Town boss Billy Heath admitted his team’s clash with Macclesfield on New Year’s Day was one game too far after they lost 4-1 at The Shay.
Mitch Hancox netted a hat-trick for Macclesfield, with striker Scott Wilson also scoring for the visitors, while substitute George Waring found the net for Town.
“We always knew it was going to be difficult with what we had on the pitch,” said Heath, who was deprived of defender Michael Duckworth and midfielders Danny Clarke and Scott McManus from team that lost at Dover last Saturday.
“Losing Ducky (Michael Duckworth) in the warm-up summed up everything. That was the icing on the cake.
“You don’t want to play the team top of the league when you’ve had a tough Christmas period.
“The boys gave everything again but we had too many tired legs and too many square pegs in round holes.
“It was one game too far for us. Sometimes you have to hold your hands up. We would have needed our full strength side out and everybody playing well. And even then it may not have been enough.
“We can’t take on Macclesfield with three players taken out of the side and expect to get a result.”
Heath conceded that the timing of Macclesfield’s first two goals either side of half-time were tough to recover from.
“They had more possession but the players stuck to the game plan,” said the Town boss.
“Then you see the minute board go up and for once we’ve made a wrong decision.
“I think it’s a couple of yards offside, he scuffs it in, but we didn’t come out quickly enough and stop the cross.
“We had some decent chances but it was disappointing to concede right on half-time. It changes the team talk a bit.
“Once they got the second goal early in the second-half it was always an uphill battle.
“It deflates you. We said we didn’t want to go gung-ho. We were 1-0 down against the best side in the league, and you don’t want to concede that second goal too early, but we didn’t go with the runner.”
Heath was unhappy at the decision to award Macclesfield a second-half penalty.
He said: “The fourth one’s just a joke, for shirt pulling in the box.
“How many times do we see Denton with his shirt nearly over his head? How many times do we see players hanging on to each other?
“I asked George (Waring) about it and the lad’s thrown himself on the floor.
“Every time we play at The Shay there’s controversy. I think at times we might as well play away because we’re not getting anything as the home side.”
Defender Duckworth was named in the starting line-up but pulled out during the pre-match warm-up.
“It’s just fatigue,” Heath said. “He has to play the 90 minutes at Dover because of the situation we’re in with depleted numbers.
“We spoke in the morning and he said he was struggling. We had a look and he said he was OK but he couldn’t see himself starting.
“What we don’t want Michael to do is break down again. Had it been another 24 hours he may have made it.
“Obviously we lost Macca (Scott McManus) with a hamstring injury, and Danny Clarke was suspended.
“But Hibbsy (Jake Hibbs) was magnificent at right-back, as were the full back four.”
Striker Tom Denton was taken off shortly after half-time, which Heath also said was mainly due to fatigue.
“He had a slight problem with the top of his hamstring, and he was struggling.
“We always knew we’d have to take him off at half-time or just after because he’s got nothing left.”
But Heath was pleased with substitute Waring’s contribution.
“I was pleased for George. He did well when he came on, he’s got some nice touches for a big man. His finish was great.”