TOM Killick conceded that Poole Town could afford no more slip-ups in their quest for the Southern Premier play-offs after yesterday's setback at AFC Totton.
Having suffered a home defeat to promotion rivals Stourbridge on Thursday, Dolphins' dreams of the top five were further diminished as the struggling Stags soaked up early pressure and ruthlessly punished the visitors.
Cherries loanee Harrison Gilkes opened the scoring with a neat finish midway through the first half before James Jennings doubled the hosts' advantage with a free kick on the hour mark.
Luke Burbidge soon pulled one back for Poole but the dismissal of centre-half Jamie Whisken four minutes later swiftly stifled any momentum and Nathaniel Sherborne sealed Totton's 3-1 success with seven minutes to play.
The defeat left the Tatnam club six points shy of their target with games in hand but, crucially, they have been leapfrogged into sixth by in-form Hungerford Town who have played the same number of games as Killick's men.
Following Tuesday's Dorset Senior Cup final against Hamworthy United, Poole travel to the Crusaders, then third-placed St Albans with second-placed Chesham and fifth-placed Cambridge City still to visit Dorset.
On the race for the top five, Killick told the Daily Echo: “At the very least we have lost any margin for error that we had.
"I think we are going to have to win the vast majority of our remaining games and when you look at the opposition we are facing it is going to be tough.
“I would say we have probably become slight underdogs.
“Hungerford have put themselves in a very strong position, but while our task is now much more difficult, it is by no means impossible.
"We have left ourselves in a difficult situation but sometimes that can bring out the best in players and I hope the fact that it is now all or nothing will bring about a positive response.”
On the back-to-back defeats, Poole's manager added: “We have always been very good at ensuring we bounce back quite quickly but we weren't able to do that. It's one thing losing to Stourbridge but, without disrespect, we should be beating Totton.
“Our confidence seems to be a bit fragile. We started the match quite well and had we scored while we were on top we would probably have won, but they got the goal and we responded negatively.
"I don't want to go on about it but the fixture backlog does put us at a disadvantage, however, we do need to deal with it better than we are at the moment.”
Dolphins: Thomas, Brooks, Martin (Elliott, 70), Wannell, Whisken, Pettefer (Davis, 85), Burbidge, Devlin, Gillespie, Davies (Preston, 61), Cann. Unused subs: Lowes, Hutchings (g/k).