THE main stand at Sandy Lane was dark and empty at 5.30pm on Saturday.
Simon Clark took a seat where earlier supporters had roared his team onto the pitch, before growing quiet over 90 minutes watching Bradford Park Avenue seal a comfortable win.
The locals had long since trudged out of the gates as the manager scraped some turf from the studs on his boot and admitted the play-offs are no longer a realistic aim for Worksop Town this season.
Any play-off hopes the club harboured had been raised from the dead once already, since Clark came in during October and turned the season around.
But the form that saw the men in amber go 21 games with just two defeats under his control gave way to a January without a single victory.
A goalless draw at North Ferriby was followed by a 5-3 beating by Kendal at home and Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Avenue.
The three league disappointments were compounded by an FA Trophy exit at the hands of Newport County and a League Cup exit at Ferriby.
It was the Bradford Park Avenue result that brought Clark’s concession that an extension to the regular season fixture list was now all but impossible.
In a characteristically honest assessment, when asked if the play-offs were gone, he replied: “Absolutely.”
“We’ve got to get realistic. I’m a realist, Frecks (assistant Dave Frecklington) is a realist.”
“Are we good enough with that squad to make the play-offs? In certain areas, yes.”
“And I know the areas I need to strengthen. You only need to look at the table to see how many goals we’ve scored and how many we’ve conceded.”
“We want to be in contention, so that will change. People that we want to bring in are tied up, so we have to do as good as we can.”
“There’s no excuses, I inherited a squad and I work with that squad.”
“I think we brought the season around with a decent run.”
“I’ve said to the players we’ve had the plaudits for a run that we put together that has got us midtable. But we’re zero (wins) and four (defeats), and I’ll learn from this.”
He praised Saturday’s victors for bossing the game for large spells, particularly the second half when they stopped Worksop from putting together cohesive attacks and put the game to bed with a second goal.
Clark said: “Reality hit home today, we’ve been dominated.”
“We’ve been dominated physically, dominated in possession, without creating, dominated individually all over the pitch.”
“Credit to Bradford, I thought they were decent.”
A bone of contention was the referee’s failure to send Avenue’s James Knowles off, after risking a second yellow card with a late challenge on Jamie Jackson.
But Clark wasn’t putting too much emphasis on the incident.
“You can always say that, but I think it was a yellow. Was it the worst tackle of the day? No. Have people been booked for lesser tackles? Yes.”
“It changes the game, and we had a little bit of momentum 40 minutes out, but that fizzled and then their second goal kills us.”
“They got tight with us, clamped us up and restricted what we do.”
“We didn’t have an answer.”
The manager is not expecting the four-game losing streak to get worse however.
Remaining bullish about Tigers’ chances in tomorrow’s (Saturday) fixture at Stocksbridge Park Steels he insisted: “I expect us to bounce back.”
“Bring it on, it’s what we want (a tough, physical test).”
“They are playing for their shirts next year. These players are playing to be here at a good football club next year.”