STEPHEN Dawson has apologised to Bury supporters for his inadvertent role in Cheltenham’s 94th-minute winner on Saturday.

The 23-year-old Irish midfielder was distraught that he gave the ball away in midfield in the same move that led to Barry Hayles condemning the Shakers to their sixth defeat of the season.

It was a hammer blow to Alan Knill’s men, who had done everything but score in a one-sided contest.

Pre-season optimism predicting another crack at promotion is now being replaced by anxiety, and Dawson is still reeling from Saturday’s result.

“The goal was my fault, an individual error in the middle of the field — I should have just got rid of it,” said Dawson. “It’s disappointing and I feel I let the team and the fans down so I apologise for that.

“We are just not getting the rub of the green at the moment and, although we played better than in previous weeks on Saturday, we are still disappointed because it was our fourth home defeat in a row.

“It hasn’t been good enough for the last couple of games and the fans are rightly getting frustrated but we just have to keep going.”

Dawson, a natural leader in the middle of the park, is determined that Bury keep their heads up and do not become despondent because of their poor start to the season.

“We have to keep our confidence — if we keep getting down about it we are going to achieve nothing this season,” said the former Mansfield ace.

“The positive thing is there are still 39 games left and we have to improve.

“Rochdale were a point worse off than we are now last season and they made the play-offs. We know it’s not been good enough, and I’m sure we will all buck up.”

Dawson is also refusing to lay the blame at the door of the Shakers strikeforce, and added: “I am not going to criticise the strikers because we win and lose as a team and all we can do is stick together. We know we haven’t been good enough for a month and we as players are the only people who can put it right.

“The team hasn’t changed too much from last season, and we have got to retain the belief that we can do something this season.

“There is no point in saying the league is over after seven games and we need everyone to rally around us now.”

Manager Knill has released winger Simon Johnson after just five appearances in the first team, while on-loan striker Jordan Robertson has been sent back to Sheffield United.