Corinthian-Casuals’ Manager James Bracken conceded making the top two promotion spots following a 3-1 loss to league leaders Lewes last Saturday.

Two goals in the first fifteen minutes essentially wrapped up the tie despite a brief comeback in the second half when Josh Uzun scored from the spot. However, five minutes later, an own goal settled the tie.

Casuals came into the match without their captain and three-times goalkeeper of the month Danny Bracken after sustaining a fibula fracture at Walton Casuals on Monday.

In stepped experienced veteran Gareth Williams, who began his career at Casuals but hadn’t played a competitive match since retiring two years ago.

Casuals were behind after ten minutes when poor defending let Frankie Chappell head freely direct from a corner kick. Minutes later, Lloyd Cotton volleyed home to double Lewes’ lead.

Last week’s goalkeeping hero, Josh Uzun looked to have brought Casuals back into the match when the striker was awarded a penalty in the second half. Ever reliable from 12 yards, Uzun dispatched the resulting spot kick.

The comeback was short-lived; Five minutes later, from another set piece, the ball fell to Leon Redwood who’s cross into the box was inadvertently headed into the net by Casuals’ Fraser Walker.

The league leaders were able to comfortably see out the remaining minutes with ease to keep their grip on top spot.

“It wasn’t good enough today, that’s for sure,” said Bracken following the loss. “To let in two set-pieces the way we did was soft. They’re soft goals to concede. Against a good side like Lewes, you can’t gift them a two-goal head start. That’s what we’ve done. It’s just not good enough.

“The first goal is bad. The second one is atrocious. The amount of space we’ve given them in the box is criminal. To give him 15 yards of space to allow him to perform a bicycle kick with no-one around is indefensible. Someone’s not done their job properly.

“But there was a lot of lads that haven’t done their job today.

“It’s simple; to win a game of football against a top side you’ve got to have seven or eight of your players giving at least 7/10 performances. Today, we had no-one above a six. No-one has played well. Everyone has underperformed. No-one had that fire in their belly for what was needed today.

“That’s what games like this are about. Sometimes you can win being at only 60% of your best but today, we should’ve been looking to hit our absolute best. We didn’t find enough.

“When we pulled a goal back, I thought we’d have a go at this. Had we not conceded another very poor goal, with the flicked-on deflected shot, then who knows what could’ve happened? Just after we scored, there was a little moment where we started to rock them, but we didn’t sustain the pressure. They then score the poorest goal of the day from our point of view.

“Three awful goals conceded against Lewes? Of course you expect to lose.

“I said to the boys after, I can’t keep taking sole responsibility, which I choose to do for these kind of results. I will feel awful for the rest of the week now and will permanently have the hump until next Saturday. I’ve asked them to share the responsibility in defeat with me. Don’t go home and be alright with this. They shouldn’t be.

"With four games to go, you’ve got to breathe fire to get promoted. You don’t achieve promotion by hitting 60% of your level. Not just technically but with attitude, commitment, workrate… everything.

“Lewes looked like a team that could win the league. They were good, organised, full of belief. Two goals have helped them at the start which set the tone. And we certainly didn’t look that way today. We need to do better next week.

“The only positive is results elsewhere. Again, they’ve given us a reprieve. We always said there’d still be twists and turns in this league. Unfortunately, we’ve not managed to take advantage of it. But with four games to go, we’re right in there for that third place – the top two have gone. We’ll be going all out to get that. We have to show up with more fire.

Speaking of his last minute stand-in keeper, Bracken added, “Gareth Williams done fantastic today. Couldn’t have done anything about the goals. He’s come in, helping us out doing great for the team and the club. He’s thoroughly cheesed off at the result. He’s got great pride in what he does and even though he’s not played in a long while, he want’s to do well. He was let down today by the rest. He’s come in and done his best.”

He finished off with a request to his players to step up.

“If we get promoted, this performance will soon be forgotten about. If we play like this in the next two games and we slip out of the playoffs, or do it in a semi-final, then it’s cost us everything.

“As individuals, they need to take responsibility and ensure that’s not on their shoulders because that isn’t something that can be easily dismissed. Errors can stick with you forever.

"Take Dave Hodges last season in the playoff final. He’s got broad shoulders and will understand, but missing a penalty in the playoff final, he’ll tell you that’ll be with him forever.

"It’s not his fault he didn’t win… we didn’t take our chances, but you’ve got to make sure that when these moments come along, you have to grab them. If someone’s going to fall short of the mark, make sure it isn’t you. If they all embrace that next week and after, we’ll win.”