Mansfield Town boss John Dempster said he could not question his players’ efforts as they dominated for long spells in today’s 1-0 defeat at leaders Swindon Town.
But he acknowledged that it was results that mattered and felt they showed the Robins too much respect before falling behind.
“I thought the players gave everything, in particular in the second half. I thought we threw everything at Swindon and we had some good opportunities,” he said.
“I also thought the referee had a difficult afternoon – I thought he was poor today. So that didn’t go for us.
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“That’s the standard – that’s the top of the league. Richie Wellens has put a good team together here, but I don’t feel we’re far off them.
“On reflection of that game we are not, but it’s a results business and we’ve lost a football match, so as you can imagine I am disappointed.
“I thought we deserved a point and you can’t question the players’ efforts – we just couldn’t get that goal.”
He added: “We got in some very good areas towards the end of the first half and we dominated the second half.
“Swindon will say they defended well, but we need to do better when we get in those areas. Our attacking players should have been more clinical in their box.
“We had some creative players on the pitch but I felt we weren’t brave enough in the first 20 minutes. We sat off Swindon a little bit and maybe showed them too much respect.
“Once we started to pass it and open them up you could see the confidence lift and players believing.”
Dempster named an attacking starting XI and said: “We wanted to come here and win, regardless of them being league leaders and in good form. We believe we have the players in the squad to win.
“We need to win football matches so there is no point in sitting back. We will stay on the front foot.
“The players are down. It’s fine margins. You look at their goal and it was ricocheting like a pinball all over in our box and unfortunately landed to their player and he slots it home.
“There were numerous occasions the ball was ricocheting around their box but it didn’t drop for us today.”
The one bright moment of the day was a full Football League debut for young midfielder Alistair Smith.
“I am proud of him,” said Dempster. “I think he deserved an opportunity. “He was outstanding at Burton. He played very well for the reserves and training immaculately.
“It’s just a shame he can’t look back on his debut as a win – and I did mention that to the players before the game.
“He has been on a journey since being released at Hull at 16. He’s come on leaps and bounds and that was certainly a positive this afternoon.”