WORTHING Football Club boss Adam Hinshelwood feels expectations for his team this season need to be calmed after a 5-1 defeat at home to Burgess Hill on Saturday.
A five-game unbeaten run prior to the match had moved Rebels to the fringes of the Ryman League South Division play-off places.
However, top-scorer Trevor McCreadie left the club just before Christmas to join Peacehaven and Rebels were without the injured trio of George Hayward, Matt Piper and Corey Heath against Hillians, while Brannon O’Neill only arrived back from Sheffield to come on as a substitute in the second half.
Hinshelwood said: “I don’t think we can be targeting the play-offs. With the budget we’ve got, it’s mediocre for the County League and, for us to get anything in any game, is a positive.
“The run we went on definitely boosted expectations but we’ve got to be very realistic. You look at how old our team was today, it was men against boys really.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries come at the same time, I don’t know when we’ll see George, who has a groin injury, again and Pipes got injured at the same time as Corey.
“All of those players are massive for us and we’ve got a small squad as it is. But they’re players with a bit more know-how.
“Brannon was away in Sheffield and just couldn’t get back in time to start, Ben Pope and Omar Bugiel were away as well and came back for the game, so I can’t fault them too much.
“We go again on Thursday at Horsham and will do all we can to go there and get something. They’ll be fighting for their lives and it will be a real test of character.
“Hopefully, we’ve got enough personnel in there to stand up to that.”
Despite the defeat to Burgess Hill, Rebels remain sixth in the table, although they are now four points behind fifth-placed Whyteleafe.
On the loss to Hillians, Hinshelwood said: “We gifted the goals away, really, and it was like men against boys.
“We’ve got a very young side and they’ve got a lot of experience and it showed. We’ve got a soft underbelly to the side and it just drives me mad. We have to work so hard for anything and yet we gift opportunities away.
“It just keeps happening, week in, week out, and it’s just frustrating. It’s not as if we can go and get players in, we’ve just got to keep plugging away.
“We probably can’t go and get a replacement in for Trevor as the money to spend on another player just isn’t there. We’ve got to improve drastically, though. The players have got to stand up and work a bit harder. It’s almost like they’ve basked in their own glory a little bit after the good run.
“But we had to go out and work harder than Burgess Hill in the first half and we didn’t do that, especially for a local derby. It felt like they were playing in first gear and we didn’t press them enough to get them out of it.
“They played at first gear and that was good enough for them to win comfortably.”
Rebels are at Horsham today (3pm) and then host East Grinstead on Saturday (3pm).
Worthing then entertain County League Division 2 side Steyning Town in the last 16 of the Sussex Senior Cup on Wednesday.
Town include former Rebels captain Paul Kennett in their squad and sit ninth in their division. The winners of the tie will host Burgess Hill in the quarter-finals.