Oakham United came from behind twice but could not find a third goal to salvage a point at Peterborough ICA Sports on Saturday.
Alex Brockbank bagged Oakham goals - both times played in by strike partner Nathan Arkle - in a vastly improved United display which gave encouraging signs for the remainder of the Peterborough and District League season.
Joint manager Andy Saddington said: “We were gutted not to get something. It was the best we have played for a long while.
They are a good top three side and I think we were unlucky not to get anything.”
Oakham went one down after quarter of an hour to a cracking 25 yard free kick from Juliano Menezes which went in off the post.
“There was not much Andy Collin could do. It was a good goal,” conceded Saddington whose side responded quickly.
Within minutes Arklehad dispossessed ICA’s left back and provided the perfect cross for Brockbank to turn in.
Menezes restored the home side’s lead just before half-time, reacting sharply to a parried shot eight yards out.
Oakham were creating plenty of chances themselves with Arkle and Will Lee going close before Brockbank pulled Oakham back a second time. This time Arkle robbed ICA’s right back and he again found Brockbank in the ideal position who broke through for his second of the afternoon.
With 15 minutes to go Chris Kaye scored for ICA and although United pushed men forward there was no way back for Saddington’s men.
Oakham face another of the title-contenders, Moulton Harrox at home on Saturday. The last time the sides met, Harrox won 2-1 and Saddington, who said he’d be happy with a top six spot added: “We are only losing by the odd goal to top sides. There are not massive margins to put right.
“We created chances and competed all the way. I was very pleased with the performance. James Dalby had an excellent debut and Andy Collin made a hell of a save in the first half. But all the lads worked tirelessly.”
Kick off against Moulton Harrox is at 2pm on Saturday.
Oakham: Andy Collin, Pat Donlan, Tom Bain, Jamie Forbes, James Dalby (James Twose), Will Lee (Ben Dickinson), Eddie McDonald, Robbie Dance, Anthony Wells (Stu Lambie), Nathan Arkle, Alex Brockbank.