Andy Peaks admitted AFC Rushden & Diamonds’ 4-1 home defeat to Royston Town was “a bit of an eye-opener” for him.
Diamonds’ long unbeaten league record at the Dog & Duck was ended in devastating fashion as Royston struck all four of their goals in the second half after Lewis Leslie’s first goal for the club had given the hosts a half-time lead.
Diamonds dropped to third in the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central table as a result and are now three points behind leaders Chalfont St Peter with two games in hand.
And boss Peaks believes it was the first time this season that the step up from the United Counties League had been evident.
“It was really disappointing because we played well for half-an-hour and got ourselves in front,” he said.
“The conditions were tough and ultimately they played them better than we did.
“They came back into it at the end of the first half and then they scored at the start of the second and from there they just overran us.
“They were very clinical with their chances and that’s probably the first time we have seen the big difference in quality since stepping up to this level.
“It just shows where we need to get to if we want to get to where we want to be.
“They were clinical but the most concerning thing for me was that we seemed to lack a bit of fight in the second half.
“It was a bit of an eye-opener and I probably learned more in that one game than I have done in all the matches before it.”
Diamonds are now preparing for the trip to Hanwell Town, which is subject to a 3pm pitch inspection tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon.
And Peaks admits his cause isn’t being helped by a big injury list while influential centre-half Liam Dolman is due to complete a three-match ban tomorrow.
Andy Hall, Jack Ashton, Elliott Lamb-Johnson, Steve Spriggs and Charlie Butt all remain sidelined while Brad Harris was struck down by illness on Saturday morning while skipper Richard Bunting was forced off for the same reason at the weekend.
“It’s difficult at the moment and in all honesty, we have done well to cope up until this point,” Peaks added.
“I think the size and strength of our squad is a concern at the moment. We had three lads under the age of 17 on the bench at the weekend.
“We have a lot of players out for various reasons and that gives me something to work on in the weeks ahead.
“You look at the difference between our squad and Royston’s and they have 18 first-team players and it means they can switch things around.
“We haven’t got that at the moment and, to a certain extent, I think that makes you realise how well we have done up to this point.”