HARTLEPOOL United keeper Scott Flinders described defeat to Blyth Spartans as the “lowest point in my career”.
The Pools captain was powerless to prevent Tom Wade’s side stealing a late, dramatic FA Cup victory at a bouncing Victoria Park in front of the live television cameras.
Paul Murray’s side had dominated the opening half hour and should have been further in front but they failed to build on Jonathan Franks’ opener.
They were made to pay as first Stephen Turnbull scored direct from a free-kick and then Jarrett Rivers snatched the victory in the 90th minute after a fast breakaway move.
Defeat – Pools’ 16th of a miserable campaign – left the club captain deflated and despondent.
Flinders told SportMail: “This is the lowest point of my career, I would say.
“As blunt as that is, it is true.
“It is how this season has gone, whether it is luck or not, for me, at the end of the day, it is about professional footballers showing a bit of character.
“At the moment we do not have enough characters in the team.
“We had a long chat in the dressing room afterwards and it is about lads stepping up the mark.”
The 28-year-old pointed to last season’s home match against Morecambe, a crucial 2-1 win which secured survival in Sky Bet League Two.
Flinders said Pools need to produce the type of spirit on show that day if they are to turn the season around.
He added: “We were here last season against Morecambe on Easter Monday when we needed to get a result.
“The players on that pitch showed character to pick up a result when we had gone behind and were down to 10-men.
“The odds were against us and we were struggling for results but we got it and we need that sort of fight to get us out of this rot.
“All it comes down to is a lack of confidence.
“No doubt about it, in that dressing room we have good players but putting the ball in the back of the net creates confidence and we are not doing that or keeping it out of ours at the other end.
“As a result of that, the players are struggling.”
Pools had gone in at the break leading 1-0 thanks to Franks’ close-range header but were left to rue further missed opportunities from Michael Woods, Franks and Marlon Harewood.
Flinders added: “We came in at half-time and the lads were buzzing with how we had played as we had showed energy and Marlon was brilliant holding it up and linking in with Franks and Sidney [Schmeltz].
“Yet going into the second-half it was like a switch, they get one and then the floodgates opened and it was similar to the York City game recently.
“That is down to the characters in the dressing room.”
The Pools stopper hadn’t seen a replay of Harewood’s phantom goal mid-way through the second-half but said it wasn’t an issue afterwards.
He said Pools have much bigger worries to take care of over the coming weeks and months if they are to stay up this season.
Flinders added: “That ‘goal’ didn’t even get brought up afterwards.
“There are other things in that game that we need to address.
“Whether it was in or not we have other things to worry about.”