By Liam Chronnell
FC United v Rossendale
UniBond Division One North
KARL Marginson admits FC United's title dreams are over.
The Rebels are chasing a third successive league glory.
But after slipping to their third defeat on the trot - and their fourth in five games - the Gigg Lane tenants now trail leaders Curzon Ashton by 10 points.
And, with just one team guaranteed automatic promotion, the Reds boss believes his injury-hit side will have to settle for a place in the end-of-season shake up.
"We've got to be looking at the play-offs," said Marginson, whose league ambitions have been decimated by injuries to five key players.
"To reach them now would be an achievement with all the problems we've had. We've lost the backbone of the team and a lot of experience. That's not making excuses, that's just how it is.
"But we've got to get on with it. We've still got a lot of good footballers here and it's important they realise that."
The breakaway club, who are suffering their worst ever run in their short history, were left counting the cost of having defender Adam Turner controversially sent off as they slumped to a 2-0 defeat at Mossley on Tuesday night.
The young defender, making only his second start, was harshly given his marching orders on the stroke of half-time for a professional foul on Gareth Hamlet.
The striker then added insult to injury when he put the hosts in front on 52 minutes - and was heavily involved again as Mossley wrapped up the points with nine minutes to go after he was brought down by stand-in goalkeeper Phil Priestley in the penalty area and Martin Allison slotted home the spot-kick.
The defeat came just three days after the Reds went down 4-3 against promotion rivals Bradford Park Avenue.
They led 2-1 after 16 minutes thanks to goals from Adam Turner and Jamie Baguley, but the visitors hit back in fine style to lead 4-2 with 21 minutes remaining.Rory Patterson 18th goal of the season from the penalty spot in the last minute proved no more than a late consolation for FC.
Fourth-placed United will look to bounce back against Rossendale at Radcliffe Borough's Stainton Park at the weekend.
Marginson, who hopes to boost his flagging squad with two new players ahead Saturday's clash, hopes to have goalkeeper Sam Ashton and defender Rob Nugent back, but will still be without the influential trio of captain Dave Chadwick, last season's top scorer Stuart Rudd and midfielder Josh Howard, who are all long-term absentees.