MANAGER John Snape reckons his Worcester City players were taught a lesson in their 2-1 loss at Romulus in the Midland League Premier Division last night.

Bekir Halil and Mitchell Piggon took advantage of some slack marking at set-pieces to put the hosts 2-0 in front inside the opening 20 minutes.

Player-coach Mat Birley marked his return to action with a first-half free-kick but it was not enough to spark a revival as City slumped to a second defeat in three days.

Snape was disappointed with the “sloppy” nature of the goals Worcester conceded but felt his side's failure to stop Romulus' aerial bombardment was the root cause of the loss.

“You have got to defend from the front - that’s key in this league,” Snape said.

“You can’t just let teams boom the ball down the middle at you.

“We have got to learn to fight and be a bit more competitive for that second ball.

“We have got some very talented footballers, but it was a lesson, especially for some of the younger lads, that you have got to earn the right to go and play.

“It will teach them but the result was a horrible one.”

With left-back Jamie Smith ruled out with a hip complaint and midfielder Ben Clarke dropped to the bench Worcester welcomed experienced duo Tyler Weir and Birley to the starting line-up.

Birley created City’s first chance on six minutes as his shot was deflected wide after playing a neat one-two with Liam Lockett on the edge of the box.

From the resultant corner Lockett played the ball short to Riley Keasey who stung the hands of Romulus stopper Tyrell Belford with a fine strike.

But City fell behind on 10 minutes when they failed to deal with Kris Taylor’s free-kick and Halil was on hand to finish against his former club.

Shortly after Luke English thwarted Taylor Allen with a superb, last-ditch block matters got worse for Worcester on 19 minutes.

This time a delivery from a set-piece fell to an unmarked Cameron Lee who headed the ball back across goal for Piggon who nodded home.

Worcester responded well and cut back the deficit on 28 minutes when Birley’s well-struck free-kick left Belford rooted to his spot.

City looked to kick on and created further chances as James Baldwin blazed wide from an acute angle before English headed Lockett’s free-kick straight at Belford on the stroke of half-time.

But as time wore on Worcester’s hopes of an equaliser faded as Romulus carved out numerous opportunities in the second period.

Substitute Clarke almost put the ball in his own net on 64 minutes following a Romulus corner while Piggon went wide on a couple of occasions.

Dimitri Dunkley also made an impact off the bench for the home side and should have grabbed a third at the death as he was denied by the feet of City keeper Dan Jezeph after getting away from his marker.

Snape added: “I am disappointed with the second half as I thought we fell into their trap.

“We wanted to blame the referee who wasn’t great but you can’t do that.

“It was a shame that we got nothing but I thought it was a massive learning curve for us.

“On Saturday, the lads felt sorry for themselves (after the 3-2 defeat at Boldmere St Michaels) whereas on Monday they went away thinking we have not been good enough.”

Worcester City (4-3-3): Jezeph 6; Caines 6, English 6, Stoddart 5, Weir 5; Keasey 5 (Clarke 5, 56), BIRLEY 7, Lockett 6 (Bates 6, 71); Harrison 5 (Brett 76), Baldwin 6, Reynolds 7.

Subs not used: Willis, Dayus.

Star man: Mat Birley – helped steady the ship at times, showing some lovely touches and marked his return with a fine free-kick in the first-half which gave City hope.

Attendance: 195.