Manager Martin Gray witnessed York City’s play-off hopes as good as extinguished following a third straight loss at relegation-threatened Gainsborough Trinity.
Making it even worse was the fact that the part-time hosts, who were second-bottom in the table and already a handful of points away from immediate safety, survived for more than an hour with only ten-men after defender Brandon Fleming was sent-off.
Former Harrogate Town striker Ashley Worsfold scored their winner early in the second-half after visiting pair Adam Bartlett and Daniel Parslow had crashed into each other and offered up an unguarded net.
A clearly dejected Gray later criticised long-suffering York supporters who have been forced to endure successive relegations and countless pitiful displays since, yet are still turning out in serious numbers .
“It’s the toughest day since we’ve come into the club,” he admitted to BBC Radio York. “We started the first-half reasonably well. The sending-off gives you the advantage and we didn’t maximise the spare man.
“Having said that [Alex] Kempster had a great chance to score fifteen or twenty minutes into the game. And we didn’t. But equally the bravery on the ball in the second-half wasn’t what it should have been.
“It’s obvious when things aren’t going well that the players feel a lot of pressure on their shoulders,” Gray continued. “And I understand the total pressure of the fans and the expectation of the people of the club is massive. And the expectations of what players have to deliver. But at the end of the day we’ve got to be better than what we are.
“I totally understand the total disappointment for everybody because I really want to do well and turn it around. And I hope I’m given the opportunity to do that because I’m working very hard and I’ll do everything in my means to get it right.”
However, Gray remains deeply unhappy with abuse directed towards misfiring striker James Gray, who has scored just once in eighteen appearances since arriving at Bootham Crescent in October.
The former Northern Ireland Under-21 international was left on the bench despite the visitors, who were already without sidelined duo Jon Parkin and Louis Almond, then suffering the loss of Alex Kempster early in the second-half.
That in turn witnessed a couple of centre-backs leading their attack in the shape of skipper Sean Newton and French-born Hamza Bencherif, the latter of whom still awaits his first goal despite having made over sixty club appearances.
“The fans hammer James Gray before he comes on the pitch,” Gray insisted. “Two weeks ago he scores the winning goal and they are on his back. The fans are destroying him, absolutely destroying him. So to put him out there it’s very difficult.
“Mentally it’s tough for the players – and I understand the fans’ frustration. I’m frustrated for the fans, I really am.”
The goal conceded by York early in the second-half was only too characteristic of what has proved such a totally embarrassing campaign for their devoted followers, as a couple of their players suddenly collided when going for the same ball
“Dan Parslow and Adam Bartlett get mixed up with it,” he added. “Dan Parslow, could he head it back? Can Adam Bartlett not come for it? They do neither and collide and it drops to them. So it’s a soft goal from an error.”
Meanwhile, Gray wasn’t entirely sure that Gainsborough left-back Fleming warranted a straight red card following his first-half challenge on Connor Brown.
“It could go either way,” he said. “It’s a real tough challenge from both players and it’s probably the reaction of our players that got him sent-off.”