NEWMAINS lost three players before kick-off – then Craig Gupwell watched them gift-wrap four goals.
After holding Muirkirk to a 3-3 draw with ten men a week earlier, United crashed to promotion-chasing Ashfield.
They fell behind to Graeme Hearton’s ninth minute opener then John Gaynor added a second before the break.
Goals from Mark McManus and Billy Stevenson and a second from Hearton killed off the clash.
Co-boss Gupwell admits they were the architects of their downfall. He said: “For large parts of the game we matched the third best team in the league but a number of individual mistakes cost us dear.
“We conceded five goals and at least four were what I would class as gifts. You just can’t get away with that against a team with the quality Ashfield have at their disposal.
“I hate doing this again but I find myself asking the question what if we had a full squad to choose from.
“After setting a standard over the last couple of weeks we turned up with three key players missing and in the end it showed.”
Despite the heavy loss, Newmains’ position in 13th spot in McBookie West Region League Two actually strengthened.
They are locked on 18 points with 14th-placed Saltcoats Victoria, who suffered an 8-0 drubbing at the hands of leaders Lanark United.
It means the Victoria Park side’s goal difference is now four better than the Ayrshire side, who have just one game left.
United face three games in a week to finish of their season, starting with Saturday’s trip to Thorniewood (kick-off 2pm) then next Wednesday’s home clash with St Anthony’s (kick-off 7pm).
Gupwell added: “Although we were on the end of a heavy defeat to Ashfield I don’t want to be too downbeat.
“There was a lot of fight and desire shown by the boys. But in the end we had little quality in the final third to trouble them and we now need to lick our wounds and bounce back.
“We are all focused on having a positive end to the season and picking up some points in our last few games.”
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