While it was ultimately a foolhardy call from his players, Braintree Town manager Danny Searle accepted responsibility for a decision that proved costly in a 4-0 defeat by Harrogate Town.

The Iron lost their fifth game in a row as the Vanarama National League relegation trapdoor got ever closer and left them 14 points from safety with nine games to go.

In truth, the game was lost in the opening stages on a day when a fierce and blustery wind blew from one end of the ground to the other.

The Iron opted to have that in their faces in the first half and paid a high price for that decision as Harrogate opened the scoring with less than two minutes on the clock.

They went on to add two more before half-time to give Braintree a mountain that proved insurmountable.

And Searle said culpability should be shared between himself and the players, however, he was prepared to shoulder the burden as the team’s manager.

He said: “It’s an interesting conversation and ultimately I have to take responsibility for it.

“My initial thoughts on it were that we should go with the wind (in the first half) but some of the lads felt it would be better to defend it first.

“I put my trust in them and they decided they would defend the wind first; we paid the penalty for that.

“If they want to do that then it’s their responsibility to carry through that game plan.

“The bottom line is, we have all the preparation work done in training and in analysis, but if you are not going to attempt to work hard and mark a player or track a runner in a game, then it doesn’t matter what you do.

“We may as well not train and just turn up if you’re going to do that and that’s the most frustrating thing for me.

“We always look better when we get ourselves on the front foot and that’s exactly the message that was given in the dressing room ahead of the game.

“So it’s a lesson for myself.

“You have to allow the players to have an opinion and there were some who thought it might suit us to have the wind in the second half, but my opinion was I’d rather be defending a lead than chasing one.

“However, it’s ultimately unfair of me to blame the players because it was my decision and I’d backed them on that.”

Searle accepted that it was a performance that was well short of what he, the club and fans expected and was quick to apologise to supporters who tried their best to lift the team.

The Iron boss said: “I just want to apologise to the fans because you can’t give a display like that and expect anything out of any game.

“The way the players conducted themselves in the opening ten to 15 minutes was not acceptable by our standards.

“Regardless of whether you are bottom or top, you have to have standards and we do have them, but that wasn’t acceptable.

He added: “We have to be honest about our performance and acknowledge that our players let not only themselves down but the club down, especially the fans.

“The fans were amazing.

“The singing in the first half as they got themselves in and among the Harrogate fans and tried to gee-up the team was brilliant.

“So it was hard on them.

“They are a good bunch and keep supporting the team and we’ll keep working on that.”