Portsmouth City will spend Christmas second from bottom of the National League division two south table after a 3-1 home defeat to London Lynx II.
The loss means Nasser Ssemuwemba’s team have now only managed to score 11 points from 10 games, leaving them six ahead of Team Southampton, who have four matches in hand.
It was always going to be a big ask for Portsmouth to prevent their title-contending rivals from clinching victory without the presence of some influential players.
And their weakened line-up at the Mountbatten Centre court was soon exposed by Lynx’s ferocious jump serves.
Even the presence of two late signings – former under-16 England player Roy Evenden and Bulgarian attacker Vladislav Hristo Grozey – could not save City from a humiliating start.
Lynx were in unforgiving mood as they totally dominated the early stages, sprinting into a blistering 16-5 lead by the first time-out.
Although a shocked home team managed to reorganise, it was too late to prevent a 25-21 first-set loss.
With both Evenden and Hristo getting to grips with their new team tactics, City put the visitors under intense pressure in the second set before succumbing 26-24.
But player-coach Ssemuwemba joined forces with the returning opposite player Joan Francesc Cabrer Gomila to torment their opponents’ defence and see it crumble 26-24 in the third.
Portsmouth’s surge was slowed down when their reserve playmaker Alex Menya injured his hip and knee during a clash at the net.
With no viable replacement, Menya had to continue.
His lack of mobility later handed the initiative back to the visitors, who went on to wrap up victory 25-19.
Ssemuwemba, who was named man-of-the-match for the second successive game, said: ‘We had an absolutely embarrassing start.
‘We could not stop their powerful jump serve and they punished every mistake.
‘No team had ever taken points off us through a serve like they did. It was bewildering.
‘It’s not going to be the Christmas we wished for.
‘But I’m hoping, we shall be able to get all our big players back in January.
‘We can beat any team in our division if we manage to get our best team out.’
Portsmouth host Team Southampton on Saturday, January 14 at the Mountbatten Centre (midday).