VALE of Leven manager Hugh Hamill was left frustrated as his side fell to a 4-3 defeat at Millburn Park to Ashfield in the Central League Division 2.

Vale had led 3-1 with 14 minutes to go thanks to strikes from Andy Clark, Craig Cowan and Scott Cowan.

However, the visitors rallied, scoring late on to seal a dramatic victory for the Possilpark side.

Hamill said: “We played well against a good team, managed to get 3-1 up with 14 minutes to go and contrived to lose it again.

“It is very frustrating, it’s hard to be critical other than we have a decent history against them.

“I think we were a little bit careless, let another one go and it’s 3-2 and their equaliser was a deflected shot, it hit someone and went into the top corner, and after that their tails are up and they managed to find a winner so fair play to them for keeping at it but it feels as though we were mugged to be honest with you, I don’t know how we lost.”

After letting leads slip against Dunipace and Port Glasgow in recent weeks the Vale boss is hoping his side can find a way to close out games.

Asked how he looks for a solution to close out games, he said: “It’s difficult and I don’t know.

“I don’t want it to become a stigma and for people to think too much about it.

“Other games will go the other way and we’ll get the winner in the dying minutes.

“But it’s tough to take, certainly I think that we are 3-1 up and to let them back in at 3-2 up is a bit careless.

“We gave the ball away in a bad area and defended the cross badly so that was definitely preventable, and it was one of those ones where if that doesn’t go in then it’s a different story.

“Their equaliser was a fluke, it just seems to be the way things are going in. I can’t really fault the players, they’re doing really well to get into these situations and to be able to hang on to them.”

But the Vale of Leven manager expects Ashfield to be challenging for the top spots this year.

He said: “I would be surprised if Ashfield weren’t there or thereabouts this year, they’re a good side, good experience and a good physical side.

“We managed to get in front and probably should have held on and didn’t.

“It’s very disappointing but it’s very close to be a fantastic performance and a fantastic result so it’s difficult to be too critical, and we just need keep working at it.”

Vale host St Anthony’s this Saturday, and Hamill says his side are already in danger of slipping behind the leaders if they don’t start picking up points soon.

Hamill said: “They came down from the league above us, so I’m sure they’ll be looking to go straight back up again.

“It’s another opportunity for us at home to get the points and hopefully we do, we don’t want to be starting the season with teams five or six points ahead of you so it makes this Saturday very important.”