Petersfield Town’s first-ever FA Trophy game ended in disappointment as they crashed to a 3-1 home defeat against 10-man Winchester City.
Visiting striker Warren Bentley, who grabbed a hat-trick, proved the difference between the two sides.
The Rams had no answer to him before Jordan Neal netted a late consolation goal.
Ian Saunders insisted he could take encouragement from an improved performance following Petersfield’s heavy league defeat at Beaconsfield in midweek.
‘I was pleased with the application shown by my players after their 5-0 trouncing in the week,’ said the Rams boss.
‘For the opening half-hour we were the better team and carved out four really good chances.
‘Then the first time Winchester get into our box they win a penalty.
‘Bentley put that away and to be honest he was the only difference between the two teams.
‘If he had been playing for us then we would have won.
‘I am not the only manager saying that because he has got a fair few goals for them already.’
Two goals in as many minutes late in the first half set City on their way.
On 37 minutes, Joe Richardson conceded a penalty which Bentley buried.
Bentley then doubled the visitors’ lead when left free in front of goal.
Ten minutes into the second half, City were reduced to 10 men.
But with the home side pressing hard to get back in the game, Bentley finished them off on 69 minutes.
‘We are going through a sticky patch at the moment ,’ said Saunders.
‘In the last few years we have got used to winning.
‘That hasn’t been quite so easy this season and is affecting our mindset.
‘After this performance, we can regain a little more faith.’
The Rams host Ware on Wednesday in the league before St Albans City visit in the FA Cup on Saturday.