PICKERING Town boss Mitch Cook bemoaned the “worst performance” since he returned to the Mill Lane helm three months ago.

The Pikes conceded three goals in 15 second-half minutes to lose 3-0 to a young Long Eaton United side, leaving them in 10th place in the Northern Counties East League premier division.

Pickering, who gave a debut to York City trainee Harry Coates, started the brighter but were ultimately out-enthused, notwithstanding the fact they had a goal ruled out.

Cook absolved midfielder Coates from blame, but said of the team display: “It was the worst performance, particularly in the second half, since I came back to the club.

“It was 0-0 at half-time and the wind had been against us and we thought it would be a good opportunity, but we never came out for the second half.”

Coates has gone on work experience to Pickering along with defender Dan Andrew, another trainee at Bootham Crescent. The latter could make his debut this Saturday as Pickering host seventh-placed Retford United (3pm). Ged Dalton is expected to be fit, too, after limping out against Long Eaton with an ankle injury.

“The two lads are coming out to some men’s football which will hopefully benefit them as well as us,” said Cook of the City scholars.

“Dan was ill at the weekend but Harry played and to be fair he played really well. We lost but he probably stood out in midfield.”

In other moves, goalkeeper Leon Wrigglesworth has completed his switch from Tadcaster Albion, although he has one more game of a four-match ban to sit out.

Going out of the Mill Lane door, though, were Steve Baxter and Daniel O’Connor.

Club stalwart Baxter, who has not played this year, having been upset by the departure of former boss Jimmy Reid, has signed for premier division high-fliers Tadcaster Albion, while O’Connor, who was brought to Mill Lane by Reid, is the latest Pike to rejoin his former manager at division one side Selby Town.

Cook said he would not be surprised if Baxter also made a switch that way at some point.

“He might end up at Selby which is where a few of them seem to end up,” he said.

“He said to me he didn’t want to play at this level any more so I’m surprised (by his move) but not shocked.”

Pickering started the brighter of the teams on Saturday despite kicking against a strong wind.

Josh Greening had a right-wing cross-cum-shot tipped round for a corner by the visitors’ goalkeeper, Cameron Mason. From Chris Batchelor’s flag kick, both Joe Danby and debutant Coates missed a decent chance.

A good move after 33 minutes involving Danby and Ged Dalton saw Danby shoot when a cross would have been a better option.

Scott James and Gerome Palmer – son of Long Eaton manager Charlie Palmer, the former Derby County, Notts County and Hull City player – went close for the visitors, while a mistake in defence by Nathan Cook allowed James a shot from 18 yards, but it was saved by Pikes ’keeper Callum Myers.

The best move of the half arrived after 41 minutes, the ball eventually being deflected for a corner. Batchelor’s left-footed cross from the right ended with the ball somehow landing in the net but Stamford Bridge linesman Peter Hartley deemed the ball had gone out of play before blowing back infield and then entering the goal.

Two minutes later Danby had a header from a Robbie Hawkes cross saved by Mason.

The visitors created the first chance of the second half when Corey Grantham’s shot was saved by Myers. A minute later Nathan Cook broke clear for the Pikes but his 18-yard shot went narrowly wide. Greening had a weak 12-yard left-foot shot saved after 53 minutes.

Dalton, one of the Pikes’ more promising players, departed after 54 minutes. A minute later, Robbie Hawkes saw a 35-yard shot go wide of the goal.

The opening goal arrived after 58 minutes when, at the end of a superb move, Shaw crossed from the right and Ben Watkiss scored from close range.

The visitors doubled their lead after 69 minutes. Adam Corrigan crossed from the right, Shaun Rickford saw an effort blocked, and Gerome Palmer took his chance superbly.

The visitors’ third came in the 73rd minute. A long ball found substitute Justin Jenkins, who was brought down in the box by Myers.

York referee Ben Ballantyne deemed it not a clear scoring opportunity as the ball was going away from goal so Myers was given only a yellow card, but Michael Armstrong scored the penalty.

Pickering: Myers, Hawkes (Calvert 59), Batchelor, Patterson (Fenwick 80), Hackworth, Cook, Dalton (Henderson 54), Taylor, Danby, Coates, Greening. Subs not used: Micklethwaite, Giles. Attendance: 135.

Next Tuesday, the Pikes host division one strugglers Dronfield Town in the League Cup third round, with a quarter-final place up for grabs.