Ashington manager Steve Harmison could not fault the effort and commitment from his players despite going down 4-1 scoreline at West Auckland on Saturday.
After the game he said: “The reason why Ashington are in a struggling position is maybe the lads are a little low on confidence – and to be honest I thought that showed a little bit today, especially in the first 25 minutes.
“We went to face a team who are flying high at the top of the division who are buzzing, and who were sharper than us in the early part of the game.
“Because of that I thought we just dropped our heads a touch when the first goal went in and that’s natural from where Ashington have been.
“From that aspect this is where the management team have got to give this young group a little bit of protection and try to keep building them up.
“After the energy and endeavour which the lads showed against Bishop Auckland and Sunderland RCA, we were wanting them to try and portray that again.
“They did some good things in the second half, but our formation was narrow because our wide players are injured and not available to us.
“Consequently we are trying to cover our bases.
“West Auckland play in a way where they flood the midfield and make sure it’s difficult, and they are good exponents of what they do.
“So with that in mind, it was a bit tough for us, but if anything came out of the defeat, it was the resilience the players showed at not capitulating when they went 2-0 down in the first half.”
And Harmison was unhappy with the match referee.
He added: “We were still in the game at half-time until the disputed penalty decision.
“My players made elementary mistakes but the referee made bigger ones and has booked lads for silly things.
“He was not good enough. I know we cannot play without officials but he was poor for both sides.”
Despite the defeat, the boss remained upbeat.
He added: “We deserved nothing on the day and West Auckland are a good team whose quality showed in the end, and you can see why they are top of the league.
“However, I thought the 4-1 scoreline was very harsh on us.
“The work rate and the effort from my lads was great and there were a lot of positives about Ashington today.
“We lacked a little bit of quality but it’s a work in progress project for us and certainly a case of onwards and upwards.”