A heavily depleted Billingshurst suffered their first defeat of the season at the hands of league leaders Barnham on Saturday.
It was ‘round pegs in square holes’ with Hurst missing players and others carrying injuries.
Still after a dreadful start Darren Annis’s close-range finish kept the visitors in it at half-time before Barnham ran away with it to end 5-2 winners.
“It was just one of those days,” Hurst manager Mark Betts said. “We had players carrying injuries who probably shouldn’t have been playing and plenty of others missing so our preparation was awful.
“It was square pegs in round holes and while last year we would have got away with it that’s not the case this year.”
Barnham, one of the favourites for the title, made a lightning start and were 2-0 up inside six minutes.
Matt Hibert took advantage of Pete Proto’s slip for the first before dangerous striker Ash Harper doubled their lead.
After 20 minutes of “wobbly time” Hurst began to get into the game, and when Annis turned in Jim Pope’s effort from a goalmouth scramble they were right back in it.
“I told my players at half-time the next goal would be crucial and it was, but unfortunately it went to them,” Betts said.
Harper - a player Betts rates as “one of the best strikers in the league” - helped himself to a second to put Barnham 3-1 up.
And with all three substitutions because of injury Hurst were always up against it and conceded two more, Mark Pedrick and Aaron Hancock on target.
Still at least Hurst finished the game on a high with the best goal of the day.
Substitute Marcus Strevens cut in from the right wing and from 25 yards unleashed a left footed shot which flew into the top corner as it finished 5-2.
Betts added: “At the end of the day everything just went against us, we’ve not become a bad side overnight and we’ll bounce back, we’re too good a side not to.”
Billingshurst: Betts; O’Brien (Strevens 75), Proto (Buckwell 70), Simmons, Lewis; Hickling, Tilley, Pope (Geary 50), Osborne; Annis, Elliott.