Boston United may have suffered a 3-2 defeat at Brackley Town - but manager Dennis Greene believes his Pilgrims have proven to him that they have the mettle for a title push.
Saturday saw the two Skrill North rivals serve up a crazy contest in which the Saints move into a 3-0 half time-lead due to two errors from Boston stopper Ashley Timms.
But it was the second-half fightback which - although falling a goal short, even with Town keeper Billy Turley being sent off at the death - saw Greene leave St James’ Park with full faith in his squad.
“I’m just really disappointed not to come out with something from the game,” he admitted afterwards.
“The boys’ desire and spirit deserved that.
“Being 3-0 down at half time and in the circumstances, many teams would have folded.
“But they came out all guns blazing and got an early goal and in the end we should have got something from the game.
“They’ve shown they’ve got the stomachs for it.”
After letting a speculative strike slip through his legs in the 2-0 FA Cup defeat three weeks earlier, Timms was desperate to make amends.
But with less than three minutes on the clock it became evident it wasn’t going to be his day as he misjudged defender Steve Towers’ punt forward from the halfway line, the ball bouncing over the stranded stopper and into the net.
With the howling wind and pelting rain behind them, Brackley were a constant threat in the first half.
Izak Reid doubled their advantage with a curling 20-yard free kick in the 26th minute.
United were looking to make headway, but Ian Ross’ strike was well saved by Turley.
And with five minutes to go before the interval, Brackley were gifted another goal.
Timms’ scuffed goal kick landed at the feet of Brett Solkhon, who squared for debutant Ben Mills to finish.
At half time Greene opted to replace Timms with teenager Sam Vince.
With the wind advantage, United set about their task of pulling themselves level.
Scott Garner gave the side a glimmer of hope in the 51st-minute as he and defender Ryan Austin combined to bundle Ross’ cross into the net.
Another clever pass from Ross teed up Marc Newsham, whose turn and clipped finish reduced the arrears with 21 minutes remaining.
Vince did well to deny Glenn Walker at his near post, but now it was all Boston.
Late on Turley received red for swearing at referee Alan Young. Striker Elliott Sandy became the fourth man to keep goal, but he did enough to repel the last-ditch attacks.