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Telford are left short at the back after Lilly sees red

A second red card in two matches for AFC Telford United left manager Gavin Cowan pondering a defensive headache after the Bucks’ 2-0 home defeat by high-flying Brackley Town on Saturday.

Gavin Cowan the head coach / manager of AFC Telford United.
Gavin Cowan the head coach / manager of AFC Telford United.

Zak Lilly’s 61st-minute dismissal will earn him a suspension, and with central defensive partner Nathan Pond also suspended for three matches following his red card against Stamford, the defensive cupboard is starting to look bare.

Right wing-back Arlen Birch missed the game because of a knock, with midfielder Jed Abbey filling in, but further reinforcements from outside look likely, with Cowan openly stating: “We need a few more bodies now.”

Cowan has already had to make us of the loan market; with left wing-backs Brendon Daniels and Brad Bood injured and recovering from illness, the manager drafted in loan signing Kevin Berkoe. The Salford City youngster put in a fine display on debut, but was one of few successes on a dispiriting day where some Bucks fans voted with their feet.

Cowan acknowledged that he and his team are going through a difficult spell, with the Bucks’ lack of confidence apparent. He said: “I thought we were not really at the races; we looked a bit nervous, understandably when things aren’t going your way, but then following their goal I thought we were excellent. I said to the lads at half-time that that I couldn’t praise them enough; tactically it was going where we wanted it to go.

“Brackley are a good side, especially with a 1-0 lead away from home. We weathered a five-minute storm at the start of the second half and then really came into the ascendancy. We had the momentum; we had a lot of chances and were getting down the sides. Elliott’s hit the post, but then a bit of indiscipline has cost us.

“We’ve worked hard but been beaten by the better team.”

The indiscipline Cowan referred to was the straight red card handed to Lilly for a mistimed, crunching tackle from behind on Brackley scorer Matt Lowe which had referee Michael Ryan reaching instantly for his back pocket.

Lilly’s dismissal killed the Bucks momentum with half-an-hour to play, and Brackley’s second goal 10 minutes later through Lee Ndlovu ended any faint hopes of a revival.

With the Bucks winless in five matches, and with their solitary victory over Chorley now over a month ago, the Bucks have tumbled towards the foot of the table, and Cowan insisted there was no magic formula:

“When times are tough you lack a little bit of belief and everything seems to come at you at once. You’ve just got to stick together, work hard, stay strong and you’ll come out of the other end of it, which happens if you apply yourself in the right way.”

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