PICKERING Town manager Denny Ingram has issued a stark warning - either his underperforming players step up, or face being replaced.

Despite having played eight games more, the Pikes are three points adrift of second-bottom Dunston at the foot of the Northern Premier League north/west division, and are without a league win since September 10.

Saturday’s 8-1 loss at home to Trafford was their heaviest yet of a campaign during which they have already conceded 46 league goals - the most in all three NPL tiers.

The Tuesday before, Pickering suffered another heavy defeat, knocked out of the North Riding County FA Senior Cup following a 5-0 defeat at North Yorkshire neighbours York City.

“I thought in spells, we played some decent stuff,” the boss said after the York game. “Going forward we looked comfortable, had some decent movement.

“But unfortunately, at any standard of football, you can’t give goals away like we have done. That’s been the story of our season so far.

“We’re still seeing the same things time and time again. Something has got to give. I can’t keep making excuses for people.

“People need to step up to the plate and take responsibility but unfortunately, it’s going to be a matter of either them stepping up to the plate or we need to make a decision to replace them.”

Neither side had really settled on the ball by the 10-minute mark at Bootham Crescent. York threatened to show their higher-tier class on a couple of occasions, while Flynn McNaughton curled a tame shot into keeper Ryan Whitley’s arms. Iwan Heeley had a deflected effort from range comfortably saved.

Macaulay Langstaff side-footed in the opener into Harrison Foulkes’ bottom-left corner after Dan Maguire had nicked the ball off Matty Turnbull. Nathan Dyer added a sweet strike from range.

Pickering came out strongly in the second half, with substitute Jackson Jowett looking threatening - but York’s third goal, forced in by Langstaff, knocked the Pikes off their rhythm. Foulkes got his body to the ball and might have done better with the close-range shot, which seemed to squirm through him.

Maguire added a fourth, chipping calmly in after Foulkes parried Paddy McLaughlin’s shot into his path, and youngster Reiss Harrison backheeled in the fifth from a corner.

York ply their trade two divisions higher than the struggling Pikes - whose position at the foot of Step 4 means they are 62 places lower than their North Yorkshire neighbours.

But this does not detract from the disappointment for Ingram, who also lamented that the Pikes have struggled this term to compete at both ends of the pitch.

He said: “At least four of the goals were questionable from our side. Of course, York are lively and very good going forward, as they should be.

“There is going to be a gulf in class and quality of course. But some of the goals that we conceded were totally unacceptable.

“I’ve got massive question marks.

“We competed okay and worked hard for each other but goals change games and you’ve seen as soon as the second went in we were a bit deflated.

“We changed the formation at half-time, looked to be a bit more positive and looked at areas where we thought we could get a bit of joy.

“I thought were on the front foot for the first five minutes, I thought we looked comfortable - and the third goal deflates the whole side.

“One week we go forward really well and we’re rubbish at the back, the next week we’re decent at the back and rubbish going forward, and it’s got to come sooner rather than later where we compete at both ends.”

Scant consolation is that he has one fewer cup competition to distract from the Pikes’ battle for NPL survival.

He added: “It was always our sole goal for the season, survival in this league.

“Cup competitions are great for bringing money into the club but let’s be realistic, we were never going to win it.

“The North Riding County Cup can sometimes be more of a hindrance than a help with the extra games.

“Ultimately it’s all about the league.”

Joel Dixon was the sole Pickering player on target against Trafford, netting a 70th-minute penalty to bring the contest back to 3-1 before the hosts went rampant. Four goals were scored in the final five minutes.

Last night (Tuesday 26), Pickering welcomed Whitby Town to Mill Lane for the first round of the Integro League Cup. They host Dunston on Saturday.