Steve Johnson bemoaned a lack of ‘spark’ as the Hawks failed to take another step towards safety.
The Westleigh Park outfit slipped to a 1-0 defeat at home to 10-man Dover Athletic on Saturday.
After consecutive wins over Truro City and Salisbury City, it was the first defeat of Johnson’s temporary tenure.
The Hawks remain just two points above the relegation zone but Hampton & Richmond, who head the chasing trio, have a game in hand.
With only three games left to play, play-off chasing Basingstoke Town visit Westleigh Park tonight (7.45pm).
And Johnson knows how important it is going to be for the Hawks to rediscover their form.
He said: ‘The players know they haven’t performed as well as they have in the past couple of games.
‘We missed that bit of spark and the energy levels seemed a bit low.
‘The players are not down, though, and we have asked them to maintain the self-belief that has brought them some success.
‘We have asked them to play a certain way and we are not going to throw that out of the window.’
Johnson reckoned Rob Edmans’ goal in the first half knocked the stuffing out of his Hawks.
Even the red card for Michael Corcoran soon after the break failed to spur them on to a comeback.
‘One moment in the game changed it,’ said the caretaker boss.
‘We failed to defend a ball into our box, let it bounce and their giant has got across our goalkeeper and nicked it in. It is disappointing we didn’t deal with it.
‘Dover were on the back foot but the goal gave them a boost.
‘Once they went down to 10 men at the start of the second half it gave them the extra resolve to raise their game and protect what they had.
‘We’ve seen it a lot of times when 10 men hold out or even go on and nick results.’
The Hawks dominated the opening 20 minutes and should have taken the lead when Ryan Woodford lost his marker only to send a header too close to goalkeeper Michael Ruiz.
The home side then fell behind with keeper Dan Thomas and Woodford – in for the ill Sam Pearce – culpable.
Woodford allowed Barry Cogan’s free-kick to bounce through deep into the area and with Thomas slow to react Edmans nipped in to score.
The goal seemed to take the wind out of the Hawks’ sails but it seemed set to swing back in their favour early in the second period when Corcoran received a red card for a lunging tackle on Christian Nanetti.
Worryingly, though, the home side failed to display the necessary creativity to unlock the well-organised Dover rearguard action.
‘We didn’t pass the ball very well in the second half,’ said Johnson.
‘The Dover keeper was hardly tested because we didn’t get into the final third nearly enough. And because of that we didn’t cause them problems.
‘It got a bit panicky and nervous at times and that meant we failed to hurt the opposition.
‘I think it is going to go to the wire but luckily we have tonight’s game which gives us an opportunity to put things right quickly.’
‘It is a quick turnaround, a game in hand on the teams above us and an opportunity to get three points to regain our momentum.’
Hawks: Thomas 6, Newton 7, Arthur 7, Hinshelwood 6 (Hopkinson, 85mins), Dolan 7, Woodford 6, Ramsey 6 (Palmer, 76mins), Hutchinson 7, Jones 6 (Thompson, 85mins), Igoe 6, Nanetti 7. Att: 792