BRIGHTLINGSEA Regent boss Tom Rothery has challenged his players to dust themselves down after receiving “a few punches on the nose”.

For the third Bostik League premier division fixture in a row, the R’s were narrowly beaten as they succumbed to a 1-0 defeat against title-chasing Margate at the Taydal Stadium on Saturday.

It came hot on the heels of 3-2 defeats against Dorking Wanderers and Folkestone Invicta.

Rothery admits it has been hard to take - performing well but finishing empty-handed in all three contests. However, he is adamant his players are heading in the right direction and believes their recent setbacks will be character-building.

“I thought we played well against a very good Margate side,” said the Regent boss, who takes his team to Leatherhead on Saturday.

“They were very solid, well-balanced and well-drilled but we more than matched them.

“We deserved a point, in my opinion, and might even have nicked the win.

“But that’s the third week in a row we’ve lost by the odd goal and it was something we spoke about before the game.

“It just shows what a tight league we’re in, where fine margins and very minor details become all-important.

“You have to work so hard for every point and it’s unfortunate that we’re getting a few punches on the nose at the moment.

“That disappointment either makes or breaks you, though.

“I genuinely believe it’s character-building and you have to treat it as a challenge.

“If you do, you’ll improve and become a better player.

“If you don’t, there’s a chance you’ll fall by the wayside.

“I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s a huge test but that’s the whole point.”

Kane Haysman scored the only goal in the 79th minute as Margate, hot on the heels of top two Billericay Town and Dulwich Hamlet, snatched the points on Saturday afternoon.

Rothery was disappointed to lose but felt his players’ performance against quality opposition highlighted their progress.

“Margate are a bigger club than us, on and off the pitch, but we played well and looked solid,” he said. “It’s a bit of a backhanded compliment because we ended up losing the game.

“But we’re not far away and are definitely heading in the right direction.

“You have to keep faith and believe you’re doing the right things.

“We’ve got a stronger, more experienced squad than ever now.

“The players are working hard to be the best they can be and I’m very confident we’ll get the results we need to stay in the division.

“We might not be play-off material just yet but we’ve become a competitive side in a very tough division.”

Brightlingsea have a Tolleshunt D’Arcy Memorial Cup semi-final at home to Springfield on Tuesday night (kick-off 8pm).

Assistant manager Pip Boyland will be running the side.

Springfield play in the Essex Olympian League and in the previous round they eliminated Bostik League side Heybridge Swifts.

The other semi-final will be between Wivenhoe Town and FC Clacton and take place at the GMP Plant Hire Stadium on February 28.