TORQUAY United slipped to a poor 1-0 loss to bottom club Telford and the home truths for those wearing Yellow was a performance that simply was not good enough.
Tony Gray scored the only goal for Telford on 10 minutes and later had a penalty saved, but the harsh reality was a display that lacked courage and conviction from those out on the pitch.
It is now up to the players to give the fans, and the coaching staff, that support them with such dedication a proper response when Chester visit TQ1 on Tuesday night.
United manager Chris Hargreaves reacted to the FA Trophy defeat against Wrexham last week by making four changes to his team and shifting people around to create a very attacking starting line-up.
Krystian Pearce replaced the suspended Angus MacDonald at centre-back and Aaron Dawson was preferred to Ollivier Gueguen at right-back. Toby Ajala and Courtney Richards dropped down to the bench in a much-changed midfield.
Jamie Reid was handed his United debut on the wing, with Jordan Chapell recalled to the opposite flank and all the shuffling allowed James McQuilkin to move inside as an engine-room partner for captain Luke Young.
Telford manager Steve Kittrick arrived at TQ1 in desperate need of points after a depressing 1-0 loss to fellow strugglers Alfreton last weekend left the Bucks 11 points from safety at the foot of the Conference table.
A sparse crowd inside the Launa Windows Stadium expected a brisk start in the spring sunshine and it took an exquisite piece of skill from Chapell to raise the first cheer, beautifully cushioning a cross-field pass from Downes to cut inside for a pass to Bowman.
The ball worked its way back to McQuilkin in a pocket of space 25 yards from goal but the skidding shot was comfortably held by Freddie Hall in the Telford goal.
From a position of complete control in the game, United fell behind to a sloppy defensive goal, as a fizzing cross from the left by Sean Clancy came through to Levi Ives at the back-post, but the young full-back failed to get a decent connection on his clearance.
Such is the Yellow luck at present, the loose ball squirmed back for Gray to slide a tidy finish beyond birthday boy Martin Rice and inside the far corner for a shock Telford lead.
The Gulls needed a swift response and Young conjured the chance for John Campbell, scooping the ball over the top for United’s loan striker from Oxford, who struck his shot perfectly but massive credit to Hall for producing a stunning one-handed save to tip over his own bar.
A quiet spell allowed the visitors to settle down with their unexpected lead but a set-piece briefly gave United a glimpse of goal, as Young’s low delivery bounced up off the surface for Downes to steer a stooping header well wide.
Chapell continued to be the brightest spark in Yellow, skipping around his man to dig out an excellent deep cross for the onrushing Downes but Hall again did well to pluck the ball out of the sky.
Telford were forced into a change on 29 minutes, as Sam Smith hobbled off to be replaced by Ross Dyer, and he was almost celebrating with his team-mates, as Clancy pounced on a loose touch from Pearce to rifle in a shot that Rice had to palm over.
Sometimes in a dour game, a big tackle can lift the whole ground and Pearce was the man to deliver, smashing into Gray and storming forward to release Young for a shot that failed to test Hall.
Despite that, it was better tempo from the Gulls, but an almighty reprieve was about to arrive, as an innocuous ball over the top found Dyer in the gap between Pearce and Downes.
United’s two centre-backs desperately tried to retrieve the situation but when Dyer stumbled in the box, referee Dean Treleaven pointed straight to the spot. Gasps of Yellow horror were soon rescued by a frantic flag-waving linesman indicating Dyer had pulled the shirt of Downes earlier in the move.
The penalty decision overturned but momentum had still shifted back in Telford’s favour, and a sweeping move down the left required a Pearce clearance to prevent Gray from having a pop at goal.
The first-half drifted to a subdued end and the need for United to find something totally fresh in their performance was epitomised by the team emerging for the second-half at least three minutes before their visitors.
The intention was clear but the reality, sadly, was a disjointed start to the second period and the restless natives were crying out for something to cheer from a team that looked bereft of confidence.
A free-kick from Young briefly had the Telford defence floundering but the ball fell agonisingly beyond the reach of Pearce, and Hargreaves had seen enough, removing Campbell for the fresh approach of Ajala, pushing Reid forward to partner Bowman.
United were then left holding their heads in despair, as Treleaven awarded the Bucks a painfully soft penalty. There seemed very little contact when Clancy cut inside Dawson but the man in black decided it was enough to point to the spot.
Gray was given the responsibility and struck the shot firmly enough but Rice guessed correct, producing a fine save to beat the ball clear with his fists. The Gulls had been handed a lifeline and in this particular sequence of events, it felt like justice had prevailed.
Suddenly, United had some belief and Ajala showed his intent with a direct run down the left and a cross that Sharps had to head dangerously over his own bar. The subsequent corner was attacked by Downes and looked, for all the world, to strike a Telford arm.
Louis Briscoe replaced Reid in the next Yellow change but the visitors rediscovered their composure, and did a decent job of taking the sting out of United’s brief enthusiasm.
The chance for redemption was handed to Young and his delicious free-kick over the wall from 20 yards was drifting blissfully toward the top corner before Hall somehow pawed it away, and the Bermudan ‘keeper then recovered brilliantly grab the follow-up header from Pearce.
The next chance was even better, as Downes found space just a few yards from goal after a Young free-kick but the Australian failed to get the necessary purchase on his header, and a glorious opportunity slipped wide of the far post.
Ashley Yeoman for McQuilkin was the final roll of the dice for United but Briscoe was the man to fire in a thunderous shot, only for the exceptional Hall to once again deny the Gulls.
Game over, and United did have chances, but Tuesday night must be better.
United (4-4-2): 1 Martin Rice; 29 Aaron Dawson, 5 Krystian Pearce, 4 Aaron Downes, 25 Levi Ives; 12 Jordan Chapell, 8 Luke Young (capt), 22 James McQuilkin (14 Ashley Yeoman 83), 20 Jamie Reid (7 Louis Briscoe 66); 9 Ryan Bowman, 32 John Campbell (10 Toby Ajala 55). Substitutes (not used): 16 Courtney Richards, 26 Ollivier Gueguen.
Booked: Dawson 61
Telford (4-4-2): 25 Freddie Hall; 6 Mike Grogan, 4 Neill Byrne, 27 Ian Sharps (capt), 26 Glen Matthews; 9 Adam Farrell, 20 Godfrey Poku, 24 Danny Ventre, 11 Sean Clancy; 10 Tony Gray (19 Jordan Deacey 90), 18 Sam Smith (29 Ross Dyer 29). Substitutes (not used): 14 Josh Hancock, 16 Rod McDonald, 23 John Disney.
Booked: Farrell 26, Byrne 35, Gray 45, Matthews 78
Referee: Dean Treleaven
Attendance: 1,647 (95 away).