Simon Rusk was left despondent, disappointed and angered after his side were beaten 2-1 by strugglers Barnet, leaving Stockport County winless in two and almost certainly out of a title race.
By Amos Murphy
Halloween horror show for woeful Stockport
Goals either side of half-time from Joe Widdowson and Reiss Greenidge gave Barnet the slender win, after Oliver Crankshaw equalised for Stockport just before the break.
Widdowson wouldn’t go on to see the game out, as the Barnet defender was stretchered off following a reckless challenge from Macauley Southam-Hales, resulting in a red card for the County full-back.
Rusk felt his side performed well on the balance of play, but was left disappointed by their inability to convert opportunities:
“We have to create better quality chances as we’re getting into too many good areas without getting enough end actions away.
“We work hard to get back into the game and then we repeat what happens just after half-time. If you give someone something to hold on to, they're going to try and hold on".
Wasteful Hatters pass up chances at home, again
County came close on a number of occasions before falling behind, with Paddy Madden and John Rooney squandering golden opportunities, whilst recent arrival Antoni Sarcevic rattled the woodwork earlier in the match.
Ultimately, it was two set-pieces that cost the Hatters, with the Stockport’s defensive efforts going from abject for the opener, to criminal for the second and Rusk highlighted his frustrations at conceding from corners:
“There needs to be a more rigorous desire to defend set-pieces, clearly.
“Bottom line is if we gift the opponent two goals at home we make the game very difficult".
County faithful disappointed with hapless showing
County responded in lacklustre fashion after going behind and other than two penalty appeals in the closing stages, the hosts failed to trouble a resolute Barnet defence.
Boos rang around Edgeley Park at full time, with Rusk admitting "yes" when asked if it was his most disappointing evening as County boss:
“Yeah, it probably was. I understand their frustrations, of course I do.
“People are entitled to vent their frustrations (with boos). It’s frustrating for everyone.
“It’s very easy for me to blame players and I’m not going to start doing that because we’re all responsible. We can’t be victims.
“I’m really angry and upset.”
Rusk operating with square pegs into decagon shaped holes
As preseason favourites to earn automatic promotion, County now face an uphill task if they are to even reach the playoffs and Rusk acknowledged he is still having trouble finding Stockport’s best system:
“My preference has generally been to work with a back four and last season we did well with a three, so that momentum took us through to this year.
“I don’t think (the three) has been quite right this season, or at least it hasn’t looked right. Now felt like the time to change”.
Despite the defeat, Rusk continued to praise his players and their efforts, adding he believed the system worked well for County:
“It’s hard to say this now, but there were pleasing aspects of that system for us tonight, but it didn’t get a chance to energise itself because of the nature of the goals. It killed us”.