Blackstones boss Andy Lodge was disappointed his players didn’t step up to the mark as the absence of key personnel proved crucial in Wednesday’s night 5-2 home defeat against Pinchbeck United.
Lodge was missing four key players - Ben Porter, Joe Papworth, Lewis Stone and Adam Piergiannt - for the crucial United Counties League Division One match.
And ruthless Pinchbeck took full advantage with an awesome attacking display that inflicted a second successive league defeat on Blackstones.
Lodge said: “Pinchbeck are a good side and fully deserved the win.
“It’s not an excuse, but we had key players missing and it’s hard to piece things around that.
“We should have been able to defend better though because we conceded some soft goals.
“I was disappointed that some of the lads didn’t take their chance because missing key players has cost us dearly.
“The lads who played should have been good enough to defend a lot better and make more of a game of it.”
It took the visitors just seven minutes to break the deadlock as Andrew Tidswell was given time and space to pick his spot after a good run from the impressive Josh Smith.
However, the lead lasted just six minutes as Stones levelled when experienced frontman Liam Harrold slotted home from close range after a good run and cross from Danny Barker.
Pinchbeck though went straight down the other end and regained the lead as ace poacher Maltby pounced to net after Tidswell had been denied by a fine save from goalkeeper Aaron Bellairs.
Bellairs was kept busy throughout the opening period, but was powerless to prevent Pinchbeck extending their lead after 32 minutes when Tidswell thundered home his second and the Knights’ third goal of the night.
Blackstones rallied and Harrold went close with a header before the home side pulled a goal back on the stroke of half-time as Rikki Willmer headed home a free-kick.
But any hopes of a home revival were dashed three minutes into the second half when Maltby prodded home from close range after Bellairs had again saved well from a Pinchbeck corner.
Maltby then rattled the home crossbar with a fierce shot before Tidswell completed his hat-trick after 54 minutes.
Josh Smith laid the foundations for the goal as he won possession and then surged forward before teeing up Tidswell for an easy tap-in to effectively wrap up the points.
Blackstones thought they had been handed a late lifeline when referee Paul Dobbs pointed to the penalty spot as the Knights looked to defend a home free-kick into the box.
However, after consulting with his assistant who was flagging for offside, Dobbs reversed the decision and awarded Pinchbeck the free-kick as they comfortably saw out the remainder of the game.
Blackstones: Bellairs, Bates, Wilmer, Pell, Simpson, Boome, French, Barker, Harrold (Buttery), Ginty (Carter), de Sousa. Not used: Easson.
Pinchbeck: Lovelace, Buzas, Gardner, Tidswell (Kingston), Jack Smith, Shipley, Josh Smith (Eyes), Bishop, Maltby (Kisla), Wright, Ogden. Not used: Dunn, Robinson.
Blackstones are at home again on Saturday when Oakham United are the visitors to Lincoln Road. Porter, Papworth and Stone are all expected to return for the derby duel.