PHIL Parkinson admitted he was at a low ebb after seeing Altrincham match in-form promotion favourites Chesterfield stride for stride only to end up empty-handed for a fourth successive time after a late penalty miss condemned them to a 1-0 defeat on Tuesday night.

Trailing to a 50th-minute goal, Alty kept plugging away and were handed a potential lifeline in the 74th minute when Yusifu Ceesay latched on to a through ball from Matty Kosylo and was sent sprawling as keeper Grant Smith dived at his feet.

But Smith made amends by springing to his right and saving the resulting penalty by recent signing Joe Piggott, who had gone on as a substitute only a few minutes earlier.

“It’s just so hard to take, and I feel really down after that," admitted Alty boss Parkinson. “I’m normally really positive and upbeat, but I feel like a broken record saying great performance but we’ve lost.

“Yet again, it’s not like we’ve been beaten by a team miles ahead of us. We’ve given everything, as we knew we would have to, but we haven’t got our rewards, and it is difficult to go in front of that group of players. They are looking to you for answers, but what are you supposed to say to them?

Yusifu Ceesay was brought down by Grant Smith for Altys penalty

Yusifu Ceesay was brought down by Grant Smith for Alty's penalty

“We are devastated in the changing room, all of us. Everyone is flat, because we haven’t come here and been thumped, we have come here and missed a penalty and not left with at least a draw, which was the minimum we deserved.

“Missing the penalty was an absolute kick in the teeth, though someone had to be brave enough to take it. This league is brutal for punishing you if you don’t capitalise on your best moments. It’s filled with teams, mostly full time, who are very fit and well organised, and then you get a colossus like this one and one or two others.

“We shouldn’t be coming here and getting near them, but we are. We are very close to them. Anyone watching that game can see how close we are.”

Alty, who are on their travels again on Saturday with an away game at Bromley, signed former AFC Fylde and Walsall attacking midfielder James Hardy 24 hours before the game after his contract at AFC Telford United was cancelled by mutual agreement.

“I thought James looked really bright and did some good things when he went on in the second half,” said Parkinson. “He is a player I tried to bring in last summer, and I am delighted to finally get him on board.

“He showed a tremendous appetite for the game in wanting to join us. He cancelled his contract and is taking a huge pay cut to continue playing football, which, quite apart from his undoubted ability, really appealed to me.”