Manager reacts to play-off final

Manager Courtney Belford admitted his side didn’t “stamp their authority” on this weekend’s play-off final defeat.

AFC went down to Belper United by a solitary second half goal at Kirkby Road.

And Belford was disappointed that his side didn’t “land a glove” on their visitors. He said: “They’ve bettered us over three games this season. Every player we’ve had registered has probably played against them over the season and we’ve not been able to beat them.

“Full credit to them, they’re a fantastic side, they graft for each other, very workmanlike and with a lot of team spirit. They’ve been good over the course of a season.

“But we fell short. For myself, we’ve underachieved. The squad we had, the players and resources, to not get over the line ultimately means we’ve failed. It’s difficult to pick yourself up and go again. You overthink a lot of things, you question yourself for everything.

“Ultimately the buck stops with me as the manager, and my staff. The players have to shoulder a little bit because we were nowhere near at our best. It’s a big occasion, the pressure was on, and we didn’t do enough over the course of 90 minutes.”

The manager admitted an element of nervousness crept in to the Hinckley performance, in front of a crowd of 811 that was the highest to watch a Hinckley match for more than a decade.

And he said his side didn’t deal with the occasion well enough.

“We tend to start games well and stamp our authority but we didn’t do that. We played misplaced passes, made the wrong decisions, people didn’t get into shape.

“It was a big occasion, a big crowd who we thank for all coming out. It was unbelievable to play in front of that crowd. But with that it brings pressure, and that got to us.

“We didn’t create enough for the two forwards. Our only chance came in the 92nd minute and you’re going to snatch at things that late on.

“We didn’t create enough or play the way we want to play. We allowed them to dictate the game. They slowed it down, they had a gameplan and it worked.”

And while that was a frustration, so was conceding from a set-piece. Belford has admitted that has been a frailty in his side for much of the season and it caught up with them again against Belper.

“That’s why we’ve had to outscore teams a lot this year. It’s been our Achilles heel. We conceded a silly foul for a free kick, which Matt made an unbelievable save from – one of the best saves I’ve seen for a long time. And we didn’t reward him by keeping the next one out of the box.

“It was the second ball again. They won the first header and won the second. If you’re not willing to land on things in your box, be aggressive, you’re always going to be up against it especially when you’re not servicing your strikers.

“It’s disappointing but we knew we weren’t the biggest team. When we don’t play football, things might catch up with you.”

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