AFC Mansfield boss Mark Ward said he was “proud” of his side after a slender 1-0 defeat to promotion-chasers Pontefract.
Saturday’s loss for the Bulls came after Jake Picton’s 43rd-minute goal for the visitors, who sit third in the Evo-Stik NPL East Division table, proved decisive.
It means AFC Mansfield are now four games without a win in all competitions and they have failed to score a goal during that stretch against Cleethorpes, Carlton and Belper.
Speaking about his side’s performance against Pontefract, Ward said: “It was end-to-end with both teams looking to win the game. I’m proud of the lads because they gave me what I was asking them to.
“It was just a lapse in concentration and I suppose that’s why Ponty and the teams at the top are where they are - they get one chance and they take it. It’s the story of the season; when we play really well, we’ve not stuck the ball in the net and we’ve been punished, and when we play poorly we get put to the sword.
“I really think the lads have done enough to pick the points up, so we’ve got to dust ourselves down now and go again.”
Picton headed home Conner Smythe’s free-kick just before the interval, whilst Cameron Dear’s second-half lob of ‘keeper Teo Hamelin went agonisingly wide.
Jordan Annable skimmed the crossbar with a late header barely a minute after, his shot squeezing under Hamelin’s body failed to be tapped home on the goal line.
Bulls are away to Ossett United on Saturday.