FURIOUS Fleetwood boss Micky Mellon ordered his side to toughen up after labelling them “soft” in the wake of their meek capitulation at home to basement club Eastbourne Borough.
“We lost every single battle all over the pitch. We were poor and there are absolutely no excuses, said Mellon after a fourth 1-0 defeat in six games cost Town their place in the Blue Square Bet Premier play-off zone.
“We didn’t look like a team fighting to get into the play-offs,” he added. “We never created any chances of note and we defended poorly.
“We attacked poorly and lost ten outfield battles.
“We were soft and never battled. We never won enough knockdowns or headers, held it up well enough or got enough crosses in. Everything we did was poorer (than Eastbourne).
“If we play like that, all our remaining games are going to be tough.
“How we go from the Grimsby game (a 3-0 win) to that with the same personnel is hard to put your finger on.
“There was not enough passion and fire in their stomachs. You can maybe deal with two or three having an off-day but not all 11. That is certainly what happened today.
“Eastbourne played with a lot of enthusiasm and had more fight than we did. You have to say they deserved their victory.
“They haven’t had much joy, as the league table suggests, but as the game went on they grew in confidence and we seemed to disintegrate for some reason.”
The outcome was settled by a remarkable free-kick from inside his own half by Matt Smart, embarrassing goalkeeper Scott Davies, who had made some vital saves before that.
Garry Wilson, boss of part-timers Eastbourne, admitted that at first he wondered what Smart was doing in attempting something so ambitious.
“I was looking to see who he could work it in to, then by the time I turned my head he had struck the ball.
“I turned back and saw the keeper back-pedalling a bit and it went in. It was a fantastic strike, well worthy of winning any game.
“One hundred per cent he meant it. I was ready to say to him, ‘What are you doing?’ because I didn’t think he had much chance of scoring from there. He has seen the keeper off his line and had a go, and it is a really special strike, worthy of breaking our run of defeats.”
Mellon said of Smart’s unlikely effort: “He meant it but the goalkeeper should have saved it, no doubt about that. “It was just another part of a poor day.”
Smart himself said: “I just saw the keeper directing his defence towards the edge of the box and the free-kick was in our half.
“I told Ben Austin to leave it because I wanted to try a shot. I pinged it and I knew as soon as it left my boot that it was going in. The get that in the 84th minute when we are down at the bottom of the league means a lot.”
Of the game overall, Wilson said: “I don’t see a lot of them but Fleetwood are probably a better side than they showed. We got a feeling they weren’t quite at it. Our lads played ever so well and created a lot of chances, but it has taken a wonder goal to win the game.”
Striker Gareth Seddon is set to miss tomorrow night’s trip to Darlington after limping off with a calf injury.
Mellon said: “We will look at it, but for him to go off so early you would have to say he won’t be fit for Tuesday. We just have to pick ourselves up and bounce back.”