Yet another poor start to a match undid Holwell Sports as they exited the FA Vase tie to Heanor at the first hurdle on Saturday.
Holwell had chalked up their first league win seven days earlier, but Neil Miller’s side was pipped by their old East Midlands Counties League rivals despite a second-half fightback.
The visitors went ahead from their first attack just a minute after kick-off.
Progressing down the right, a hopeful high cross was sent over to the back post where James Ozmen climbed highest for an easy opener, heading down and beyond Challis.
For the rest of the first half Holwell survived an onslaught from Heanor who must have thought they would run up a cricket score.
And but for some woeful finishing they may just have seen this tie off by the midway point of the first half.
But bit-by-bit Holwell did get back into the game and a late surge in the last 10 minutes of the half may have changed the whole complexion of this game as keeper Pierrepoint pulled off some key saves to keep Heanor in front.
On the half-hour, the home side had half-a-shout for a penalty when Nicholson went down under a clumsy challenge, but the referee was not interested.
Then five minutes before the break, Holwell were completely out of luck as they went closest to equalising.
George Coser’s free-kick from the edge of the box beat keeper Pierrepoint all ends up, but came back off the angle of crossbar and post, rebounding back off the keeper’s head and out for a corner.
Heanor continued to press from the restart as Holwell looked second best in this tie to a more organised, experienced and settled side.
The visitors duly extended their lead in the 57th minute, albeit in controversial fashion.
Ozmen, who had tormented Vernon all afternoon, again got behind the defence and sent in a low cross to Sam Birks who looked a long way offside, but tapped in unchecked for 2-0.
But to their credit and with the tie seemingly lost, Holwell then regrouped and continued to have a go.
They halved the deficit with 25 minutes left when Nicholson was up-ended again, and this time the referee awarded the penalty which Coser swept in, sending the keeper the wrong way.
Unfortunately it was too little, too late for Holwell, and though they competed well, the home side were always struggling to shake off that early howler.
There is no doubt the squad is improving, and the addition of Aaron Black, soon to be joined by his brother Aidan, perhaps in time for this weekend, will add some experience, steel and grit to the squad.
Holwell get back into their United Counties League duties on Saturday away to Lutterworth Athletic (kick-off 3pm).
Holwell: Challis, Vernon (Bishop), Dunlop, Coser, Gaughan, Gaskin (Smith), Peberdey, Hazeldine, Black, Nicholson (Allen), Bitmead.