Horndean kicked off the second half of their National League division two south campaign the same way as they started the first – with defeat to Brentwood Boswells Academy.
The Deans huffed and puffed for more than an hour at Highbury College but came up 12 points short as the visitors stretched their unbeaten run to 15 games.
Boswells are now closing in on promotion to division one.
They also have their sights set on remaining undefeated for the whole campaign – a feat performed by Horndean in their promotion-winning charge last term.
Boswells’ supremacy at this level was evident from the start last weekend.
They capitalised on the Deans’ lacklustre performance at the back to sprint into a six-point lead.
Horndean then launched a mini revival after the first time out – but it proved to be too late as they lost the opening set 25-23.
‘We struggled to get our game going due to the lack of a decent first pass,’ said Horndean captain and setter Stuart McCulley.
‘We were a bit rusty and lacked our usual composure and sharpness at the start.
‘When playing a team as good as Boswells, you don’t want to give away cheap points but that’s what we did.’
With some belated momentum behind them, the Deans breezed into an 8-2 lead in the second set – with universal players Marcus Russell and Stephen Metherell doing the damage.
But their good spell at the front ended as their back court defence fell apart.
‘We just went from high to low so quickly that it was frustrating,’ said player coach Nasser Ssemuwemba.
‘We had made such a good lead but failed to build on it.
‘We made a catalogue of mistakes but hopefully we can learn from those errors.’
Boswells fought back to win the set 25-21 and then take the third 25-20 to seal the match.
Man-of-the-match Russell said: ‘They’re nothing very special – they did not do anything outstanding.
‘If we had cut out the silly mistakes, it would have been totally a different ball game.
‘There were moments when we made them look ordinary.’
Russell has targeted four victories from Horndean’s remaining nine games to escape relegation – starting with the visit of Bristol to the Mountbatten Centre on Saturday.