MARK Bentley is pleased to see members of his squad playing through the pain barrier as Canvey Island look to put pressure on the Isthmian North’s top five.

Bentley, who is enjoying his first full campaign in charge at Park Lane, was without key players including Lamar Johnson and Sam Bantick as the Gulls suffered a 3-1 midweek defeat to Maldon & Tiptree.

But, having lost the reverse fixture 5-0 in September, Bentley insists there were plenty of positives to take from the defeat and was pleased to see his players putting their bodies on the line for the club.

“I thought we were a little bit unlucky not to come out of the game with anything,” said Bentley, whose side are three points adrift of the play-off places.

“The difference is that they had half a chance and scored, whereas we had half a chance and didn’t score.

“But, generally, I was really proud of the boys.

“We were up against it with some key players injured or ill.

“Some went through the pain barrier to play and I’m pleased with that because it shows a bit of fight and character.

“James White and Jason Hallett probably shouldn’t have played but they rolled their sleeves up and did a job for me.

“We made a couple of mistakes and they scored with the last kick of the game to make it a little bit more comfortable for them, but I felt we more than matched them.

“It was certainly a massive improvement from the first time we played them.”

Maldon took the lead inside 20 minutes as former Bowers & Pitsea striker Charlee Hughes converted a dangerous cross.

However, Canvey were level soon after the half-hour mark as Hallett skipped through the Maldon defence and Rob Lacey fired the loose ball home.

The Gulls thought they had taken the lead just before half-time as the ball was bundled home following a Mike Finneran header, but the goal was ruled out for a foul on goalkeeper Ben McNamara.

Maldon restored their lead as, after a goalmouth scramble, Danny Parish netted and Canvey were caught on the counter-attack when Hamza Kaid scored in injury time.

And the defeat left the hosts gutted.

“We’ve been a bit flaky at times when it comes to making tackles and being bullied off the ball,” added Bentley.

“But it was different and the boys were gutted.

“If we had walked off with a draw, Maldon couldn’t have complained.”