Horsham YMCA manager Peter Buckland said that no medals are handed out in November as they missed the chance to go top of the Premier Division on Tuesday with a thumping 6-2 defeat away at Eastbourne Town.
Both sides knew that a win would take them to the summit of the league standings, with Horsham and Lancing not in Premier Division action until the weekend.
But three hosts’ goals inside the opening 22 minutes quickly ended YM’s hopes of reaching top spot, as a fast pressing, hard working Town put the fixture beyond all doubt during a frenetic first half to forget for visitors’ goalkeeper Simon Lockwood, who was replaced at half-time.
Manager Peter Buckland said: “All in all it was a very, very disappointing game and not just because it was against Eastbourne Town either. I don’t think it would have mattered who we were playing, we would have been beaten playing like that.
“It was a big game and a big occasion, but all that’s been lost is three points. There are no medals handed out at the end of November.
“It was very, very disappointing. I have just said to the players that we all enjoy the good days, but we’ve all got to man up now on a bad day.
“Throughout the course of a season you will always have one or two very bad days. I’m not talking about a bad day like our defeat at Pagham where we were very unlucky. I’m on about a bad day where everyone played at about five out of ten.
“For whatever reason, I do not know, we just seemed a yard slower than them. We didn’t win any seconds, we were stretched all over the pitch and no one kept their shape.”
James Taylor fired the home side ahead after just four minutes when Wes Tate was allowed far too much space to turn 25 yards out and he fed the midfielder, who coolly slotted home from inside the right edge of the penalty area.
Four minutes later, a woeful free-kick from YM stopper Lockwood fell straight to Eastbourne’s Aaron Capon 25 yards from goal and the youngster made no mistake in rounding the keeper before tapping in.
Taylor doubled his tally for the evening midway through the half when Lockwood could only block a Capon shot into his path and he slotted into an empty net.
YM winger Dave Brown reduced the deficit just after the half-hour mark with a superbly curled effort from 20 yards, but Town captain Kenny Pogue made it 4-1 just before the break when Lockwood twice failed to claim the ball in the box and the striker slammed home.
The hosts’ front man then completed his hat-trick in the second half, netting either side of a consolatory Anthony Hibbert header to secure a comfortable and deserved win for the league’s new leaders.
Buckland added: “Perhaps the big pitch exposed us. We tried to shut the midfield down by going 4-5-1 but I’ve got to say it, Simon (Lockwood) cost us three goals, two of them dead certs, and that just kills the players. It’s really hard to pick yourself up after that.
“He asked to come off. I thought that Foxy showed some real character in the second half in a difficult situation and really did well. Simon’s confidence was obviously shot to bits.
“It’s uncharacteristic of him to drop balls like he was. He had one in his hand about three times before he dropped it. We tell him all the time that he’s got a good kick, but to always kick out to the flanks. Before you know it the game’s lost in the first quarter of an hour.
“What it’s about now, is how we react Saturday. If we go down there (Chichester City) and get a crushing defeat, the rot can set in. We’ve got to go down there and get a result and then it will all be forgotten. At half past five next Saturday, this could all be a distant memory.”
Buckland’s side have slipped to fourth spot following the defeat, but they still remain in touch with the top three.
He added: “We didn’t talk about it (going top with a win). The players knew, but I deliberately wasn’t going to say things like ‘we can go top tonight’ and ‘the rest will be looking up at us’. I just said to them that it’s a big game and there’s three points up for grabs.
“We just didn’t do ourselves justice. Spectators could be forgiven for questioning how we were third in the league, it was that poor, all round. It’s disappointing when you get one or two players that don’t turn up, but I think seven players all having an off game is very rare and I don’t know the reason for it.”
Horsham YMCA: Lockwood (Fox 46), D. Sullivan, Pollard, Gathern (Crane 54), Evans, Dugdale (c), Gedling Hibbert, Wright (Smith 68), Brown, Schaaf. Unused subs: Wood.