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Hit with sucker punches

23 January 2018

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Kevin Nolan was left disappointed by his team's 2-1 defeat at home to Crawley Town.

The Magpies were condemned to a second successive loss by goals from Jimmy Smith and Josh Payne as Jon Stead's 10th goal of the season was little more than a consolation.

Matty Virtue and Ross Fitzsimons were both sent off in stoppage time but the manager was left to rue a profligate first half from his team.

"It's disappointing to lose the game but it's the first time we've lost successive games in the league this season, which shows how far we have come," he said.

"It could have been a different game for us if we had put our chances away in the first 10-15 minutes. Over the last two games I think we have created more chances than I can remember here but not put them away.

"We've been hit with sucker punches and I have told the lads we need to manage the game in both ways and we haven't done that in the last two games as well as we have done in the past.

"To lose a goal from a throw-in, which was so basic from our point of view, is disappointing.

"I'm proud of these lads to be where they are at at this stage of the season. Nobody envisaged it. What I want the players to do is go back to what they were doing and be true to themselves - they'll be ok."

While Virtue saw red for two yellow cards, Fitzsimons was sent off for kicking out at Mark Connolly.

And the manager admitted he was unable to defend his goalkeeper.

"Ross has been fantastic for me since he joined the club but he knows he has done wrong tonight," said Nolan.

"I'm not going to defend or condone what he did but what we will do is rally around him and ensure he learns from this.

"This is his first major run in a league team and he has been doing really well but tonight he has let a silly push rattle him and it has cost him a three-game suspension."

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