Manager Lee McCartney described Nortel as a ‘wounded animal’ as the downward spiral continues for the Premier Division club, which suffered its eighth successive league defeat, losing 2-1 in Saturday’s six-pointer at Killyleagh Youth Club.
“So many key players are injured and not just with knocks, it’s injuries that aren’t going to just clear up in a game or two,” he said. “We’re finding it hard to get players, and we’ve lost another two in Glenn Hand and Aaron Anderson.
“I had to make changes, but this was a better performance. We had a lot of the Second team on - they did us proud and more than held their own. I knew what they could do having been Second team manager.
“Killyleagh aren’t in great form either, so we went down there confident enough – but with only two points away from home all season, we were focusing on defence and trying to stop conceding. But we don’t really look like scoring ourselves. Mark Wilkinson, out with a back injury, is a big loss.”
Yet things looked rosy initially when Nortel took a fourth-minute lead with Aaron Bloomfield taking a pot on goal from out on the right.
However, not for the first time of late, Nortel conceded a penalty, with the referee pointing to the spot after Wayne Lorrimer’s mistimed challenge. Kris Malone, back after injury, had no hope with the resultant spot-kick.
Nortel started off with goalkeeper Stephen Murray in the heart of the back four and were forced into a reshuffle after just after the Killyleagh equaliser when debutant Matthew McCausland hobbled off with a hamstring injury. Neil Crawford came off the bench with Davy Freyne moving over to the centre of the defence.
Killyleagh grabbed what turned out to be the winner just three minutes into the second half and Nortel were unable to turn things around - even after the home side were reduced to 10 men on 65 minutes.
McCartney concluded: “I’ve every confidence we’ll still stay up but it’s not going to be easy. We must stop giving goals away and stop giving away penalties, as well as create more going forward.
“But the heart is there. There was a fear that with so many coming up from the Seconds that we were going to get rolled over, but we did really well.
“It shows that we’ve got depth in the squad that we didn’t know we had. Things aren’t as chaotic as some people seem to think.”