Ashford United lost ground on the leaders following a surprise result on Saturday, but boss Tommy Warrilow isn’t giving up the chase.
The Nuts & Bolts lost 2-0 at home to relegation-threatened Phoenix Sports at the weekend, which leaves them 10 points behind Isthmian South East leaders Hastings with seven games to play.
Before that a 4-0 midweek win at East Grinstead had moved them to within seven points, as they played their game in hand, but the impressive form came to a halt at home, ending a six-game winning streak.
Warrilow admitted he was angered by the loss but was keen to move on, saying: “We are not a big-time club but we had a spring in our step. We looked confident, the squad is getting stronger, we were grinding out some really good performances and then we turned up on Saturday and from the kick-off we were dreadful.
“We weren’t at the races and the only one to get a little bit of credit out of the eleven was my goalkeeper. He wasn’t particularly busy but he did what he had to.
“If you play like we did you don’t deserve anything from a game. There is no point trying to sugar-coat it, I was just shocked to see it happen.”
Warrilow hopes they can put that behind them now and finish strongly.
He said: “We have had that now, we have got over it and we have brought some positivity back in. I will get the smiles back on their faces, and we will be ready for a difficult game at Sittingbourne on Saturday.”
Warrilow’s team are well placed for a play-off place but while top spot is still a possibility, Ashford won’t be giving up.
He said: “People think I am mad but I will never give up until it is mathematically impossible. Results are thrown up every week that you wouldn’t think are possible, we were on the receiving end of that on Saturday.
“You can’t turn around and think that is done and dusted, that is a knee-jerk reaction. It is going to be harder now but it happens, who would have thought that Man City, 2-1 down against QPR with three minutes to go would get two goals and win the league (in 2012), the year of that Aguero goal. You just have to keep going.
“I was really angry and disappointed on Saturday, but so what? We’re big boys and we’ll dust ourselves down.
“Criticism is going to come our way, which is fair enough, but I am not going to overreact. We are still second in the league and we have taken 15 points from our last 18 available. We have to get on with it.”
Weekend opponents Sittingbourne look too far outside the play-off places to make it but are determined to end their season strongly.
Warrilow said: “It is another tough game for us but if we turn up it is not a problem. If we turn up like we did on Saturday, we aren’t going to beat anyone. The boys knew how I felt but there is no point repeating yourself.
“A lot of teams in the league, apart from Hastings, would swap places with us tomorrow.
“Saturday was awful, but do we want to keep going over it or do we want to say, ‘right, let’s get our half-full head on again and crack on?’ There is still plenty of time left and we have to keep getting on with it.”