HAWKS manager Lee Bradbury has called on his side to ‘raise their game’ following their 1-0 Conference South defeat by St Albans City.
The visitors paid the price for an insipid display at Clarence Park.
Saints substitute Sean Shield’s strike seven minutes from time left the Hawks empty-handed.
The defeat, coupled with Gosport Borough earning a point, leaves the Hawks just outside the play-off zone on goal difference.
‘We were not brave enough with the ball and we have got to trust each other more,’ said Bradbury.
‘It is important to keep playing the way we play and not allow the opposition to impose their game on us.
‘As a whole we have got to learn from this because we are going to come up against other big, strong teams.
‘There are lots of different ways to win a game of football and we have to combat them.
‘We need to raise our game a little bit.’
Before the winning goal arrived, JJ Hooper missed a glorious chance to put the visitors ahead in a closely-fought contest.
In truth, though, Lee Bradbury’s team created little all afternoon against their big physical opponents.
Bradbury was disappointed and frustrated by the stale-looking performance.
‘It was gutting to come away empty-handed but I felt we were a bit off the pace today,’ said Bradbury.
‘We made poor decisions around both boxes and it has ended up with them wearing us down.
‘Both teams cancelled each other out for long periods and it was a war of attrition at times.
‘We knew what they were going to play like and we dealt with it for large parts of the game.
‘It could have gone either way but they caught us with a quick counter-attack to snatch the points.
‘I felt we were a bit flat and needed a spark from somewhere but it didn’t come.’
The Hawks were slow out of the blocks and had to weather some early pressure from their hosts.
Goalkeeper Ryan Young saved twice from Sam Corcoran and also made an excellent stop to deny John Frendo.
Slowly but surely the Hawks began to get a foothold in the game but home keeper Joe Welch remained relatively untroubled.
Bradbury’s men, playing down the slope in the second half, saw a lot more possession but lacked a cutting edge.
Young striker Hooper should have put the Hawks ahead five minutes into the second half.
A long ball over the top from Scott Donnelly put him clear with just a stranded Welch to beat.
Hooper, however lacked the necessary composure and missed the target altogether.
‘It was a chance you would expect the player to take,’ said Bradbury.
The stalemate was finally broken in the 83rd minute when a quick break left Saints three-on-three up the middle.
The ball was worked to Dagenham & Redbridge loanee Shields to the left and he picked his spot across Young into the far corner.
Hawks: Young, Strugnell, Cummings, Stock, Dutton, Harris, Swallow (Mullings, 46min), Donnelly, Hooper (Bubb, 52min), Connell (Ciardini, 73min), Huggins. Subs not used: Ryan, Blanchett