IT PROVED a thoroughly wretched Christmas for Whitchurch Alport.

Three matches, three defeats, penalties conceded in each – all saved – and the team entrenched firmly in the lower reaches of the North West Counties Premier Division.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where things started going wrong for Luke Goddard’s men, but they are a long way from the side that won six games in an unbeaten seven-game spell earlier this season. Mistakes are being made right through the side and more often than not they are being punished.

But for Lea Edge, part of the management team at Yockings Park, improvement is around the corner and he is insistent that the Reds can get back to winning ways.

“I remember saying after we’d beaten Charnock Richard with a last-minute goal at the end of October,” he said. “That victory had papered over some of the cracks that were starting to appear and I think you can mark our trail right back to that day.

“Apart from the 6-1 rout at Hanley when we could have won by an even bigger margin, and a last-minute equaliser at home to Irlam, there’s been very little for our supporters to get excited about.

“In the nine games played since that Charnock win we have only managed to put four points on the board and clearly that’s not good enough. Individually, we have assembled a squad of real quality and when the team’s been winning, all in the camp would appear very rosy indeed, but flip that on its side and what we are seeing is a lack of leadership and some players shirking responsibilities.

“That’s a recipe for disaster. It’s at times like these where you don’t want to go in your dressing room at the end of a match and see 11 players sulking.

“Do the players want it enough? I would hope so because you need to be ruthless in this game. I’ve heard the question posed so many times as to why we dismantled many of the promotion-winning squad. The facts are simple: stick with the same group and we would have had a real relegation battle on our hands.

“There aren’t that many standout teams in this division and with a little tweak here and a little tweak there, I’m confident we’ll be able to move this club forward.”

Edge admitted that Saturday’s Plan A had gone out of the window before he’d had chance to take his place in the dugout.

He added: “We’d drilled into the players the importance of keeping them out so that they would get frustrated, then bang, you’re already chasing the game inside 30 seconds because of a defensive error that you simply can’t legislate for.

“You put your trust in the players and don’t get me wrong I’m not highlighting one error, it goes much deeper than that. It’s a mentality thing at Whitchurch where you can see some players go into hiding when the going gets tough.

“On top of that you have to sit and watch opposition strikers clinically punish us, yet at the other end of the pitch we are missing sitters when we have a chance to impose ourselves.”