Neal Ardley insists Notts County’s players are battling hard to avoid dropping out of the English Football League despite limping to a tame 3-0 loss at Crewe.
The Magpies earned some respite this week from their off-field problems when an HMRC winding-up application was adjourned.
But on the pitch they failed to muster much of a fight as late goals from Ryan Wintle and James Jones sealed an easy win for the Railwaymen after Aaron Taylor-Sinclair had opened the scoring.
County’s best chance of hauling themselves back into a one-sided contest at Gresty Road went begging when Kane Hemmings stabbed wide after being teed up in front of goal by Jon Stead.
Craig Mackail-Smith and Lewis Alessandra failed to spark the visitors out of their lethargy when they came off the bench in the second half but Ardley refused to blame his players and says the buck stops with him.
“It looks as though the boys were trying but they just weren’t good enough on the day,” admitted the County boss.
“They are doing their best but it was not good enough today. The team that won was the better team by a million miles and I could go through 11 players that didn’t play anywhere near how they have been playing.
“But we have to go again next week so I can’t stand here and slaughter my players, although I can’t defend the performance either. I tried to change the shape and have a go second half, but there were too many poor performances.”
Crewe, whose own season was in danger of petering out after losing five of their previous eight games, dominated throughout.
On-loan defender Taylor-Sinclair flicked on Charlie Kirk’s cross for the opener in the 31st minute.
David Artell’s side then grabbed two late goals, with midfielder Wintle finishing off from close range in the 77th minute and substitute Jones seeing his effort fly off Sam Stubbs and over on-loan keeper Alex Palmer for the third seven minutes before the end.
Kirk could have capped his man of the match display after breaking clear but shot straight at Palmer.
Ardley added: “We didn’t win any battles. As a manager you can lose sight of things and blame the players but the buck stops with me. I am doing the best I can and the players I believe are giving everything, even though it didn’t look like it.”
Crewe boss Artell – who left out Jordan Bowery and George Ray from his matchday squad – said victory atoned for his side’s dismal defeat at local rivals Port Vale last weekend.
“We owed the fans who turned up last week a performance and that was the best way to say sorry,” said Artell. “We were up against a team down on their spirits but we played some brilliant stuff.
“George and Jordan are out of contract and we are trying to look at other things. We have got to look to the future, but it doesn’t mean they won’t play next week and it doesn’t mean to say they won’t be here.”