AFC TOTTON missed out on a chance to cement a place in the Evo-Stik South West play-off zone when beaten 2-1 at Bideford yesterday.

It was a disappointing outcome for players and management alike, having taken the lead through Charlie Gunson late in the first half.

But although the Stags ultimately came away from north Devon empty-handed, manager Louis Langdown hopes the lessons learned at the Sports Ground will serve his young team well going forward.

“Bideford killed the game once they had gone 2-1 up and they’ve learned through the years with their manager Sean Joyce that that’s what they have to do,” he said.

“It’s what a young side like ours will learn too.

“It’s not about pretty football, it’s about killing the game off.”

The pity about the result was that Totton’s first-half had gone exactly to plan with Gunson curling one in off the post from the left angle of the 18-yard box following a fine team move.

But the Robins quickly drew level after the break, aided by an ill-timed injury to Stags defender Jack Barker.

The on-loan Aldershot youngster was favourite to win a foot race with Jack Key until he pulled up with a groin problem. It left the stage clear for the Bideford winger to cut inside and expertly swerve a shot into the top corner.

The Robins then piled on the pressure and, after Steven Reed’s vicious free-kick had cannoned back off the bar, Sean Downing broke clear for a 55th-minute winner.

Bursting forward from the halfway line, he touched the ball past goalkeeper Shane Murphy before tapping into the empty net.

“Bideford play a certain way. They deliver the ball into the final third at every opportunity,” said Langdown.

“We knew we needed to limit mistakes and deal with the first and second balls – and we did.... until the 49th and 55th minutes.

"Admittedly their lad scored a great first goal, but Jack Barker had five yards on him and looked comfortable until he pulled up injured.

“It was disappointing the way their second goal was conceded and Bideford knew how to kill the game off. But, saying that, we still had opportunities to get a draw with a couple of one-on-ones.

“Craig Feeney has worked the shoulder well and tried to lob the keeper and put it wide, then he’s got a shot away and it’s taken a deflection and gone over.

“It’s the 'goals for' we need to sort out. That’s our challenge going forward.

“Other teams don’t need a host of chances to win games, but we’re not quite at that clinical level yet.

"But we've given Bideford some good games and their manager was very complimentary about us.

"The lessons we're learning from the likes of them will help us moving forward."

Despite defeat, Totton are only one point outside the play-offs in eighth. Next up is a home test against sixth-placed Bristol Manor Farm on Saturday (3pm).