After several confident, assured strides forward on recent away journeys, Aldershot Town took a faltering step backwards as they were beaten 2-1 at Nuneaton on Tuesday night.
While the Shots threatened to snatch an injury-time equaliser in a rousing finish, they were still compliant in their own downfall against a side which appreciates that hard work and organisation are crucial to success in the Skrill Premier.
“We didn’t do the basics right in the first half,” accused manager Andy Scott.
“Nuneaton do the basics well, they’re no-frills but they’re effective, and they punished us.
"We have been second best at doing the basics against a few part-time teams now, and that’s scandalous.”
The game was lost in an opening 45 minutes that seemingly offered little encouragement to either side.
Characterised by industrious yet scrappy play, which yielded few chances, Aldershot Town initially suggested that they may grind out another solid draw after holding Gateshead earlier in the month .
Somehow, though, they contrived to concede two goals. Glenn Morris saved Gareth Dean’s free header and saw Armson’s cross drift worryingly across the face of goal, but Nuneaton should have been ahead on 30 minutes.
The normally assured Louis Moult danced around the goalkeeper but could only drag his shot wide of an open goal.
When it came, the opening goal owed much to good fortune, and Andy Brown even surprised himself by swinging in a deep cross which nestled into the top corner of the net.
Belshaw did well to parry Bubb’s drive, but Shots were struggling for momentum and, a minute before half time, the points were secured.
Moult was allowed to run through the defence to meet Brown’s powerful header, and this time his shot was unerring.
Morris again denied Moult with a fine save soon after the break, and Scott’s triple substitution spoke volumes about a lacklustre hour for the visitors.
Yet it was Nuneaton who continued to create the best opportunities, and this time it was Gavin Cowan who found Morris in fine form.
From a scant foothold in the game, one of the substitutes, Tristan Plummer, turned superbly on the edge of the area and lashed a rising shot past Belshaw.
There were six minutes left and suddenly Aldershot Town found some self-belief.
'Off the boil'
Still Nuneaton should have killed the game off a second time, but Brown’s weak 10-yard finish was a huge let-off, and they nearly paid a heavy price in injury time.
Partington’s header, from Barker’s near-post corner, was scrambled off the line, and Rowlands arrowed a shot towards the bottom corner which took the slightest touch to divert it the wrong side of the post.
“Some players have gone off the boil a little, and we may have to think about changing things,” warned Scott ahead of the FA Trophy quarter-final at Havant and Waterlooville.
“You’ve got to come to places like this and perform. And we didn’t.”
Few could argue that the Shots got precisely what they deserved, but a repeat performance on Saturday, with Wembley starting to loom on the horizon, would be even harder to swallow.
ATFC: Morris; Gibbs, Partington, Oastler, Barker; Mekki (Plummer 60), Oyeleke (Rowlands 60), Stanley, Roberts (Scott 60); Bubb, B Williams. Subs: Webster, L Williams