TIVERTON Town went down to a second defeat against promotion-chasing opposition in as many weeks as Poole Town left Ladysmead with all three points on Saturday.
The Yellows struggled to move out of second gear for most of the match, and they were punished for their lack of fluency by goals in each half from skipper Michael Walker and Marvin Brooks.
Not even a first goal in Tivvy colours for new man Dave Pearse could spark the Yellows into life, although they could easily have won a penalty late-on as Josh Searle appeared to be fouled in the penalty box late on.
Manager Mark Saunders had no complaints with the final score, conceding that the better side had won on the day.
"It was a fair result – we did not deserve anything out of it," he said. "It was by far the worst performance of the season from us so far and that is obviously disappointing.
"We just had too many players having off-days when it mattered, especially our real ball-playing players, and we didn't deserve anything out of it.
"We just did not have anything about us all game and that is the first time we have said that all season.
"Ironically, we could have actually nicked something out of it at the end – not that we deserved to – when Josh Searle was in there and everyone heard his shins being clipped, but the referee didn't give us anything."
Tivvy began the day looking to bounce back from their narrow top-of-the-table defeat to Hungerford Town a week earlier.
But they were sluggish out of the blocks as it was the visitors who stamped a real statement of intent onto their promotion aspirations.
Driven on by the impressive Walker, it was Poole who opened the scoring as the captain met Steve Devlin's cross on 25 minutes to give them the lead.
Warren Byerley then went close, but Chris Wright showed no hangover from his error against Hungerford by producing a decent stop to keep Tivvy in the match.
Joe Bushin was being well marshalled, but he spurned a number of headed chances in the second half as Tiverton pressed the issue more, although they were still struggling to break down a well-organised Poole defence.
With just under 25 minutes remaining, Brooks arrived on the scene to fire home a second goal and give the visitors some breathing space.
Despite plenty of effort from the hosts, it was Wright who was called into action next as he made another fine block to deny Walker.
And straight from that opportunity, Pearse opened his account for Tiverton since his switch from Bridgwater Town in October.
The livewire striker did well to latch onto a through-ball and fired home to halve the deficit for Tivvy.
Searle then appeared to be taken down as he galloped into the penalty box with mere seconds left of normal time, only for the referee to wave away the appeals and deny Tiverton any chance of bagging an undeserved equaliser.
Saunders conceded that it was disappointing to suffer a second straight defeat against a side with similar aspirations to Tivvy, but insisted people should not read too much into the results.
"I still think we are not too far away and you don't become a bad side overnight, but it (the defeat to Poole Town) was still very disappointing," he explained.
"Before the Hungerford game we were talking about how good it was that we had these two games coming up because it would show us how far we had come recently and how far we also had to go, but we did not do ourselves justice.
"We have been really good on the ball all season but in the last couple of games we have let ourselves down with the ball.
"We probably did deserve a point against Hungerford and it was only an error from Chris Wright that saw us concede, but we didn't deserve anything out of Saturday's game."
Saunders also hailed striker Pearse for notching his first goal for the Yellows after being introduced from the bench.
"I was really pleased with Pearsy getting his first goal for us – he took it really well," said Saunders.
"He came on and made a real nuisance of himself, which is one of the reasons we brought him to the club.
"I was actually happy with all of the substitutes who came on – Pearsy, Harry Nodwell and David Steele – they all did well and showed a really good attitude for us."