Horndean’s promotion ambitions suffered a setback after a straight-sets loss to City of Bristol in National League division two south.
The Deans, who have been on a winning run since October last year, were beaten for the second time this season by the former division one side.
Horndean were hoping to avenge their earlier defeat to Bristol at Brislington Enterprise College but they looked in danger of suffering a similar fate right from the start after a lacklustre display at Highbury College.
It was Bristol who started brightly and looked dangerous with a string of tactical serves as they opened up quick-fire 8-2 lead by the first technical time out.
The visitors’ aggressive approach stunned the home side who looked uncharacteristically nervous and disjointed.
Although the Deans tried to restore parity, it was too late to stop Bristol from winning the first set 26-24.
The second set saw the home side pile on some pressure through Marcus Russell and Damian Roberts but Bristol doubled their lead 25-22.
Even for all their efforts in the third set, the Deans were unable to break down the heroic visitors’ defence who held out for a 25-23 victory.
After the game, Horndean’s player-coach Nasser Ssemuwemba, who was later named man-of-the-match, said this was his side’s worst performance of the season.
‘I know we had some vital players missing but that is no excuse for our mediocre showing,’ he said.
‘We made so many individual errors and paid the price. We just did not turn up as a team.
‘At this level, if you look disjointed and make as many mistakes as we did, you know you are going to be punished.
‘And that’s what happened. It was an awful display and I hope we can learn from our mistakes.’
The Deans missed key trio Haakon Lie, Adamantios Xanthoudidis and Willard-Hans Shongue.
However, despite the defeat, they remain in contention for promotion in fourth spot – three points off the leaders Wessex M3 with a game in hand.
They will be hoping to get back to winning ways on Saturday when they travel to Itchen College to face favourites Solent 2 (12.15pm).