Kings Langley put in an oddly lack-lustre display after losing 2-1 to Swindon Subermarine on Saturday despite still being in the race for the playoffs.
Having worked so hard to get into the top five of the Southern League Premier Division South with victories in the previous three matches, it was a strangely uninspired performance at home at the weekend.
Ninth-ranked Swindon attacked from the off and demonstrated that, whatever lofty position you have climbed to, there are no routine opponents in this most competitive of divisions.
The visitors had the ball in the net as early as the seventh minute, with Harry Williams turning the ball in at the far post from an offside position.
The pressure continued from a lively forward line, led by the vastly experienced Stuart Fleetwood and the prolific Conor McDonagh, continually stretching the hosts and finally reaping its reward on the 19-minute mark when a Jamie Edge corner was headed home by Matt Williams.
The midfielder popped up again 15 minutes later with another header, but this time the post intervened and Kings breathed a sigh of relief.
It wasn’t until the 40th minute that Kings were able to threaten Swindon’s goal when Rene Howe put a header over the bar from a corner and half-time couldn’t come soon enough for the home side to regroup.
They were better after the break and almost gained parity when an Andronicos Georgiou corner was headed back across goal by Jorell Johnson and Callum Adebiyi’s powerful header was just over the bar.
It was to prove a costly miss as almost immediately Marine broke and a Conor McDonagh cross was rifled home with apparent ease by Matt Liddiard to put them firmly in the driving seat.
Kings made a double substitution, bringing on leading scorer Mitchell Weiss and loanee Rohdell Gordon, but it was Georgiou who was taking the fight to the opposition with some telling crosses and a scything run and shot that was just wide of repeating his superb goal against Hartley Wintney ten days previously.
It was harsh on Kings then when a touchline tackle ruled him out of any further part in the game and it fell to Rohdell Gordon to rouse the home crowd with an electrifying run down the wing and cross, after Weiss had been just off target with a header.
Kings were handed an unlikely lifeline when the Swindon defence got themselves in a tangle and Howe played in Jacob Cook for him to reduce the arrears in the 83rd minute, but it was really a case of too little, too late as Marine held out for the points.
Poole scored a last-minute winner to move within three points of Kings, still in the last playoff spot, and the news that Georgiou will miss the next few games finished off a disappointing day, but playoff participation remains firmly in Kings’ hands. That playoff fight continues this Saturday when Kings visit third-placed Taunton Town.