Horndean’s dreams of winning the National League division two south title went up in flames after a 3-1 loss to rivals Team Southampton.
The Deans, who have been on a downward spiral ever since losing to City of Bristol at the beginning of the month, slumped to their sixth defeat of the season.
Having dropped to fifth place, they now trail leaders Richmond by seven points.
And player-coach Nasser Ssemuwemba did not mince his words after a third consecutive defeat.
‘It’s been a strange month for us and it’s no secret we’re not playing well right now,’ he said.
‘We’re a little bit in the dark and we have to find our way out.
‘First, we all need to take a good look in the mirror and ask where and how we can impact our coming matches positively.
‘We’ve got to try to simplify things now we are lacking strength in depth.
‘We need to see if we can make a change or two but not reinvent the wheel as we seem to have tried to do in our last three games.
‘All we need to do in this difficult period is to try to find ourselves again as a team, stay in there and show grit.
‘It’s going to be my duty to guide this team out of the darkness and into the light again.
‘We cannot win national championships playing the way we’ve done lately. It has to be better than that.’
The Deans were again uninspiring in the opening set at Highbury College.
Not only did they appear to lack energy and cohesion, but also made a catalogue of individual errors that allowed Southampton to win 25-16.
Although the home side put up a spirited fight in the second set, they lacked the cutting edge at the net and went down 25-22.
Man-of-the-match Damian Roberts inspired a 25-20 win in the third set.
But any hopes of a fightback were extinguished in a 25-17 defeat in the fourth as Southampton sealed a first-ever double over the Deans.
‘We had a nice stretch in the second set,’ said skipper Leandros Tsikras.
‘But the fact remains we are lacking consistency.’
Horndean visit division one outfit Essex Blaze in the National Shield semi-final on Saturday (11am).