Ashford United lost for the second game in a row as they suffered a 2-0 defeat to Phoenix Sports at Homelands on Saturday.
Two first-half goals from Jeff Duah-Kessie and Zak Bryon were enough to drop United to fifth place in the league, and meant they lost further ground in the race for automatic promotion.
Phoenix’s opener came courtesy of an error from United’s keeper, Lee Hook, who rushed out of his goal only to be beaten to the ball by Duah-Kessie, who nodded the ball over the stranded keeper, before finishing smartly into an empty net.
“We didn’t play brilliantly today, but these things happen in football”
The away-side then doubled their lead just three minutes before half-time; a fantastic back-heel by Duah-Kessie put midfielder Bryon through on goal and he confidently finished into the bottom corner.
A much-improved United display then followed after the break, as the hosts dominated possession and created a host of chances against a resolute Phoenix defence.
Near misses from Jerald Aboagye and a disallowed header from Danny Parish were the closest the hosts came to halving the deficit, as they were ultimately left to pay for some poor finishing.
Manager Tommy Warrilow believes it was a combination of things that led to his team’s defeat.
He said: “We didn’t play brilliantly today, but these things happen in football. We saw two poor goals defensively, and we saw in the second-half quite a few chances that we should have took.
“We’ve defended poorly for two goals because we didn’t really come out of the blocks first-half; it was all sort of 50-60% and very lethargic.”
He continued: “The second-half though was only looking one way for the whole 45 minutes. We had four or five really good opportunities and didn’t take one of them.
“If we scored one goal it would have made a lot of difference but we didn’t get it, and in the end we’ve just given ourselves too much to do from the first-half.
“But we’ve still got ten games left and we’re in control of our own destiny.”
After dropping points to rivals Horsham and Haywards Heath Town, United need to resurrect their early year form that propelled them up to second when they travel to Whyteleafe on Saturday.
Their Surrey opponents sit directly beneath them in sixth place, knowing a win will bring them within four points of United who currently occupy the crucial final play-off spot.
Phoenix meanwhile will hope to use the weekend’s momentum when they host league leaders Cray Wanderers at The Mayplace Ground.
Ashford United: Lee Hook, Jerald Aboagye, Tom Carlse, Bode Anidugbe, Afolabi Coker, Mohammed Kamara, Sam Corne, Toby Ajala, Jay May, Theo Fairweather-Johnson, Samuel Hasler
Subs: Danny Parish, Trey Williams
Unused subs: Josh Wisson, Clark Woodcock, Charlie Wealands
Phoenix Sports: Steve Phillips, Tony Robinson, Ashley Probets, Jack Hopkins, Danny Young, Lewis Clarke, Zak Bryon, Solomon Taiwo, Jeff Duah-Kessie, Kweku Ansah, Kenny Alireu
Subs: Lee Bird, Ryan Andrews
Unused subs: Alex Teniola, George Whitelock, Jack Barry