A woeful first-half performance cost Oakham United three points on Saturday and a chance to close the gap on rivals.
The visiting Rutland side lost 4-2 to Crowland Town in the ChromaSport Peterborough League Premier Division after going 3-0 down in the first half.
United boss Wayne Oldaker said it was the worst 45 minutes of football he had ever seen.
Oakham rallied straight away in the second period and it was 3-2 within five minutes of the restart.
They went on to dominate the second half, but it was too big a task to conquer. Crowland clinched the win in the last five minutes.
Oldaker said: “The second-half performance just highlighted how bad we were in the first half - we were that bad.
“You can’t play for just 45 minutes, it’s got to be 90 minutes.”
Oakham, who are third from the bottom, were left ruing a missed opportunity to gain much-needed points. A win would have moved them four places up the league and they need to be picking up points against teams in mid-table and at the lower end.
Oldaker said: “A win would have moved us right up among the pack and we need to close the gap on the mid-table teams.”
Crowland are 10th in the division and Oldaker certainly feels they were there to be beaten had United performed for the full duration.
Oakham had little to take from the first 45 minutes.
They defended too highly, struggled to string two passes together and defended poorly.
Crowland’s first two goals came on the back of free-kicks given away by clumsy challenges on the left.
United failed to defend them on both occasions and Crowland scored twice.
The home side put away a third when Oakham were caught too high up the pitch and Crowland broke to find the net.
United went into the dressing room and were given some home truths by Oldaker and general manager Tony Nelson.
And they were a different outfit after the break.
Straight away Ben Easson, in his debut game, rounded the full-back on the left who couldn’t do anything except bring him down in the box.
Michael Nelson stepped up to despatch the resulting penalty.
Moments later Robbie Dance produced a clean finish to make it 3-2 and game on.
Oldaker said after that it was one-way traffic as United battered a shocked Crowland side in search of an equaliser.
They hit the bar, forced the keeper to make several good saves and limited Crowland to just an occasional foray into the Oakham half.
But it was too much to do. With five minutes left, United keeper Shane Hicks raced out to clear a ball, it struck a Crowland player and then dribbled and rolled across the line from quite a distance.
Oldaker said: “The first half was embarrassing but we win as a team and lose as a team so we move on.”
United face Peterborough ICA Sports at home on Saturday.
Oakham: Nathan Arkle, Ashley Clipston, Robbie Dance, Ben Eason, Shane Hicks, Stuart Lambie, William Lee, Antony Maher, Michael Nelson Goals, Chris Steele, Michael West. Subs: Steve Smith, Craig Welbourn