Marcus Law admitted Kettering Town were caught by a “sucker-punch” as they slipped to their first defeat of the season.
The Poppies produced a below-par display at Latimer Park but still looked like securing a point against fellow high-fliers Leiston.
However, with the scores locked at 1-1, the visitors grabbed the winner late on through Patrick Brothers who was perhaps still fortunate to be on the pitch after he was only booked after flooring Rhys Hoenes with a two-handed push after the Poppies had been awarded a penalty in the first half.
Despite the setback, Kettering remain top of the early Evo-Stik League South Premier Division Central table.
And the Poppies boss said: “I said to the players after the game that I would have taken 18 points out of 21.
“The loss has come and we are going to have a few of them when teams come and stifle us.
“They had a bit of the rub of the green with a decision because even if they didn’t think it was a penalty, the lad shouldn’t have done what he did and then he’s come back to haunt us.
“We are disappointed they have scored off a set-piece, you give names and numbers and you try to be organised but we have allowed someone a free header.
“Their goalkeeper has made some good saves in the first half and then some more comfortable ones in the second.
“But we have been hit by a sucker-punch at the end and that’s obviously very disappointing. It was a bit of a smash-and-grab.”
One thing that can’t be debated at the moment is that the Kettering squad is stretched to its limit.
The Poppies were without the likes of Declan Towers and Andrea Borg due to injuries while Aaron O’Connor is expected to make his long-awaited return from a knee problem in two weeks with James Brighton ruled out until November.
Lindon Meikle has now completed a three-match ban, Dion Kelly-Evans still has one more game of his suspension to go and the problems only increased as Brett Solkhon was forced off with an ankle problem in the second half.
But Law insists the club can’t and won’t spend their way out of their injury and suspension crisis.
“The squad is getting a wee bit thin due to injuries,” he added.
“I know they are part and parcel of the game but we are getting a fair few while we have a couple suspended as well.
“We are not a club that has got a massive abundance of money to go and bring players in.
“We have got Lindon back now and Dion has one more game.
“But I look at the team that started the first four games compared to the one that played in this one and there are a lot of changes.
“We are going through a rough patch where we haven’t been able to put our best team out there.
“I look at the people I have still got to come back and these are players we have invested in and we haven’t got them on the pitch at the moment.
“The chairman and owner do great jobs and the club is more important than anything.
“We are not going to go out and spend a ridiculous amount of money just to oversee one or two games.
“The fringe players have shown there is a gap and they have now got to look at themselves and find a way to bridge that gap. They need to show they are good enough to compete.”