged his shot wide.
There must have been harsh words said at half time. The Lilywhites dominated the early stages of the second period and four minutes after the break Jamie Epton volleyed into the side netting.
Jack Cotton was inches too high when he connected with a 52nd McCauley Parker corner from the left and a minute later Doran deflected a Gibson shot wide with his fingertips.
Doubts started to creep into the Skegness play as they continued to be frustrated by the visitors’ offside trap. Skipper Ben Davison talked himself into referee Robin Dungworth’s book with one protest too many.
Looking for the key to unlock the organised Sleaford defence Chapman threw on John Courtney for his first appearance at Burgh Road since his broken leg, suffered on the same ground towards the end of last season.
But it was at the other end that the healthy crowd saw the net bulge. A cross from the right was met by Ian Maplethorpe at the far post and he steered the ball past Josh Smith.
Skegness were stunned, but it could have been much worse. Jonathan Twentyman twice missed golden opportunities to extend the visitors’ lead before the seasiders started to look threatening.
Sleaford defenders tired in the sticky conditions and struggled to repel the home strikers during the final ten minutes.
In the 81st minute Gibson appeared to have saved a point with a looping header, but somehow Doran managed to throw himself backwards to tip the ball over the bar.
There were three further chances for substitute Josh Clarke, but he failed to hit the target with any of them.
Skegness Town: Josh Smith, Aaron Shelley, Jamie Epton, Andy Parish, Jack Cotton, Liam Parker, Daniel Cobb, Ben Davison, Jake Gibson, Liam Papworth, McCauley Parker, Michael Armstrong, John Courtney, Josh Clarke, Mark Russell.
Sleaford Town Reserves: Garry Doran, Jack Warren, Adam Underwood-Harley, Richard Meldrum, Bradley Murrell, Tim Beedles, David Cook, Charlie Rossington, Jonathan Twentyman, Philip McGann, Ian Maplethorpe, Stephen Garfoot, Aaron Partridge, Jack Padley.
The seasiders get a chance for instant revenge when they travel to Eslaforde Park for the return fixture on Saturday (kick-off 2pm).