Jon McCarthy said the nature of Chester FC's 3-2 home defeat to Sutton United 'hurt'.
The Blues found themselves two goals down going into injury-time at the end of the first half after what was their worst 45 minutes of the season so far.
But a first goal of the campaign from the fit-again Craig Mahon halved the arrears going into the break and was the catalyst for a much improved second-half performance.
And after Lucas Dawson's second goal of the season restored parity there was hope among the 1,670 crowd that McCarthy's men could end a winless home run that now stretches back 13 matches to December 17, 2016.
But in the 91st minute substitute Kieran Cadogan scored to fire Sutton to the top of the table and condemn Chester to their first loss of the campaign.
And salt was rubbed into the wounds when it was confirmed that striker Ross Hannah looks to have suffered a recurrence of the injury that ruled him out for most of pre-season.
Here's what Blues boss McCarthy, who was already without forwards Harry White and Nyal Bell, had to say after the game.
His verdict on the match
"I feel for everybody who has put a lot into that today, in terms of my staff, the players and the fans as well, and the way that the whole club came together.
"Sutton have gone top tonight with that performance. We knew how strong they were, and we went 2-0 down to the team that was second in the league. They're strong, they play very direct football, and we knew we had to play, we knew we had pass. The loss of the three strikers meant we had to pass and play some football.
"It was always the game plan to try and get the full-backs on the ball and I think the crowd, who are knowledgeable, suddenly started to realise what we were trying to get them to do, and when we had some some success with it, and got behind, and dragged ourselves back into the game, it was just great for everybody, and I thought we'd made that breakthrough.
"So for it to kill us like it did in the last couple of minutes is hard, but it's done, and I need to get onto Aldershot now, and thank everybody for their support and the work they've put in, but it hurt.
"We'll look at the detail and why we conceded three goals, because that's the real negative today, but the work rate, and the response, and the way people got behind the football club, I'm really grateful for that.
"It would have been a really significant result for us today, to remain unbeaten, and we were two minutes away from doing that. I thought we could win that today so to lose it in the manner that we did, it hurts a lot."
On the importance of Mahon and the fans
"He's a crowd favourite and he can spark things off for us - and he's done that again today. He's the one who's been around longer and he's able to lift it and give that spark everybody else has jumped on top of.
"He is one who raises the spirit of our fans when he's playing well - and that can make a massive impact.
"The fans should recognise second half how important you were to us - and I really appreciate that. You started to get us back into the game and my players fed off that.
"There'll be some easier challenges, and if we can do that again together, there's plenty of points this team can pick up."
On what was said at half-time
"It was actually the same. Tactically, if you've watched the game, Sutton play a diamond, so they're very narrow, so you have to play our full-backs, and if you rewind back to the first instance of the game, the first thing we did was play Andy Halls, and he travelled forward - and that was it, that was the game plan.
"People had their men to mark, and because we put two in behind - they play with two up front and one in behind, we played with one up top and two in behind - and that was because when their full-backs got the ball, (James) Akintunde would go out and stop their full-back coming forward, and Mahon would shuffle across and pick up the (number) 16 Bailey.
"When we got the ball and our full-backs came forward, they didn't. Our full-back was immediately past their front two and that completely disrupted their midfield; one of their midfield four has to come out and then you've got a pass to play it out and switch it to the other side.
"But our two strikers didn't do that (in the first half). They didn't take up their full-backs, which was really frustrating, because that was done on Thursday, they were all sat down in their groups and done that.
"But they did it all the second half... 'switch, full-back, full-back'. So it was actually frustrating for me that fans would have been watching going, 'what's going on?', but by the end of the game I think people would have recognised what should have happened tactially.
"It was a little bit timid, a little bit of fear, a little bit lack of confidence to do it, but also a Sutton team who are right at the top end of the table, and people have to appreciate that.
"So that was it, there was a really clear game plan, and when we got on top of it in the second half, you saw it come into effect and we got the goal back."
On Hannah's injury
"That's what it felt like (a recurrence of his injury). It's a real blow. I'm now without Nyal Bell, Harry White and Ross Hannah.
"We were at 16 today, the next player to come onto our bench is one of the three academy players who have come through.
"If Ross Hannah is out, and the other two don't make it, Tom Crawford, James Jones or Nathan Brown come into our plans.
"That's where we're at, we know the situation, but it's frustrating that it's hit us so early on."