Horsham YMCA manager Peter Buckland said he would carry his share of the blame as their title and promotion aspirations were dealt a hammer blow in a shock 5-3 defeat at Hassocks on Saturday.
It was the Gorings Mead outfit’s third straight Premier Division defeat and although they remain third in the standings, fell ten points behind leaders Chichester.
Inform Newhaven, who sit second, opened up a five point gap over Pete Buckland’s side and also have two games in hand.
YM came up against a devastating display of counter attacking football from the Robins in the first half to go into the break 4-0 ahead.
Buckland changed the formation in the second half and YM were resurgent, but Hassocks held out to extend their winning run to four games.
Former YM striker Phil Johnson netted twice either side of a Will Broomfield goal and James Littlejohn was also on target for the hosts before half-time.
Guy Harding pulled one back in the second half, but Liam Benson made it 5-1 soon after. Two stoppage-time YM goals took the gloss off the scoreline, although Callum Donaghey was also sent off.
Buckland said: “I must say that I need to take a good proportion of the blame. We had our crisis meeting and analysed past games etc etc.
“We said what was happening when we seemed to be having more success and the outcome was that we were playing 4-3-3, so we switched to that.
“But with the personnel available and the fitness of those that were available, it was a big mistake. We were trying to adjust to it and found ourselves 4-0 down with Phil Johnson playing in the hole and having a field day.
“Tactically, I got it very wrong and we switched it at half-time, I made three subs and I think anyone from Hassocks would tell you that they couldn’t wait for the final whistle in the second half.
“At half-time, I was suicidal and read the riot act and to be fair to them, it wasn’t really the players that came off, but the formation change.”
YM started well, but it was Hassocks that took the lead on ten minutes from their first attack. Johnson went down in the box with the referee pointing to the spot, he picked himself up to convert.
On the half-hour mark it was 2-0 when a Robins free kick was not dealt with and it fell to defender Broomfield, who beat Aaron Jeal.
The third goal arrived three minutes later when Benson found the arriving Littlejohn, who beat Dean Carden and set-up Johnson to fire home from the edge of the box.
On the stroke of half-time, Johnson won another free kick and Littlejohn bent a low effort through the wall and into the far corner.
YM hit the bar twice before they eventually pulled one back through Harding with 64 minutes on the clock, but they were back in the game for all of two minutes before Benson made it 5-1.
An action packed nine minutes of added time saw Harding score his and YM’s second, Jack Hartley grab a third and Donaghey sent off after picking up two bookings.
Buckland added: “The penalty I thought was very harsh unless there was a sniper in the stand and prior to that we should have been 2-0 up, but that is not to detract from how well Hassocks played.
“We got it back to 4-1 and they broke away to make it five. We scored another one that should have stood, but was given as offside and hit the bar twice and the post. It was a crazy, crazy game.”
Horsham YMCA: Jeal, Carden, Harding, Donaghey, Evans, Nwachukwu, Gedling, Hunt, Hartley, Barbary, Garrod. Subs: Dugdale, Mobsby, Bown.