It was a bad opening to 2015 for SSML Premier Division leaders Kings Langley as they slumped to a 3-0 defeat at title challengers AFC Dunstable.
A cold and windy afternoon saw a fiercely competitive opening 10 minutes, with Kings having slightly more possession but neither side managing a shot on goal.
Then Chris Francis broke on the left for the home side and, although seemingly covered by two defenders, forced his way through with pace and power to rifle a shot into the far corner.
A similar pattern continued, with neither side being given any time on the ball and threats on goal at a premium.
However, when Dunstable won a corner just past the half hour, Jermaine Hall reacted quickest to Charlie Crowley’s block in a packed goalmouth to force the ball home.
Two chances – two goals, but Kings seemed powerless to respond.
The challengers had done their homework well, close marking the goal threat from Alex Campana and Mitchell Weiss and the midfield trio of Nick Jackson, Connor Toomey and Lee Burgoyne.
Theatrical reactions to contact resulted in three yellow cards awarded to the visitors in 10 minutes – two of them to the same player – and when Hall was adjudged onside to break and score on the stroke of half-time, the contest was effectively over.
To their credit, the 10 men of Kings played a lot better in the second period; Stuart Deaton hitting the bar with a header and Weiss inches wide with a lob before they found the net, only to be declared offside.
But that cannot mask the fact that Kings were distinctly second best on the day, losing their unbeaten away record in the process.
After sweeping all before them in recent weeks, it was down to earth with a bump and gives the management several issues to ponder as the title race becomes just that little bit more open.