HENLEY TOWN missed a key opportunity to secure their first league win of the season as they lost 1-0 to Milton United at the Triangle ground on Saturday.
A first-half strike from Declan Hartigan was enough to secure all three points for the visitors, who were fifth bottom before the game.
Caretaker manager Roy Hanley had earmaked the fixture as a “must win game” for the Lilywhites, who remain eight points adrift at the bottom of the Uhlsport Hellenic Football League Division 1 East.
He said: “I thought there were a lot of positives. We were a little bit better off the ball with our shape and organisation.
“Our understanding of positions in relation to where the ball is was a lot better.
“If we’re going to finish outside of the bottom three then Milton was a big game. Being realistic, finishing out of the bottom three would be a pretty decent achievement.
“But one game is not going to dictate how we’re going to do for the rest of the season. There’s still a lot to work on.”
Hartigan headed home from a free kick delivery three minutes before half time.
Henley had three good opportunities to level in the second half but were unable to drag themselves back into the game.
Liam Beasant was denied while one-on-one with the goalkeeper and Austin Best had a shot cleared off the line.
In injury time, Danny Blatchford headed over from close range.
It was the first time this season the Lilywhites had conceded less than two goals in a game.
Hanley said: “It’s quite remarkable. I would rather not concede any goals but for me it highlighted that maybe we’re starting to get more solid and tightening up at the back. I felt we started all right. It’s pleasing in the respect that we haven’t been able to do any training.
“As the game went on, we started to get a little more confident about what we were doing but the goal took the wind out of our sails. It was disappointing because we talked specifically about defending tightly from set pieces. We created a lot more chances in the second half but unfortunately we didn’t take them.”