Eastbourne Town manger John Lambert says his side’s chances of promotion are slim after Saturday’s home loss to Broadbridge Heath.
Town were hot favourites for the Sussex Division One title at the start of the season after relegation from the Ryman South last year.
But despite leading the way at the start of the campaign, this latest defeat - their second in a row - leaves them nine points off the promotion places and facing an almost impossible task.
“It’s hard to explain how we’ve gone from where we were to where we are now,” Lambert said.
“We are under-performing by quite a way and we are shooting ourselves in the foot. The chances of us going up now are slim.
“I’ll never give up but other teams have to slip up and we have to win our games which is not a given as we are so inconsistent.”
Jake Holmes took advantage of that inconsistency in the 22nd minute at the Saffrons on Saturday.
Mistakes have cost Town dear of late and the opening goal came from another as a long boot forward from the visiting goalkeeper wasn’t dealt with.
And with Greg Nessling left stranded, Holmes easily lifted the ball over the top to set them on their way.
It was tight from there on in and it wasn’t until seven minutes from time that the game was made safe by Ollie Moore.
Dominic Clarke gave Town some hope three minutes into stoppage time but it was far too little too late and the visitors were jubilant at the final whistle.
Lambert’s side have struggled to live up to their billing as favourites for the title and have had to contend with sides desperate for a scalp.
This was evident at Shoreham and at home to Horsham YMCA and the boss says they need to learn to deal with it if they are to realise their potential.
“They were jumping up and down like they had just beaten Manchester United,” the boss added.
“Teams want to come and beat us and Broadbridge Heath did a real number on us.
“But we have to deal with that if we want to win things. To be fair I can’t fault the effort of the players at the moment but our decision making and our concentration is all at sea at the moment. We have enough quality but it isn’t always about quality at this level.
“We were trying too hard to play football on a terrible pitch and sometimes you can’t do that. Everything about us was just awful. Our passing was awful and we were trying to do too much.
“Confidence is just really low at the moment.
Lambert’s side have a chance to right the wrongs of Saturday tonight in what the boss says is their biggest game of the season.
League leaders Littlehampton Town visit the Saffrons looking to stamp their authority on the league title.
“It’s massive for us and it’s massive for them. If we win it might put a bit of doubt in their mind but if we lose it’s all over for us.
“We have to win every game from now until the end of the season.”
Victory would close the gap on the leaders to just six points.
Second placed Dorking Wanderers are also nine points in front and face a tricky looking trip to Broadbridge Heath tonight.
Lambert knows it is not all over just yet and he believes there will be further twists between now and the end of the season,
Their run doesn’t get any easier, however, as they host Arundel next week before travelling to a rejuvenated Newhaven and taking on Loxwood in the RUR Charity Cup final.
As the boss says, a win tonight is an absolute must..
TOWN: Nessling: Nessling, Duncan, Hollobone (Scaaf), Keehan (Clarke), Turner, Kelly, Robinson (Maclean), Darby, Pogue, Smith, Dryer
Ref: C Hamilton.