Oakham United boss Wayne Oldacre was unhappy after his players suffered a bruising defeat.
But despite the hefty 7-2 scoreline against Moulton Harrox, he took consolation that United played the more pleasing football and scored two sweet goals.
They were left with nothing to show for it, however, and Oldacre took the unusual step – for him – of telling the referee after the game he thought his players had deserved better protection.
To rub salt into the wound, striker Michael Nelson missed the second half of Saturday’s ugly encounter after suffering a dead leg and he will be out for at least a couple of weeks with fractured ribs, which were diagnosed later.
The side’s top scorer with nine so far joins a list of absentees ahead of a key match on Saturday at home to Whittlesey United.
Oldacre says the situation is dire, but at least he knows that against a team marshalled by former Barnet left back Andy Lodge, his men will be able to play their free-flowing style.
United’s neat, passing game brought them success in the early stages on Saturday and they dominated for the first half-hour.
They went ahead in the eighth minute when a move of eight or nine passes ended with Nelson moving inside to fire home a 25-yard left foot drive.
Oakham piled on the pressure and forced several corners in quick succession.
Ashley Clipston’s low, whipped-in kicks from the right gave the Moulton defence all sorts of problems and United believed they had made it two when one of them appeared to cross the line.
But in the first of several controversial refereeing decisions, their appeals were brushed aside.
Three minutes later the same thing happened, and this time United reckoned it was handball, too.
Moulton’s equaliser on 30 minutes was also mired in controversy.
Moulton were awarded a free kick and converted a soft goal when it was planted in the six-yard box, but Oakham insisted they were more victim than offender.
By half-time Oakham had slipped 3-1 behind, but showed resolve after the break and five minutes after the restart, pulled it back to 3-2 when Ben Eason rounded off a sweet passing movement.
Oakham created opportunities after that and Eddie McDonald, Andy Buckle and Robbie Pearce – on for Nelson and returning after a long lay-off for damaged ankle ligaments – were a creative force in midfield.
But Oakham were eventually overwhelmed.
Along with Nelson, also missing for the Whittlesey game will be long-term absentees Ben Jones and James Forbes, as well as Shane Hicks, Harry Calver, Ashley Clipston and Stuart Lambie.