Hadleigh United manager Stuart Alston has called for his side to dig deep and show their character ahead of a daunting run of fixtures without their leading striker.
Kyle Cassell, who has been the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division side’s main focal point up front, followed up the previous weekend’s goal with two in the 4-2 home defeat to a revitalised Godmanchester Rovers on Saturday. But he will now miss the next three weeks due to his Army commitments.
That period will see the 16th placed Brettsiders, now just three points above the bottom three, take on highly-fancied top 10 sides with Felixstowe & Walton United’s visit on Saturday (3pm), followed by a trip to Kirkley & Pakefield the following weekend which precedes hosting title-challengers Stanways Rovers at the start of December.
“We have a difficult month ahead now,” admitted Alston. “Cass (Cassell) is not available for the next three weeks and it is hard to think who will step up and lead the line.
“It is a hard learning curve for the kids, but we need to show a bit of grit.”
Hadleigh, who could have central midfielder Brett Crisp back on Saturday for the first time since breaking his ankle early in the season, narrowly lost 1-0 at Felixstowe last month.
“We were unlucky down there and played really well first half but did not take our chances,” said Alston.
On Saturday, Hadleigh were soon 2-0 down against a Godmanchester side who have strengthened considerably in recent weeks after a poor start to the season.
Arran MacKay (10 minutes) and Ben Keating (25) both hit the target to leave the Brettsiders with an uphill task.
However, Cassell headed a goal for Stuart Alston’s side after 40 minutes before the livewire slammed home an excellent equaliser early in the second period.
The crowd of 97 were anticipating a point at least for Hadleigh, but it was at the other end of the field where the cutting edge was sharpest.
Jake Burton restored Goddy’s advantage on 75 minutes while Christian Le clinched victory with number four just before the end to leave Hadleigh with nothing to show for a spirited performance in the middle of the match.
“Without our goalkeeper Sam Mansfield, it could have been six or seven,” said Alston.
“I have no qualms as they were the better side and it was a reality check for the boys.”
“We couldn’t get to grips with their striker and in the second half we just dropped deeper and deeper until they scored.”
With a tough month ahead, Alston added: “If we are out of the bottom three at Christmas we would have done a great job.”