Mile Oak Football Club saw their 12-game unbeaten run in Southern Combination League Division 1 ended by newly-crowned league champions Haywards Heath on Monday.
Heath went into the clash knowing three points would see them lift the title and they recorded a 26th successive league win with a 4-0 victory.
Oak’s Danny Curd put through his own net on 30 minutes, before Ryan Warwick, Jamie Weston and Daniel Turner all netted in the second half.
Oak’s Damon Pollard also saw red ten minutes from time for violent conduct.
Mile Oak boss Anthony Whittington felt his side were beaten by the better team on the day and said: “They have the best squad in the division and deserve to be champions.
“A lot of their players should be playing a division or two higher but, as I said in my programme notes, Manchester City and Chelsea should run away with the Premier League but they haven’t this season.
“We knew it was going to be tough with them needing to win. I just didn’t have enough variety on the day, with a few missing and you need your best team to have any chance against them.”
Curd put through his own net on 30 minutes as Oak found themselves a goal down at the break.
Warwick then added a second on the hour as Heath edged closer to sealing the league title.
The party was already starting when Weston added a third six minutes later.
Frustration began to get the better of Oak and Pollard saw red with ten minutes left.
A late challenge from Warwick saw him kick out at the Heath man and receive a straight red card. A bad day was then capped off for Oak when Turner made it 4-0 with seven minutes to play.
Despite the defeat, Whittington still believes his side are in the promotion hunt.
Oak trail third-placed Storrington by three points with two games in hand.
Whittington’s side still have to face Haywards Heath again, second-placed Crawley Down Gatwick, Little Common, Langney Wanderers, Midhurst and Lingfield in what looks to be a tough run-in.
However, Oak’s boss believes his side have what it takes to sneak a top-three position.
He said: “We have got a really tough run-in if you look at it. I think we may be able to afford another defeat against Haywards Heath but then we need to win the other five.
“That’s not going to be easy with some of the teams we have to face but we will give it a good go.
“Storrington’s run-in is a lot easier than ours but we went 12 games unbeaten, winning 11 of those, so we know we are capable of going on a run.
“We need to respond in the right way to this defeat and go again. We travel to Midhurst & Easebourne on Saturday, which is never an easy place to go, but we’ll be going there looking to pick up three more points in that quest for a promotion spot come the end of the season.”
MILE OAK: Stenning; Lansdale, Pollard, Gillingham, Whiting; Arnold, French, Gould, Harley; Curd, Wedge-Bull. Subs: Austin-Slade (Harley), Clarke (Gillingham), Donaldson (Gould).
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