Cove Rangers boss Paul Hartley doesn’t think his side can use injuries as an excuse for their surprise 6-1 defeat at Annan Athletic.
The League Two leaders suffered just their second defeat of the campaign in emphatic style at Galabank, having led 1-0 through Jamie Masson’s early goal.
Granite City outfit Cove, who remain five points clear at the summit after challengers Edinburgh City lost against Queen’s Park at Hampden, had just two outfield substitutes for Saturday’s clash and found themselves 3-1 down by the break.
Skipper Mitch Megginson and midfield linchpin Fraser Fyvie were both ruled out before Cove travelled.
Defenders Daniel Higgins and Harry Milne were hurt during play and striker Declan Glass was sent off.
Hartley believes the hamstring injury suffered by Higgins was the moment things began to go awry and said: “It was bad day for us. We started really well and for 15, 20 minutes we were fine.
“We looked good and then, with Daniel going off, for 70 minutes were really poor.
“We don’t have any excuses – it went wrong on Saturday. We lost our discipline and shape at times.
“They were really poor goals and we didn’t play well as a team.”
Given the circumstances of Saturday’s loss, Hartley says Cove must move on, focus on getting players back fit and look ahead to a crucial away clash at Edinburgh City next weekend.
The injury list reads Megginson, Fyvie, Ryan Strachan, Matty Smith, Chris Antoniazzi and Alan Redford, with Higgins and Milne – hurt in a challenge on the 64-minute mark – to be assessed.
The boss added: “Higgy didn’t look great, but hopefully it’s not as bad as what we think.
“He’ll need treatment, same with Harry.
“It’s one of those things. We’ve been very fortunate for the season so far, we’ve been healthy in squad numbers, but yesterday it just took its toll.
“We have to move on. We analysed it and the players know themselves they let themselves down and didn’t play well.
“You have to move on in football quickly.
“We’ve got another important away game next week – a big game for us – so we need to look at what kind of squad we’ve got.
“We didn’t perform well, I haven’t had to say that a lot this season.
“Even at 3-1 I didn’t think we’d get back into the game. When we were 3-1 down at Stenny I did think we could get back into it.
“Saturday was a real off day.”
Hartley thinks the penalties Annan were awarded either side of the break were soft, but all in all, the result reminds the promoted Highland champions they can’t let their performances drop off after a strong start to the season.
He said: “I thought they (the penalties) were soft to be honest.
“Looking back at them on the bus there’s nothing in them.
“(With the red card) Glassy’s just a little bit late, he’s not a malicious player.
“It’s a bad one for us because he misses the Edinburgh game.”