MAGPIES boss Steve Cuss insisted his side could not use their unscheduled winter break as an excuse for their lacklustre home defeat against Bishops Cleeve on Saturday.

Thirty-four days since their last competitive outing, Wimborne succumbed to an unlikely downfall against the struggling Gloucestershire outfit, who had not delivered a league victory since November.

And although Mark Gamble netted his 24th league goal to draw Cuss’s men level, flamboyant midfielder Joe Turley’s penalty proved enough to snatch the spoils for the resilient visitors.

“I’m not going to have the time off as an excuse,” Cuss told the Daily Echo. “I didn’t think we were strong enough in the first half and we got punished.”

The home side started sluggishly and after being bombarded by a succession of corners, the pressure soon told.

Nine minutes in, the Magpies failed to clear their lines and Cleeve striker Jake Lee found himself in the right place to scuff the ball home at the back post.

Having bagged a hat-trick against the visitors in the reverse fixture back in September, Gamble showed his class once more to capitalise on some kamikaze goalkeeping from Cleeve’s Jamie Moore.

He hastily raced off his line, allowing the Wimborne frontman to skip round him and slot the ball into an empty net on 31 minutes.

But Wimborne fell behind once more when midfielder Aidan Sainsbury’s rash challenge on Turley inside the penalty area proved to be crucial.

The former Cheltenham Town man picked himself up and emphatically converted the spot-kick, handing lowly Cleeve an unlikely triumph.

Even though the home side piled the pressure on during the second period, they were unable to find an answer to Turley’s 38th-minute strike.

The Cuthbury boss added: “We expected to dominate the second half because we thought the wind would play a major factor.

“It was just about using the ball well and having a bit of quality, and we probably didn’t have enough of that in the second half to open them up and create enough chances.”

The setback casts Wimborne 10 points adrift of a play-off spot, but Cuss remains adamant that his charges still have an outside chance of snatching a place in the top five.

“It’s going to be very difficult as we have to play a lot of teams that are in those play-off positions, but we’ve got a strong bunch in there that are never going to give up and we will give it the best that we possibly can,” said Cuss.

“We’ve just got to look forward to playing a run of games now. It’s a disappointing result but we’ve got to put that behind us and be positive for Tuesday.”

The Magpies welcome striker James Stokoe back to the squad for their lengthy midweek trip to Stratford, following his suspension.

Magpies: Harvell, Arnold, Oliver, Wilson, Middleton (Kemble, 56), Blake, Maybury (Davidson, 56), Sainsbury, Webb, Gamble, Griffin. Unused subs: Costello, Roast.