Havant head coach Merijn van Willigen was left ruing missed chances as his side went down 2-1 at home to Exeter University in the National League men’s conference west on Sunday.
Pol Soms Irazola continued his fine start to the season when he scored the best goal of the game for the hosts on 46 minutes.
But his precise slap shot wasn’t enough to cancel out an early Raj Laly own goal on 13 minutes and a 42nd-minute penalty corner from Nick Cooper that condemned Havant to their third defeat of the season.
Van Willigen believed a crucial opening 15-minute spell – which saw Havant have several chances scrambled away, before being caught on the break to concede the opener – was the difference between the sides.
He said: ‘Our captain, Raj, scored the own goal, which was unlucky, as it just crept over the line.
‘We’d just hit the bar and had a rebound go wide at the other end, so we didn’t get the luck we needed there.
‘If I’m honest, I thought Exeter were the better of the two sides – they just about shaded it and their quality showed.
‘But we had a number of half-chances that we were unlucky not to covert.
‘I do think we could have deserved a draw, and it was disappointing we didn’t get it.’
Despite the loss, van Willigen was able to take solace from the fact his side boast the second-tightest defence in the league.
They have shipped 13 goals from eight games – and were able to keep pace with one of the league’s top teams.
The Dutch coach said: ‘Exeter are a side that will be right up there at the end of the season, and the fact we were largely able to match them is encouraging.
‘Perhaps we flattered to deceive a few weeks ago when were sat second in the table, because this squad is still new to the division.
‘But the fact we’re keeping pace with teams like Exeter shows how far we’ve come.’
Havant finished sixth out of the 10 teams in the division last season, and the long-term aim is still for the Barncroft Way side to make it back into the premier division.
With his side currently sat fourth approaching mid-season, van Willigen is refusing to throw the towel in on maintaining a top-half finish.
He said: ‘We’re still in contention for a top-half place, and we’ll keep fighting.
‘This was a disappointing loss but we’ve drawn positives from it.
‘Our attack has got stronger and there’s no reason why we can’t challenge into the second half of the season.’